Carphone Warehouse reaps revenues from remote computer management

Carphone Warehouse has rolled out a “revenue-generating” remote computer management software at the opening of its first Best Buy store in the UK today.

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Carphone Warehouse has rolled out a “revenue-generating” remote computer management software at the opening of its first Best Buy store in the UK today.

The software from CentraStage, which allows the company to remotely control all its demo laptops and netbooks in branches across the UK from its base in Acton, West London, was initially installed to provide consistent branding on all its machines. However, after two years in use at its UK stores, Carphone Warehouse has discovered that the software has enabled it to turn the demo laptops into a revenue source, by using the screens as advertising space.

Using the software, just two members of staff can control 168 machines at the new Best Buy store in Thurrock, in addition to the 9,000 demo laptops in more than 800 UK Carphone Warehouse stores they already control. The software has also been rolled out in the company’s stores in Ireland and Holland, and there are plans to expand it to its other stores in Europe, including Portugal and France.

The software operates on computers with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, and runs on MySQL and Apache Tomcat servers.

“The technology has paid itself twice over within the first two years and is seen as a profit generator, rather than a cost, internally. We now have complete control over the Carphone Warehouse brand throughout the IT devices in each UK store, and increasingly throughout Europe. We can manage all digital signage centrally and have saved thousands of man hours visiting and updating in-store equipment,” said Dave Newman, channel platform manager at Carphone Warehouse.

Carphone Warehouse started using the software in 2007, which allowed it to control centrally all the machines on its estate through an internet connection.

“We were the first to launch free laptops, and at first in every single store, computers were different. There was no continuity, no branding, there would be the Hoff on one computer, Pamela Anderson on another, even worse sometimes, and the machines looked bloody awful. So we needed a way to lock the machines down and monitor them,” Newman explained.

So internally, Carphone Warehouse developed a software, called Demode, which locks the computer down so that customers in a way that customers can try out the computers without otherwise affecting them. This was originally done manually, but Newman said that CentraStage allows them to control it remotely.

Carphone Warehouse can also deploy certain screensavers to specific laptops in specific locations through the software. Newman said that this has helped turn them into revenue generators, or even “dealmakers” because service providers, such as Virgin or Talk Talk, can pay to have their brand advertised as a screensaver to targeted audiences.

In addition, the company uses the CentraStage software as an internal tool, to push e-learning alerts, for example, or for internal communications from the head office.

“Each month the CEO sends out a video message to all staff with company data, management information and corporate updates. This used to be done via email and it was hard to tell if these were read or understood. CentraStage ensures communication is received and watched by each store.

“We developed a password-protected movie player for internal communications, which can’t be played on our till systems. So every time we have an internal update, such as a product launch, we use CentraStage to stick it into the player and people can enter a password on the laptop to watch the announcement,” said Newman.

He added: “We have also delivered numerous training modules through CentraStage, using interactive technology to continue to up-skill in-store teams – the technology provides a quick and efficient way of bringing all stores across the country up to date.”

Meanwhile, Newman said that the reporting tools in the CentraStage software has helped the company improve the marketing of its products to the 1.6 million customers it receives at its branches each week in the UK.

He said: “We can monitor usage of the demo machines, to tell which machines are being used more, which websites people are visiting on them, and so on, and CentraStage emails us back a report automatically.

“We also use it as a reporting tool to check for logistical problems in the supply chain.”

Last month, a Liverpool hospital found that remote desktop management software helped to reduce the time spent fixing computer problems to just a day.

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