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Feature Article
May 2004


Prudential Northwest Properties: A Case Study

The largest independently owned commercial and residential real estate agency in the Pacific Northwest, Prudential Northwest Properties boasts 750 brokers in 18 offices throughout Oregon and southwest Washington. However, in a hotly competitive business where the key to profit is reaching customers first and fastest, the Portland-based agency had a significant handicap. With a different legacy phone system in each branch, its employees couldn�t even transfer calls between offices; basic call handling features like call-forwarding and voice mail were out of the question.

The real estate agency could simply have installed an enterprise-wide private branch exchange (PBX) system, but it wanted productivity-enhancing services beyond anything a traditional phone system could provide. Instead, Prudential Northwest Properties opted to tie all its locations into a single infrastructure combining corporate-class call management with all the power of its existing Gigabit Ethernet wide area network (WAN).

The company sought a solution that was feature-rich, based on open standards, and could scale easily for future growth. Today, a SIP-based VCX V7000 IP Telephony solution from 3Com keeps Prudential Northwest�s 750 real estate agents in constant contact with buyers, sellers, mortgage brokers, and each other.
Using IP telephony, Prudential Northwest Properties simply and affordably weaves landline and cellular phone calls, faxes, e-mail, voice mail, pagers, and personal digital assistants (PDAs) into a seamless communication system. The company�s agents never miss a call, even as they travel from open houses to closings, because unified messaging alerts them to incoming calls via pager, delivers faxes to their computers, and even provides a text-to-speech function for retrieving e-mail by phone.

With built-in �find me, follow me� notification, employees can also tell the system to forward calls to several consecutive numbers before transferring them to voice mail, further ensuring they get the information they need in a timely fashion. Call management features like call forwarding and hunt groups route calls throughout the company�s territory during business hours, while automated attendants direct call traffic on evenings and weekends.

The IP phone system also interfaces with the real estate agency�s customer database, helping employees determine what callers need almost as soon as they answer the phone. Customers get fast answers to their questions � a critical consideration in an industry where business depends on keeping response time to 20 minutes or less. Finally, by routing calls over its WAN and managing the phone system in-house using network management tools, Prudential Northwest is saving thousands of dollars a year on maintenance and long-distance costs, delivering a return on investment (ROI) of just 36 months.

With sales growing roughly 15 percent last year and no slowdown in sight, Prudential Northwest Properties expects to add further agents and locations in the near future. Because it chose an open-architecture IP telephony solution that can scale to support tens of thousands of users, expanding voice services to keep pace with growth will simply be a matter of connecting phones or phone-equipped laptops to the network.

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