AKRON-Just who is boss when it comes to ordering product from General Tire seems pretty clear from the acronym for the tire maker's latest project to streamline customer service. IBOS-for Integrated Billing and Ordering System-is an effort to re-engineer order entry and billing to be more customer-friendly.
A General spokesman called it an outgrowth of a process the company began in January 1993, when it announced with much fanfare at its annual dealer meeting that it was earmarking $10 million over three years to install a new customer-service system, which it called Pyramid Business Technologies (PBT).
However, in the fall of 1993 PBT's project manager, John Johnsen, was reassigned to General Tire's northeast region as sales manager for passenger/light truck tires.
But far from abandoning PBT, the General spokesman stated IBOS is ``the next logical step'' in the process. ``PBT really didn't die or get shot,'' he said. Its purpose was to lay the groundwork-an artist's rendition, so to speak-of what the final system will be.
At PBT's unveiling, the company had said that, when fully operational, it would link vital customer-service departments so that any inquiries dealing with areas such as pricing, orders, shipping, billing, claims and returns would be handled by one account service manager.
Noting that the company was, in essence, banking a part of its future on PBT, General Tire President Alan Ockene said at the time that the system would launch the tire maker into ``the first tier of companies responsive to dealers.''
This past February, General rolled PBT into the new project, which is set for implementation in September 1995.
``The customer will be the first to benefit,'' he said, in that the dealer will no longer have to make several calls to General about product availability, shipping, billing. It will provide ``one-stop shopping-which is directly in line with what PBT wanted to do.
``And the customer (will no longer) have to check his invoice...(to) make sure everything's been correctly billed at the same price he was quoted.''
The original $10 million slated for PBT has been rolled into IBOS and, the spokesman said.
The company's current system ``gets the job done for dealers, but in a changing market, customer service is paramount to a lot of things,'' he said.
``If we didn't have this new system, could we continue doing business as we've done and provide good customer service? Yes. With IBOS, can we provide better service and be a better supplier? Absolutely!''
PBT's personnel have either been reassigned or are now involved with IBOS, he said.
IBOS has received the continued commitment of top management at General as well that of parent company Continental A.G., the spokesman said. Fronting the project is a steering committee drawn from General's top management and a core team of six full-time members, supported by a project team that meets weekly. Currently, Roger Walker is manager of the IBOS core team.
As was true for PBT, a portion of IBOS's budget is expected to go toward retraining the work force-in the office and in the field-with zone sales representatives eventually carrying laptop computers with a direct link to IBOS. The spokesman pointed out that a ``good percentage of the field reps'' are now using laptops.