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How Seagate, Seiko Instruments use BBS for business.

Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) are cropping up with increasing frequency in major businesses, driven by booming modem sales and the increasing functionality and ease-of-use of BBS software.

BBSs provide a centralized information source to enable callers located anywhere to send and receive messages, documents and computer files. To set up a BBS, all a system operator (sysop) needs is a personal computer, a phone line, a modem and BBS software. A caller wishing to access the board needs only these elements and a communications program in place of the BBS software.

In the past, BBSs were considered playthings of dedicated hobbyists, who might stay up all hours of the night calling boards specializing in such topics as baseball trading cards or movie trivia.

But two large computer companies located in California's Silicon Valley are demonstrating how effective BBSs can be "on the job."

Seagate Technology of Scotts Valley, Calif., and Seiko Instruments USA Inc. of San Jose, Calif., are both users of Wildcat! Version 3, a popular BBS software package from Mustang Software Inc., of Bakersfield, Calif. Seagate is a leading supplier of hard disk drives, while Seiko Instruments makes desktop color printers and large-screen color monitors.

Seagate established its BBS in February 1989, according to Bill Rudock, sysop for the Seagate BBS. Used primarily for customer technical support, the company originally established its BBS with only one telephone line to handle about 900 calls per month. Today, Seagate's BBS has 11 lines handling about 8,000 calls per month.

"The BBS typically peaks from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PDT and it's not unusual to see all 11 lines busy," Ruddock says. "I think we'll ultimately have 15 to 20 lines in operation."

Seiko Instruments began using its BBS in December 1990 and now has four lines operational, according to Tom Hutchins, sysop for Seiko. The company's BBS is used for customer technical support and internal communications, but is primarily designed to facilitate communications between the home office and field technical support personnel, Seiko Instruments sales branch personnel and the firm's extensive nationwide network of dealers.

Automating services

Due to the volume of technical inquiries that Seagate receives, the company provides customers with as many automated services as possible, including pre-recorded telephone messages and the BBS.

"Our BBS provides a 'Technical Request Form' which allows our customers to leave their technical questions with us," Rudock says. "We will then reply within 24-hours via the telephone or leave the answer for them on the BBS."

"But even more importantly, the BBS can act as a constant on-line source of information, allowing our customers to obtain their own answers right away," Rudock says.

Seagate devotes sections of its BBS to such topics as "The 10 Most Commonly Asked Questions," providing supplemental information to installation manuals. Entire manuals, for that matter, are available on the BBS for down-loading should a customer need them.

"Because the technology changes so fast, a BBS can make the latest information available to the customer immediately--something much more difficult to do with printed material," Ruddock says.

Diagrams are available on Seagate's BBS as well, giving customers a picture to work with rather than an over-the-phone word description.

Active round the clock

The various users of Seiko Instruments' BBS--be they customers or their own sales people--keep the lines busy nearly 24 hours per day. Calls start coming in from the east coast at about 3 a.m. PDT and don't let up until close to midnight PDT.

For communicating with its sales personnel, Seiko Instruments uses the BBS to post inter-office memos, new product introductions and product promotion announcements. The Wildcat! software offers security provisions that allow Seiko Instruments to construct various "sessions" in the BBS. These sessions are assigned security levels to prevent customers, for instance, from accessing data intended only for the sales people--such as interoffice memos.

"The BBS is one of our key links between headquarters and the field," Hutchins says. "It's our LAN over the telephone."

Hutchins noted that many sales people use the BBS at night, placing calls from their homes. This allows sales people to stay in touch with headquarters, while giving their full attention to their customers during the working day.

For customers interested in placing a call for technical support, the BBS allows them to call and leave their questions in the evening when telephone rates are less expensive.

Both Seagate and Seiko Instruments see significant advantages in BBSs in general.

"A BBS is one of the least expensive support mechanisms a company can offer," Rudock says. "The hardware outlay is next to nothing.

"In addition, with high-speed modems coming more into vogue, BBS calls are very affordable for customers because they allow the user to move in and out of the BBS quickly," Rudock says. "And, with callers logging on and off faster, there's less risk of getting a busy signal."

Hutchins adds that "If you need information right now, a BBS is definitely the way to go. BBS is also faster and more convenient than voice support because communicating to someone verbally requires that person to take notes. With the BBS, the information you send is already written--and it arrives at the other party much faster than a fax or letter."

Regarding the Wildcat! BBS software, Rudock notes, "Many of our customers accessing the BBS are using a modem for the first time. So, it's important that they don't feel lost or confused--particularly if they are making a long-distance call. A major benefit of Wildcat! is the fact that it's so easy to use."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Seagate Technology Inc. and Seiko Instruments U.S.A. Inc. use Mustang Software Inc.'s Wildcat! 3.0 bulletin board system
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1992
Previous Article:E-mail's bulletin board gets the word out.
Next Article:Houston's terminal wired for success.

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