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Web Gives Whirlpool Speedy Link To Repair Contractors

Hosted service lets repair companies submit invoices and receive quick payment
The 6,000 independent companies that perform warranty repairs for Whirlpool Corp. will be able to submit their bills to the home-appliance maker over the Internet by year's end. The process should slash processing and payment time from three to five weeks to just seven days. The time required to resolve warranty-related billing errors should also be greatly reduced, says Bill Allen, warranty administration manager for the Benton Harbor, Mich., manufacturer.

ServiceBench Inc., a Fairfax, Va., application service provider, will supply Whirlpool with a Web-based system that repair companies will use to submit repair claims electronically. The hosted offering is designed to let manufacturers and their service providers carry out online transactions such as processing warranty claims, ordering parts, accessing online manuals, and checking records. Customers also can process electronic payments from the Web site. ServiceBench also has customers in the consumer electronics, computer, and power equipment industries.

Whirlpool's current paper-based system requires repair personnel to go to a customer's home, fix the appliance, fill out a claims form by hand, and mail it to Whirlpool. If the claim form is correct and the appliance is under warranty, payment can take as long as five weeks. If the claim form has incorrect information--such as the wrong serial number--payment can take much longer.

With the new technology, when a repair company receives a call from a Whirlpool customer, the contractor enters the call into the online system, prints a work ticket, does the repair, and files a completed work order. "When you click the submit button, the claim is immediately sent to our warranty claims department," Allen says.

The system automatically checks claims to make sure that the repaired appliance is under warranty and that Whirlpool will pay for the repair. The system also automatically feeds information to Whirlpool's accounts-payable system to pay parts distributors for the equipment used in the repairs.

Whirlpool hasn't disclosed the value of the deal, which was signed last week. All 6,000 warranty repair providers are expected to be live on the system by next April 1.