Increase SLAs With Hosted Apps, PDAs
A VAR/software developer sells rugged PDAs and hosted applications to double its business in the life safety industry.
The life safety industry might not be a market you're familiar with or currently selling solutions and/or SLAs (service level agreements) to. However, for VAR/software developer BuildingReports.com, this multibillion-dollar market has been its sole focus since the VAR's inception eight years ago. Landing a few large accounts is not what makes BuildingReports.com successful. Rather, it's selling to the myriad of small businesses that provide inspection services to the life safety market.
"In the life safety industry there are 460 devices that require regular inspection, ranging from smoke detectors and sprinkler systems to building security systems and defibrillators," says Jason Kronz, CTO of BuildingReports.com. "Every public facility is required to ensure their devices meet NFPA [National Fire Protection Association] standards. The majority of businesses pay outside firms to audit their safety devices, and a typical audit can run anywhere from a few hours to more than a week, depending on the number of devices that are inspected." BuildingReports.com's typical customers are small businesses that do about $10 million in sales revenue per year. Many of these inspection businesses are technologically deficient, having little if any IT support on staff. "Even the ones that try to get away from paper data collection processes by using PDAs still run into several problems," says Kronz. "For instance, they still have to figure out a way to convert their data into reports, which have to be customized for each customer. Plus, if their PDAs aren't rugged and they get dropped, it's possible to lose an entire day's worth of data."
Provide A Total Wireless Data Collection Solution
BuildingReports.com developed a wireless mobile computing solution to address its customers' business needs. The VAR has an application, which it sells as part of a yearly service contract, that accommodates inspection requirements for all life safety devices. Customers access the application via Web-enabled Janam XP20 rugged handhelds, which use the Palm OS. "We resell the Janam handhelds for two primary reasons," says Kronz. "First, their OS requires less battery power to run, which is critical for our customers who often collect data every few minutes for a full 8-hour shift. Second, the Palm OS provides a user interface that's 5 to 10 times faster than any other OS we've tested, which is crucial for running data collection apps."
Even though the handhelds can be configured to store data locally, most of BuildingReports.com's customers use the handhelds to wirelessly transfer data as soon as the inspection is completed. "The benefit of using the handhelds this way is that inspectors can view the results of their inspection with their clients immediately following an audit," says Kronz. "They also can print reports the same day as opposed to one or two weeks later, which significantly improves their cash flow."
The VAR alleviates any customer concerns about losing data by providing an SLA that guarantees the customer's data is replicated to a disaster recovery center in Boise, ID every hour, 24/7/365. Additionally, the VAR has alternative power systems in place that make customer data available even if the electrical power is down.
One of the keys to BuildingReports.com's sales revenue growth (the VAR has doubled its sales revenue for the past two years in a row) is the way it structures its subscription plan. "We start our customers out at the most basic service level, which costs $99 per year per office," says Kronz. "Once they've had time to experience efficiency gains and feel comfortable with us handling their data, we introduce them to additional services." Reporting upgrades are one example of a service upsell BuildingReports.com offers. For example, when users with a basic subscription print a report, it may show only that a safety device didn't pass the inspection, and it will list the NFPA code number, which the inspection company's client can look up to find out more details. By purchasing a higher level reporting service, the VAR's customers receive reports that include detailed explanations of inspection codes, including why the device must operate in a correct manner and when it should be tested. Based on BuildingReports.com's existing SLAs and the ones it expects to bring in later this year, the VAR is on track to once again double its sales revenue over the previous year.