Challenge: Customer retention, improved efficiency and brand differentiation.
Solution: Create a proprietary social network aimed at soliciting ideas from customers, which helps prioritize their requests. The blog function allows Beeline to communicate with clients about software updates.
Results: Retention remained 100 percent, the solution cut process management time in half and Beeline believes its collaboration tool is a unique offering among B-to-B companies that provide contingent labor support.
In 2010, woe is the business that doesn't understand how the global economy works. Or doesn't at least hire a company that does.
The latter option is the one the big players using Jacksonville, Fla.-based workforce solutions firm Beeline seem to have chosen. But that decision hasn't stopped those companies from expecting Beeline to tailor its solutions to their exact specifications.
"I saw us spending way too much time on managing the process and having to, frankly, negotiate on enhancements and road-map items and strategic direction—both with and among our clients and our own employees," says Mike Wachholz, a Beeline senior vice president, explaining the road map as Beeline software's features, functionality and capabilities. "And so I wanted to figure out, how can we get away from managing the process and get closer to delivering?"
That's why in November 2008, Beeline hired San Francisco-based on-demand innovation management software provider Brightidea to create an online venue for Beeline's clients. Internally testing the proprietary social networking space that Beeline dubbed IdeaStudio—a bespoke version of Brightidea's WebStorm application—Beeline wanted to see how well the portal collected and ranked ideas for improving the company's core business line. Beeline rolled out the social network for all 90 of its clients in July 2009.
The core business line, Contingent Workforce Solutions, involves Beeline finding and acquiring contingent labor (such as offshore workers) and handling multibillion-dollar payrolls for big companies. In addition to providing on-site services for 90 clients that spend $20 million to $30 million each per year on contract labor, Beeline creates configurable software-as-a-service applications that have individual databases—which means individual, often e-mailed, requests.
Wachholz says Beeline used e-mail notifications, clients' application homepages and face-to-face meetings to notify customers about the new opportunity to voice opinions, collaborate with each other and read Beeline's announcements on IdeaStudio.
As of press time, the social network already had seen 100 users log in and share 76 ideas, post nearly 200 comments, and provide more than 600 votes on other ideas. Beeline already was spending half as much time managing the collection and ranking of enhancement requests.
"It's already certainly helped us streamline the way that we're able to capture and then prioritize and implement on strategic road-map items," Wachholz says.
He provides an example of a client request that customers may not realize is included in the system already—the ability to change employee location, taxes and pay rate when a contingent laborer trained in the United States is moved to, for instance, a site in India. If that U.S. training takes 90 days, a client can set the software to make the change on the 91st day when the laborer moves to the offshore location.
"So it's a great way for us to capture what areas of training we need to focus on, what areas of education we need to focus on and what areas of the tool are being leveraged more or less."