This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY
We live in a connected and agile world. With fuel prices escalating and commutes becoming longer and longer, companies can no longer maintain a traditional “cubiclesque” work environment if they want to compete for the best talent and provide outstanding customer service. This is forcing employers and employees to focus on results in the workplace vs. using physical presence as a measure of success. As a result, new business models and work environments are emerging, and business communications are proving to be pivotal tools in this transformation.
Business communications include telephony, messaging, collaboration, and mobility. Today, everything must be mobile. But this comes at a price. Traditional on-premises solutions are complex, difficult to support, and expensive. Pure hosted solutions lack reliability as well as many of the enterprise features that are available with on-premises solutions.
New optimized cloud solutions are providing just the right balance between cost, functionally and reliability. More small to medium businesses than ever before are leveraging the financial flexibility and technology benefits of cloud-based managed business communications services. By adopting a cloud approach, SMBs can realize key benefits; gain access to state-of-the-art communications services; achieve a high level of service and support; reduce the complexity; incur predictable costs; eliminate the need for capital investment; and minimize the risk in new technology adoption.
Using cloud-based business communications services, companies are providing superior customer service, creating virtual work teams, and are becoming more efficient by reducing communication latency.
Mosquito Creek Outdoors sells high quality camping, fishing, hunting, kayaking, hiking and other outdoor gear for the outdoor enthusiast. With two large storefront locations and an Internet sales group, Mosquito Creek leased an on-premises VoIP system. Employees depended on the in-store phone system to respond to merchandise inquiries offering immediate product, inventory, and price information throughout the store wherever they were located in the 17,500 square feet of retail space that spanned two buildings.
“The reliability was pretty poor,” says Paul Faircloth, owner of Mosquito Creek. “The system would go down for days at a time, sometimes even weeks. The phone service company would send someone out to fix the programming issue, but almost immediately something else would go wrong.”
Faircloth says that the company lost an average of $20,000 a day when the phone system was down, including irreparable damage to customer relations and reputation, which are priceless. Faircloth replaced the on-premises system with cloud-based managed business communications services.
“Our business is tough enough, and we certainly have no desire to be in the phone service business. We leave the management and monitoring to the experts at the managed service center for all our day-to-day needs,” says Faircloth. “Unlike our previous solution, our new provider delivered a telephony solution that is reliable, comes with great service, and costs less. What could be better? We are tickled.”
The Troy Dolan Group is a management consulting firm specializing in customer experience management. “In today’s marketplace most services have become commodities,” says Tim Rooney, president of The Troy Dolan Group. “The only way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is by delivering a superior and memorable customer experience.”
The company wanted to be able to create virtual work teams to support client engagements without regard to where employees are located. To support its mobile work force, the company chose a managed business communications service with optimized, cloud-based management and monitoring. The solution provides a full suite of mobility and collaboration features including personal auto attendant, find me/follow me, simultaneous ring, and softphones. Using the personal auto attendant, callers can be routed to an individual’s voice mail, mobile phone, home phone, assistant, or to an employee’s softphone-enabled laptop. With a single telephone number, employees can be reached on any device whether they are in the corporate office, home office, a hotel room, or on a client site.
“As we hire workers in other parts of the country, each remote worker will have a direct dial phone and fax number, and we’ll be able to call them by merely dialing a three-digit extension,” says Rooney.
Forrester’s (News - Alert) Right-Time Communications survey indicates that 25 percent of the time business processes halt until key decision makers become involved. When a communication solution reduces the time required to get messages or live communications to the right decision maker, there is a direct and positive impact on a business.
With the widespread adoption of diverse communication devices, making those connections in a timely manner can be quite difficult. The resulting communication latency lengthens the amount of time required to make and execute critical business decisions. Incidences of telephone tag (News - Alert) and unanswered e-mail or text messages are far more detrimental than annoying inconveniences –they impact an organization’s ability to compete.
Heath Properties offers property management, marketing, leasing and sales. The company manages diverse portfolios including luxury residences, corporate housing, student housing, project and voucher-based subsidized apartments and efficiencies. Because the property management company manages so many different properties it receives a large number of phone calls with residents needing immediate response. Often the messages are long and emotional, and require a lot of time from both reception and support staff to field and manage. Sometimes voicemails are as long as 10 minutes with residents upset about something that is not working.
This organization needs to respond to customers 24 x7, 365 days a year. It was forced to look for a new system because its telephony provider could not provide an adequate landline; the old system was not reliable, and its vendor could not provide satisfactory support. The phone system would go down for 24 hours or longer, the longest outage was 26 days. The final straw was when one of its properties was on fire and management didn’t know about it until the next day because the system was down. Heath’s telephony vendor was not very responsive, kept passing the support call within the company and problems were difficult to resolve.
“We needed a reliable system that would allow our support staff to quickly vet each message so they could distribute it to the right person within the company in a timely manner,” says Keith Beardsley, chief operating officer for Heath Properties. “We chose a service that automatically integrates all voice mail with e-mail. This enables our support staff to review messages while taking phone calls, easily organize messages, and get them to the right person quickly.”
Today, Heath’s new telephony vendor takes full responsibility for the entire system. With one call, any issue is resolved quickly and Heath has not experienced any significant outages. Employees now get their voice mail sent to them via e-mail, so they can access it on the go. In the past it was taking hours to dial in, listen to their voice messages, take notes and determine action. By reducing communications latency, Heath’s customer service and response times have improved significantly and its response processes are more efficient.
Melodye Mueller is vice president of sales and marketing at Whaleback Systems.
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi