Which GPS company, will deliver on its salesman's promises? Will that company be around in six months to service what they sell?
Brian Boling, President and CEO of PROCON Inc., a five-year-old Knoxville, Tenn. company, offers tips for businessmen as they shop for GPS devices.
PROCON offers SAT Track, a leading GPS automotive device that taps the same GPS technology that PROCON uses to serve its big clients which include the U.S. Air Force and ADT Security Services. Under Boling's leadership, PROCON is developing product solutions and planning capacity through 2010, assuring PROCON will continue to be major player in the Location Based Services industry.
Question: If you would, describe the circumstances in the fledgling GPS market today.
Boling: GPS is a fast-growing industry. There are many small entrepreneurs trying to enter the space.
Potential buyers should evaluate any GPS company's business partnerships. It's a simple indicator of a company's technological strength and customer service capabilities. When a GPS company has blue chip partners, you can be assured that it has been audited to assure that it could meet those high quality standards.
For example, PROCON is the mobile safety supplier for ADT Security Services. We also are the only company worldwide with a U.S. Air Force contract to provide private search and rescue services. We use the same technology and quality infrastructure for our auto business customers.
Question: As potential buyers listen to a salesman's pitch, are there red flags to listen for as signs that they should shop elsewhere?
Boling: If a customer is pitched a "no service fees ever" promise, I would encourage them to think back to when their cell phone provider last made this offer to their family. There are costs of access and activity on a cellular network due to the capital intensive nature of the cellular infrastructure. If (a GPS device salesman) is offering them "free service," they should investigate whether that cellular network is a certified roaming partner with the larger North American carriers. If they are not partners with larger North American carriers, auto dealers risk losing service if one of their vehicles goes out of a prescribed territory or something happens within that GPS Company.
The good news about PROCON is that we are one of the fastest-growing automotive GPS systems providers in North America. That allows us to aggressively seek the best prices of components and airtime for our clients.
Question: What questions should auto dealers ask as they think about a GPS investment?
Boling: The customer should ask what the total cost of ownership will be. Here, they need to look for potential hidden costs. They also should ask who that company's largest business partners or business customers might be. Then they should get a few references and call them.
Question: Are there certain services that a good GPS system provider offers that marks them as a leader in the industry?
Boling: Some better systems offer monthly status reporting, geo-fencing & satellite images for the maps on a Web site. Monthly status reporting on each vehicle is a great quality auditor to assure all systems are in order. PROCON offers all three.
One of PROCON's most popular features is called the trakSMS®, which allows the owner to locate a vehicle while he's out of the office by using cellular text messaging.
Question: There have been some nightmares in the industry when auto dealers invested in a GPS system only to discover that the service they were sold ended because their provider's relationship with a cellular company failed. How does that happen?
Boling: To offer lower prices, some companies have made deals for national cellular access through international cellular or local cellular providers. This is a short-term advantage. If the national home cellular service provider discovers they're losing market share to these resellers, the home cellular company could simply end that roaming contract. If you're a customer of a GPS company that developed its plan with such short-term advantages, you risk losing national service and having no way to turn that service back on.
PROCON doesn't use such short-sighted tactics. We use leading certified resellers that supply high-quality and reasonably priced cellular services. This means we lose some accounts when these low-cost GPS providers buy away customers, but in the long term, many will come back to PROCON once they witness the consequences of these low-cost plans. PROCON's goal is to provide low cost of ownership over the life of our relationship with a customer.
Question: How can an auto dealer be assured that a GPS company will be around in six months to back up what a salesman today is offering?
Boling: We believe that the market is showing signs of tremendous expansion. For many smaller GPS companies, rapid growth can be as dangerous as a company struggling to gain traction. They can have a hard time planning for the next year, because they're so busy with today's problems. Obviously poor quality and bad service can lead to failure.
It's like many U.S. airports and airlines that were unable or failed to invest in the capacity required for the future. Now that air travel is booming, there are many unhappy customers and many airports and airlines with no view of how to ever catch up. Contrast that to an airport or airline that built capacity and technology to handle the new business and you can see what I mean.
Once a company starts realizing rapid growth, long term planning becomes critical to ensure ample capacity to keep customer service levels high and to improve features so they are the best that is available. PROCON has product and capacity planning that span approximately three years. We plan to get increasingly better.