You remember how those curly cords on old telephones would invariably end up mangled after a few years of use, all of the coils starting to twist the wrong way and forming into clumps that foreshortened the distance you could stretch the receiver from the cradle?
Well, someday soon complaints about the drawbacks of traditional telephony as a whole will sound just as dated. In the meantime though, a significant share of our business at Continuous is helping companies’ improve their overall technology infrastructure, including to transition to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).
Not long ago we helped a small New Jersey company we’ll call Cautious Inc. to make such a leap (actual name changed for the sake of privacy), and we thought their experience might make a great case study for other businesses at the VoIP crossroads.
Let’s take a look at the situation they found themselves in, and how one subtle but sweeping change shifted their outlook.
For a start, we’ll offer definitions (via everyone’s best pals Wikipedia) on a few quick key terms:
- VoIP, or IP Telephony is “a methodology and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet. […] The steps and principles involved in originating VoIP telephone calls are similar to traditional digital telephony and involve signaling, channel setup, digitization of the analog voice signals, and encoding.”
- Unified Communications is “the integration of enterprise communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence information, voice (including IP telephony), audio, web & video conferencing, [extremely long list omitted], and non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). UC is not necessarily a single product, but a set of products that provides a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types.”
A simple example of a UC function of the VoIP support we offer would be a voicemail-to-email message. This allows you to record a brief audio message which will then be automatically sent to the receiver as an email attachment.
Got all of that? Good.
Cautious Inc. is a storage company with several warehouses scattered throughout the Garden State. Having been in business over 40 years, they’ve become accustomed to upgrading their facilities to keep up with the times: many of their units boast sophisticated climate controls, and the hallways are studded with high-tech security cameras.
Yet when it came to their telephone services, they were woefully out-of-step. A caller to Cautious Inc. was as likely to catch a busy signal as a human ear, and in the event they called the wrong warehouse there was no way for the receptionist to transfer the call to the correct location.
Asking a prospective customer to hang up and call another number risks squandering an opportunity to seal the deal, and they did so multiple times every day.
If the state of their public face hinted at a lack of cohesion, a look behind the scenes at their billing fairly spelled it out. Although most businesses of Cautious Inc.’s size should have little trouble negotiating a favorable rate with their service provider, in our view (and ultimately theirs) they were paying outrageous fees. They received their phone service as part of a bundle with their internet, and as a result, the steadily increasing service rates had managed to fly under the radar over the years.
Worse, one of their warehouses had been acquired from an independent operator five years previously, and the company had simply never switched over the telephone service at that location. This meant they were paying bills from two different operators every month, rather than consolidating with one to increase savings.
Their out-of-date communications might’ve been due to a certain conservative bent, but looked at from our perspective, Cautious was living a little dangerously.
Change is Continuous
Things might’ve gone on in this fashion for some time had the company’s fragile computer network not suffered a critical failure. Our technicians dropped in like search and rescue marines from a chopper and helped them recover the majority of their data.
During a follow-up visit to install some new software to mitigate the risk of future disaster, the manager at Cautious talked about how much difficulty she was having setting up a simple company directory.
It wasn’t long before the conversation turned to the company’s numerous telephone-related problems, and by the time our representative left the office, we’d been commissioned to help Cautious skip a few decades and jump directly into the 21st century.
Like a lot of our clients, they were surprised at first to learn that VoIP was no longer the scratchy, lo-fi experience they recalled from the early days of Skype; and also how cheaply it scales up for business applications.
Every telephone conversation they’d ever had with us was via the VoIP we use at our office, after all, and they couldn’t recall any lack of clarity.
First, we helped encourage them to cut ties with their phone company. Their existing internet package was robust enough to accommodate the negligible additional burden of our hosted VoIP services, so their telecommunications outlay was instantly almost halved.
Next, we set up an efficient company directory which connected each of their locations into one simple series of menus. For the first time in Cautious Inc.’s forty-year history, callers could be easily directed to the warehouse of their choice, the sales team, management and more from one number. It’s always the little things that capture clients’ imaginations though—like learning they could customize their hold music, and excitedly choosing to upload a bunch of REO Speedwagon .mp3s. (We can’t save our clients from every mistake.)
Cautious’ management was impressed by the ease with which they could now set up video conferences with their teams, regardless of location. They also saw great possibilities for scaling up their operations in the future, thanks to the unlimited personal accounts Continuous offers.
The company in this case study remain clients today, and the unified communications tools we offer them have changed their attitude towards internal innovation. Although they remain committed to offering the same great service that has made them a regional success story, a healthy spike in customer satisfaction (and a significant drop in their telephone bills) has them eyeing more changes.
Maybe you’ll hear more about them here in future!
Even if VoIP isn't your immediate concern, today's cast study serves as an example that bringing on a third-party vendor can help alleviate problems within your organization that you didn't even know were problems.
We don't fault clients for not knowing what they can't know, but understanding that managed service providers might have a leg-up on major productivity sinks is an easy call. Especially in competitive environments like New Jersey and New York City.
If you would like to get a review of your current technology infrastructure with some fresh eyes, consider a comprehensive audit from Continous Networks. Your phones might be fine, but we promise that you'll probably learn of a glaring gap in your infrastructure that can help increase productivity!