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Case Study

FormsPro at Fingerhut Corporation

What was the process prior to the implementation ?

Fingerhut Corporation, at their data processing center in St. Cloud, Minnesota receives approximately 150,000 pieces of mail per day (mainly order cards). These cards were processed (data captured) using a variety of imaging systems from IBM and ScanOptics. All orders were microfilmed before being shredded. Images that failed complete recognition were sent off shore for keying. Customer service had to request copies of orders from microfilm, which could take days to resolve customer service issues. Fingerhut’s marketing department made frequent changes to Form layout, to add a new template for capture in the existing systems it took anything from 2-5 days and need a computer programmer. Also, since the process involved solutions from multiple vendors, its’ maintenance was difficult.

General description of the content, document and/or process management technology used to solve a critical business requirement.

Oyster Software, Inc. customized their FormsPro product for Fingerhut to meet the requirements fulfilled by all of the existing systems, while providing some very valuable new features. The new solution provided Fingerhut an integrated enterprise wide solution that was to be used by all departments including data processing and customer service.

The Form Design tool that was already a drag-n-drop process was further refined to make it easier to draw order tables, sharing common keying templates across multiple forms, allowing for business rules to be added and shared across multiple fields and forms. The Copy and Save-as functions of the form design tool allowed the creation of new templates for automated forms processing within minutes (while existing systems took days), which in turn allowed a much larger percentage of documents to be scanned for recognition and/or keying from image.

Since Fingerhut has hundreds of different order templates active at the same time and new forms were introduced faster than they could be defined in the system, an innovative concept of IFR (intelligent form recognition) was introduced for them. After an analysis of all documents 5 major groups of documents were identified, while these documents had the same basic field groups that needed recognition, their location on the documents varied from form to form. An I-Form template allowed the user to define fields on a form and designate them as floating fields. This designation made the recognition process segment the image and using data attributes identify the location of the field in question on the form after which normal recognition could proceed just like for a normal form. The combination of certain field types identified a forms as the right one out of a choice of 5 e.g. a combination of field type A + field type B makes I-Form 1, while field type A + field type C makes it I-Form 2. This process greatly reduced the need for continues form design for capture could handle changes in forms templates without user intervention.

Snippet keying, an application that groups and presents together all like fields e.g. phone numbers from all documents that failed recognition or validation, Keying rates of over 16,000 keystrokes an hour have been recorded at Fingerhut using the highly optimized screens of Snippet keying.

All order cards processed by FormsPro were also indexed and archived for retrieval by the system. With FormsPro a customer service representative could retrieve from Archive, the original images of the order cards using a customer number or an order number.

The system was designed to be completely modular, allowing for easy addition and removal of machines and users to the system for handling peak volumes, if and when required.

What benefits were derived from implementing the nominated solution (i.e. IT benefits, cost/resource savings, increased corporate adaptability, etc.)?

Snippet keying allowed Fingerhut to reduce the cost of keying in-house to levels that made off shore keying more expensive and they stopped sending work over seas. Since the keying from image systems support very high keying rates the data entry staff was very happy since they are paid by total keystrokes. The system also allowed supervisors to review detailed operator performance records so that they could monitor quality and performance.

The ability of customer service representatives to be able to pull up images of orders online allowed Fingerhut to meet their “Tier One Customer Service Initiative”, which called for handling majority of customer telephone inquiries on the first call. This eliminated the need for manual paper or microfilm retrieval. Immediate response to the customer also resulted in a happier customer and eliminated the need for a call back, reducing telephony and/or mailing charges.

How does this solution provide a competitive advantage for the organization?

After it’s implementation the system has provided large cost savings while improving the speed 3-4 times better than earlier processes. This has allowed orders to be fulfilled in a much shorter time and discrepancies to be resolved quicker, resulting in a more satisfied customer.