15 November 2007

Real World Access (32)

One of a series of articles about where Microsoft Office Access applications have found a real-world niche.

 Paul Baldarelli's Taxis

I have running, in 2 different cities, a comprehensive taxi reservation/dispatch system.  Each handles in the range of 500-1,000 calls per day.

It is a Microsoft Access application, with the data in SQL Server.

On the reservation side, calls can be attached to the customer’s telephone number, enabling all their information to pre-populate the reservation form the next time they call.  Calls can be taken for now or any point in the future.  The user can create recurring calls, such as when someone wants to be picked up for work each weekday.  This relieves the user from having to re-enter the same information repeatedly, as the system will automatically create the upcoming reservations (each pickup needs to be a unique reservation).  There is also the facility to enter "refused" addresses, so if someone calls from that address the system will refuse the reservation.

The system supports landmarks, enabling users to simply choose a landmark, after which all relevant address information is filled in to the reservation form.

In a sister application, managing limousine reservations, the user can enter a fax number or email address and the system will automatically send the customer a confirmation of the reservation.

On the dispatch side, upcoming reservations are displayed in descending order of the required pick-up time.  The user can select how far ahead they want to see calls for.  Formatting will highlight "special" calls, such as those for wheelchair capable vehicles or those with particularly time-sensitive needs (airport trips for example).  Dispatchers assign calls to specific vehicles, enabling them to track later who got each call.  Dispatched calls automatically drop off the listing, but can be looked up easily if the driver calls back looking for info.

There is an audit function running, so management can see who took/changed/dispatched a call, and if they changed anything what it was before and after.  They can get summaries of audit activity for a specified date range.

There are of course numerous reports, charts, etc, giving users and management the information necessary to do their jobs.  For example:
- call listings by any combination of vehicle/charge account/date range/street/landmark/etc.
- charts for number of calls per day and number of calls by hour for a selected day.

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