Alltel Wireless and Pacific DataVision have entered into an agreement that calls for Alltel to sell Pacific DataVision’s SkyMail mobile workforce field-communication service.

SkyMail users place a cellular or push-to-talk call, which is converted to an e-mail message that shows up in the recipient’s inbox. Simplicity is one of the key aspects of the service, said Brian McAuley, Pacific DataVision’s chairman and a co-founder of Nextel Communications. “It works like any phone call or e-mail, so no training is needed,” he said.

Another key aspect is the platform’s “intelligent queuing” capability, McAuley said. When a user places a call, he selects from a predetermined menu the option that best describes the reason for the call. This selection appears in the subject line of the e-mail that the recipient receives. The recipient then can scan the subject line to prioritize the calls. “The ‘customer not home’ calls are the ones you want to take first, because you have a resource sitting there who’s costing you money,” McAuley said.

According to McAuley, the SkyMail service is ideal for the public-utility sector, where such calls are prevalent. Typically, when a field technician encounters a situation where the customer doesn’t appear to be home, he has to call dispatch to receive authorization to move on to the next call. Before that authorization is granted, dispatch first will attempt to call the customer, “to make sure he’s not in the basement, shower or backyard,” McAuley said, adding that the whole process averages roughly 15 minutes. Multiply that over several customers and several field technicians, and the cost of such calls adds up fast.

Because SkyMail documents every call, utilities that use the service are in better position to collect return-trip charges, McAuley said, adding that waste-management customers using the service have seen a 25% increase in such collections. “They not only can document that a Cadillac was blocking their access to the trash can, they can get the license-plate number. That’s the proof they need to go back to collect,” McAuley said. “Even it happens only once a month, it’s a $75 charge, and the service costs $7 to $15 per user. That’s a big return on investment.”