October 28, 2004, 12:00 AM

The web + satellites + cell phones = efficient delivery networks

A new web-based delivery management system recently installed by FTD has sharply reduced both the number of customer service calls and the amount of time Hinseville, Ga.-based Stacy’s Florist’s management and drivers spend managing delivery routes.

On an average day, Stacy`s Florist, a member of the FTD network, delivers 50 to 75 orders from its two shops in the southeastern coastal town of Hinesville, Ga. Business is good, but it takes more than pretty flower arrangements to keep customers happy, owner Herbert Stacy says. Because customers often want flowers delivered by a certain time to mark special occasions, Stacy`s may get dozens of calls each day inquiring about delivery status. "We would waste so much time taking those calls, it took up 25% or more of our time," he says.

Stacy would also have to spend time trading phone messages with drivers, checking how well they were meeting a series of scheduled deliveries. "It could take 15 minutes to make one of those calls," he says. "And with dozens of deliveries a day, that`s a lot of calls to drivers."

But a new web-based delivery management system recently installed by FTD has sharply reduced both the number of customer service calls and the amount of time Stacy and his drivers spend managing delivery routes. "It translates into another full hour of deliveries we can make per day," says Stacy, who on average days employs two full-time drivers and one part-time.

The system, called etrace, from Minneapolis-based Gearworks, integrates with FTD`s private Mercury order management network. Designed to work with cell phones that feature global positioning satellite technology, etrace is a web application that lets drivers view on their cell phone screens the most efficient delivery routes for multiple orders. As drivers complete deliveries, they enter delivery confirmations on their cell phones, automatically updating status reports in etrace and e-mailing confirmation notices to customers.

Back at the shops, Stacy and staff can access an etrace web page to check not only order status but the real-time location of each driver.

Stacy says he initially had doubts about the system because of its unusual mix of technology, but that it didn`t take long to see how it would save him money and improve customer service. "It`s providing an immediate return on investment," he says, declining to note his share of the cost of the system, which FTD installed in a day. "It`s a better ROI than anything else I`ve done."

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