Horry Telephone Cooperative
 
Summary
Horry Telephone's customer service representatives (CSRs) use SwiftView to quickly view statements on the company's intranet.  They see the exact same document online as on paper.  HTC plans to offer quicker viewing via the web to customers, as well.

The Company
Horry Telephone Cooperative (HTC) was founded in 1952 to serve rural Horry County, South Carolina, most of which was without telephone service at that time.  It has since grown into one of the nation's largest telephone cooperatives.   In 1998, subsidiary HTC Communications received approval to offer local telephone service in Horry and Georgetown Counties as a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC).  HTC Communications also provides a full menu of communications services such as long distance, Internet access, paging, and digital wireless services.  In 1998, HTC and HTC Communications also introduced cable modem technology.

The Challenge
CLECs are highly competitive businesses, reliant on service, as much as price, for retaining customer loyalty.  One way of improving customer service is to make bills available though an efficient online system, but choosing the right technology for this can be a challenge.

Like many companies, HTC was trying to put individual bills online that were originally part of one large batch file.   Working with files of this size - hundreds of thousands of pages and dozens of megabytes - is a challenge.  While it was possible to use Adobe Acrobat and PDF for bill presentment, in practice, HTC found that it took too much time to convert to PDF and then to load Acrobat and then to load the PDF file.  Acrobat and PDF were no better than paper-based systems, since customer service representatives (CSRs) could not access the bills any more quickly online.

"We implemented an e-Bill system in 2002 for our CSRs and for our customers so that they could view and pay their HTC bills online," says Kenneth W. Peeples, HTC Web Services.  "We started out by using a PDF conversion utility to convert the PCL files to PDF. But the time it took for conversion and opening Acrobat and the file, plus the disk space to maintain both print and PDF files all were real problems.  We wanted a quicker tool and more control over the viewing of the bill for CSRs, as well as a way to save on disk space and conversion to another format just to view the bill."

The Solution
Since Peeples knew that the PCL printstream could easily be viewed online and would print 100% accurately, he started by looking for a PCL viewer.  "I found SwiftView through searches on the Internet and it appeared to be the easiest and best fit for our application.  The majority of the tools I found were for converting PCL to PDF instead of viewing the PCL file."  Peeples discovered that SwiftView is particularly adept at accessing and viewing selected pages from very large files.

Because of how the bills were stored and printed, SwiftView had unique features that kept file sizes small and made online rendering - even of the huge files - very fast, because it works just like a printer.  First, SwiftView's indexing and search capabilities make it easy to find specific pages in a large file very fast.  Second, SwiftView offered HTC "macros on demand," the ability to automatically download any macros required by a PCL document from a web server.  Because the macros are cached by the browser, they only need to be downloaded once for any number of delivered documents, so on-line forms can be implemented just as they usually are in real printers, with pre-installed macros.  This greatly improves accuracy and performance.

HTC says this feature allowed them to use the same PCL form template files used for printing, saving IT time in the install and greatly optimizing their network performance, which the CSRs really appreciate.  Peeples explains: "We are using a J2EE servlet to serve the PCL file to the CSR through the CSR-bill application.  The SwiftView license, parameters, fonts and macros are on the web server, and the PCL files are located on a separate server."

Peeples asserts that they have seen a great gain in efficiency by improving their internal system.  "Our CSRs use SwiftView to access bills several times throughout the day, but most customers only access their bills once or twice a month.  CSRs will have access to seven years' worth of bills for each account, but the customers on e-Bill, who are still viewing bills in PDF format, only get six months' bills.  When we elect to use SwiftView on the customer side, there will be as many as 90,000 customers using e-Bill."

Results
HTC put SwiftView to immediate use for its CSRs, and noticed a vast improvement in their productivity.  "SwiftView was easy to integrate into my application, and SwiftView tech support was very responsive on helping me get a few minor issues resolved," says Peeples.  "Currently we have around 700 employees in the user base for CSR-Bill.  The CSRs enjoy using the SwiftView product over Adobe Acrobat due to the load time of the reader and the conversion time to PDF."

HTC especially appreciates that SwiftView does not require time-consuming conversion, and can view zipped files directly with no loss of performance, allowing them to keep all bill files compressed to save disk space.  "The biggest benefit I see with using SwiftView is being able to quickly view the bills directly from the PCL files instead of doing a slow conversion to PDF."


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