By Sarah Graham Linares
December 2010 was a busy month for the Santa Barbara location of GLOBALINX. The company formerly known as TMC finalized the deal with GLOBALINX, moved to a new office space and, at the same time, migrated to new hosted VoIP phones.
That last point is critical. As the lease for TMCs long-time offices came to an end, we had to examine options. Although our office was charming and centrally located, the floor plan was inefficient, and the congested downtown location and older building were presenting issues. After some shopping around, TMC decided a move was the best choice.
As many businesses know, moving provides an opportunity to review operations and ways to save money. The most important evaluations were of our phone system and the data network both critical systems in our organization. TMC has been helping agents sell VoIP for years, and we had used VoIP for termination and origination. But doing a full analysis for our own companys needs helped us learn some valuable lessons and better answered the question were often asked: Why migrate to hosted VoIP?
The Challenge. TMC, now the California GLOBALINX location, has 33 employees and several work groups with specific call pattern needs. For example, we have four employees who work remotely yet need to appear as if theyre in the office with extension dialing. Santa Barbara is home to GLOBALINX/TMCs busy inbound call center with requirements that include queuing, reporting, monitoring and 24-hour access. To continue to provide the level of support for which TMC is known, the GLOBALINX sales support team needed to be constantly available to our agents.
Our phone equipment included an NEC PBX that was ready for retirement. It was installed in 1997 when TMC was founded and we werent really sure it would survive the move. Any maintenance for this aging system was limited and expensive.
We were also preparing for our acquisition by GLOBALINX, which is headquartered in Rochester, N.Y. The Santa Barbara location would require more interoffice dialing and would need extra capacity for data sharing between office sites.
The Solution. A hosted VoIP platform would allow TMC to save a tremendous amount of money and, at the same time, greatly improve our operational efficiency. From a financial standpoint, the purchase and installation of a new PBX would have been expensive. It would cost at least $100,000 and would simply have mimicked our previous configuration. We would still have the same support issues, not to mention a piece of hardware to house and maintain.
Our evaluation of hosted VoIP showed that we not only got rid of the pricey hardware and support challenges, but we added functionality. Overall, hosted VoIP was the best choice based on the following advantages: Web-enabled, centralized administration, personal call routing, free interoffice calling, easy growth (just add a phone), using our own product, disaster recovery and no on-site PBX to support
We started planning the Dec. 19 installation at the beginning of October. And we accomplished the transition by dividing the process into seven steps:
1. Business Evaluation, Oct. 1-15. To determine equipment and network design, we had to consider several factors, including how we could improve operations while planning for growth. We decided on 15mbps, minimum, burstable circuits. The configuration allowed bursting up to 100mpbs when necessary.
2. Network Design, Oct. 15 – Nov. 15. Most of the heavy lifting occurred during these 30 days. The IT team designed the network the LAN, too and specified how it would connect with the GLOBALINX headquarters. During this time, GLOBALINX and TMC chose the appropriate equipment.
3. Ordered Data Circuits, Oct. 25.
4. Ordered Phones, Network Equipment and Designed Call Flow, Nov. 15. We wanted our phones before the move so we would have time to train everyone. So, we placed the order about 45 days before the delivery date. TMC bought several of every phone we sell, including the Polycom and Yealink devices, so the team would have hands-on experience using the equipment we promote. The next step was to design the call flow for employees. We considered the roles of each employee work group. For example, when a call comes into our main customer care number, where should it go? How should the call center queue be designed? For sales support, if someone isnt at his or her desk, should the call roll back to customer care?
5. Circuit Delivery and Testing, Dec. 3-17. Our IT team got the circuit delivered at the new office, as well as new gear including routers, firewalls and a power-over-Ethernet switch. The team tested the router and did a site survey for the backup circuit with a local cable provider.
6. Phone Training, Dec. 13-17. A few days before the move, we trained employees on the new phones. This ensured that our team was ready to assist agents and customers from the first day in the new building. And since the phones are plug-and-play, voicemail and features set up was easy.
7. Weekend Move, Dec. 18 and 19. We all packed on Friday afternoon and shut down our computers for the weekend. The movers did their work and on Monday morning, we arrived to organized chaos at the new offices, but our phones worked immediately!
The Results. TMCs old NEC phones were difficult to use. I only transferred calls and did three-way calling after warning the person on the other end Id call back if I lost them. I now have a Polycom desk phone; its easy to use and the call quality is flawless. If youve never heard HD phone quality, its almost disturbing at first because were not used to the clarity. TMC has migrated to hosted VoIP successfully and its been one of the best parts of a complicated move. More importantly, we have now walked the talk” with hosted VoIP and are even better positioned to help our agent partners.
Sarah Linares is vice president of revenue assurance, GLOBALINX. Previously she was vice president and director of product development and revenue assurance for TMC Communications. She has more than 15 years of telecom experience.