Tech Solutions

The communications keeping customers cool and businesses competitive

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

Adam Turner
Technology Journalist

Adam Turner is a Sydney Morning Herald senior technology columnist who has been writing about the challenges facing Australian business for more than a decade

UB Cool is a highly mobile business that relies on good network coverage to help service customers in the Top End.

Steve Johnstone fell in love with the warm Darwin lifestyle during a holiday and was impressed with the locals’ acceptance of “someone new who’s willing to give it a go.”

Steve says, “I wanted to take control of my life, working how I want,” so in 2009 he moved to the Top End and started his own airconditioning business acknowledging that there will always be demand in a region where temperatures often exceed 30 degrees.

Steve Johnstone in safety gear standing in front of city

While many of UB Cool’s clients are located within Darwin’s 100-odd square kilometres, it also services the satellite town of Palmerston and regional areas – and as Steve discovered early, not all mobile networks are equal.

“I’d go for a small job 20 minutes out of town and I’d lose phone coverage,” Steve recalls. “So I switched to Telstra, which has coverage in the area, including at some of the indigenous communities.”

More billable hours

With a team of 18 working seven hours a day, six days a week mostly off-site, UB Cool increasingly relies on smartphones and tablets connected to the Telstra Mobile Network to manage the growing workload – and save the service managers revisiting sites because of incomplete jobs. “We need to diagnose problems quickly, and get them solved there and then,” insists Steve. “Now it’s easy for the guys to take a photo, send it to the manager and show them what’s going on.”

Billable hours have also grown, helped by speeding up the paperwork for job management and accounts with easy-to-use apps on UB Cool’s fleet of five tablets. For example, diagnosed service reports can be done at the work site on the tablets and sent via an app straight away to a service manager, explains Steve: “He’s not waiting for paperwork. He can decide if the job needs further parts or can just simply be invoiced – either way it’s processed 24 hours sooner than it was previously.”

Steve said before UB Cool had smartphones, tablets and business apps time was lost doing data-entry and checking paperwork before invoicing.

“We’ve now got better communication throughout the whole company. There’s less down-time, less paperwork and we’re invoicing jobs a lot quicker – it saves us several hours a week admin time,” says Steve.

In addition, mobiles are helping UB Cool deliver a better customer experience: “People take time off work to wait for the airconditioning tech to turn up so it’s important we keep on schedule,” notes Steve. “We’ll send a text 15 minutes before our technician is to turn up, and update them if there’s a delay.”

More responsive to customers

As the business grew and Steve took on more staff he realised UB Cool’s basic office communications weren’t up to scratch.

“I often spend six hours a day on my phone so it was hard for customers to get through,” he admits. “If a farmer couldn’t get through, he or she could’ve lost 24 hours’ worth of refrigeration.”

In late 2013 Steve signed up for Telstra’s DOT (Digital Office Technology), which has smart call management features such as sequential ring, so if a call isn’t picked up in the office or warehouse it will be rerouted to another phone, such as a selected manager’s mobile.

“Now the person isn’t waiting on the line, they just go to the next available manager,” says Steve. “As long as they have someone to answer their enquiry, they’re happy.”

UB Cool already saves on mobile calls and data costs by bundling its smartphones and tablets onto add-on DOT Mobile BYO plans for its smartphones and DOT mobile broadband plans for its tablets. Now it’s also taking advantage of DOT’s included value for on-account calls between devices in Australia: “I speak with each staff member three or four times a day about tech advice and what supplies they may need, so we needed to save on calls to mobiles,” he says. “We’ve nearly reduced our bill by half, by about $800 a month.”

“Darwin is a very competitive market for airconditioning businesses. We have to keep our professionalism up above the crowd. If we can also lower our costs because of the time our techs spend on site, then profit is up.”

Insights from Telstra's Director of Business Mobility 

Tim Webber says that a reliable mobile network is crucial to helping small businesses deliver on their own business promises, particularly to customers. “The important thing for Telstra is that we provide all businesses, big and small, the best mobile experience in Australia. Businesses like UB Cool simply want it all to work, so they can focus on satisfying their own customers.”

Tim notes that less down-time means small business owners can invest their time savings into more important tasks: “If we can help a customer bill a few more hours a week, or get a few more hours with their family – that’s a huge success for us.”

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