By Mike Sheldrick, Senior Editor
PARS, the Gainesville, VA, vehicle transport company, has introduced a new dashboard that allows its customers to access PARS’ products and services from within their own software. The dashboard was developed as part of a multi-year advanced IT development program under the direction of Erik Rasmussen, PARS’ Director of Outside Operations.
PARS is also developing a mobile app for its drivers. It will allow them to provide real-time, highly accurate vehicle condition and order status information. That, in turn, will enable PARS customers to make better decisions.
We sat down recently with Erik to learn more about the dashboard and the mobile app along with other new developments at PARS.
Please bring us up to date on your IT initiatives
It has been a very busy year for us. We have been working on this IT initiative for about a year and a half. We took a lot of customer input; we looked internally at our system stakeholders and in June we went live with our new system. The new system was a big change both for us internally as well as for our external customers.
We have a new backend system that we are using to more effectively manage customer orders and be more logistically efficient and speedy in terms of the execution. Our customers are using a new portal which is providing them a real modern look and feel, a nice dashboard capability, visual indicators of where their vehicle assets are — a lot of nice tools to help them execute their job in an easier way.
We’re also excited about the mobile app we are releasing. It will allow drivers to identify pre-existing vehicle damage at pickup and take photos. This information will be made immediately available to PARS customers who can determine whether they’d like PARS to manage repairs prior to delivery or for PARS to deliver as is. That’s just one example of how it will benefit our customers.
Have you had any feedback from your customers yet?
A few people have had some difficulty changing, quite honestly, but many people are settling in and love some of the new features in there. One of the features that we have added is a personal touch — we have images of the customer service specialists managing all of the orders at PARS and they have a direct line of communication. They can send messages directly from the customer portal or they can call their direct phone line.
We are getting a lot of feedback about features that people really like. Definitely people like the modern look and feel of the dashboard, the easy navigation tools that we have built into the system.
Can you give us some detail on the features in the new dashboard?
Key features include:
- Easily created Quotes and Orders
- Flexible search by OID, VIN, Fleet and Unit #
- Address and VIN verifications
- Summary of order and vehicle status
- History of all orders, contacts, and vehicles
- Automatic storage location assignment
- Status indicator of each order
- Picture and contact info for assigned specialist
One of the changes in the new system is that when we create a vehicle, that vehicle continues to live in the system. We find ourselves touching the same vehicle, often times repeatedly, so we will have all of the historical condition reports of that vehicle; at any point a customer can look into the details on the vehicle, the last mileage, the last condition report, its storage history, where it has been, etc.
We have some nice tools built in for customers to manage their asset inventory, look at condition reports, see what the issues have been on the vehicle, and look at photos if there are specific damages that we have noted on a condition report as part of a move.
How does PARS differentiate itself in this field?
At PARS, we really try to lead by technology. We launched this new system at the beginning at the summer and that was phase one. Phase one was major, changing the backend system as well as the customer portal — our customers’ experience with our system.
Now we are looking at deeper integration with customers internally, with other systems like our accounting system. Probably most exciting is the mobile capability; we are looking to build mobile applications for our drivers to use and ultimately provide better and more real-time information to our customers so that they can make informed decisions on their vehicle assets. We continue to expand our service offering to meet customers’ needs. We continue to expand our internal DMV service offering — what we can do in-house in terms of issuing registration and titling.
We also have continued to expand our project management capabilities. We have customers that sometimes have large projects, large closeout projects where maybe we have to pick up hundreds of vehicles or deliver hundreds of vehicles over a short period of time. We can manage those in our new system as stand-alone projects and provide those updates and those reports that our customers find valuable. Another hot button item for our customers is recalls, so, we are helping to complete recall repairs before vehicles are delivered to their drivers. Again, we are continuing to try to keep in step with the fleet demands that are ever increasing.
Finally, I will mention, too, with everything that we are doing at PARS in terms of technology and service offering, we continue to be focused on customer service. That is how we built our business, on dedicated customer service. We are focusing our teams on customers now so customers are working with just a certain handful of people on a recurring basis and building those relationships. That continues to be fundamental to our business and our success.