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Furniture Importer Reduces Telephony Costs, Increases Sales With Whaleback CrystalBlue Voice Service

Deployment Fast Facts:

The Customer: Sunset Trading, Londonderry, N.H.

The Channel Partner: Tel-Net Systems, Salem, N.H.

The Technology: Whaleback Systems’ CrystalBlue Voice Service

The Payoff: Furniture importer reduces telephony costs 50 percent and increases sales and productivity by transitioning office phone system from legacy TDM PBX to managed premise-based IP PBX.

Overview:

Sunset Trading is an established importer of casual dining and bedroom furniture that selected the CrystalBlue Voice Service from Whaleback Systems to avoid the capital costs of purchasing a new PBX while taking advantage of advanced calling features and robust fax over IP (FoIP) capabilities.

The Challenge:

The challenge was how to change out the aging business phone system to new VoIP technology in order to reduce costs and boost efficiency while avoiding the common headaches, hassles and risks of new VoIP deployments.

Sunset Trading had been using a Lucent PBX and a T1 line, but the PBX was old and had limited functionality. Management evaluated alternatives and consulted Tel-Net Systems of Salem, N.H., which has provided IT consulting services to Sunset for years.

We had an outdated phone system and the phones kept breaking. We quickly decided that wed prefer the efficiencies of VoIP and together with Tel-Net we analyzed alternatives, said Jim Conway, vice president of operations for Sunset Trading. Sunset sells its products to retailers throughout North America, so nationwide flat-rate calling was a major advantage. We had limited functionality on our previous phone system, so we were also looking forward to easy-to-use business calling features, like conferencing, call forwarding and voice messages automatically delivered to our e-mail inboxes, Conway continued.

The Solution:

The solution was a swift deployment of managed VoIP.

We were originally planning to select a hosted VoIP service until we found out about CrystalBlue, and we selected it primarily because it is a managed service that is monitored and managed by Whaleback so we can focus our time on running our business, not on running our phone system, said Conway.

The company was planning a major overhaul of its existing IT infrastructure, and selecting a managed VoIP service allowed Sunset to outsource the management and administration of its voice service. We could have selected a hosted VoIP alternative that would have slightly reduced our phone bills, but the managed service from Whaleback offered more features, better quality phones and end-to-end management of our service to ensure consistent and reliable call quality, he stated.

Tel-Net became a channel partner of Whaleback Systems, and managed the deployment of the service. Whaleback ported existing Sunset phone numbers and Tel-Net installed a Whaleback SMB 1500 IP PBX at Sunsets headquarters. Polycom SoundPoint IP 501 handsets were deployed throughout the facility and connected to existing Ethernet wall plugs. Sunsets legacy paging system had been linked with the PBX being replaced, and Whaleback engineers developed an integration so that CrystalBlue could trigger events that drove the paging system to generate pages. Tel-Net came in with laptops and showed us how CrystalBlue worked and spent a few minutes teaching employees how to use the calling features on their phones, and they taught us how to program the auto attendant, said Conway. They explained the layered functionality of the CrystalBlue software and we gained an appreciation of the additional features we could utilize.

The Payoff:

They payoff was reduced costs. CrystalBlue was deployed in the fall of 2006, and Conway estimates that the company has reduced its monthly calling charges by 50 percent over its legacy solution. We pay a flat rate for unlimited calling throughout the country, and international costs to our suppliers in Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam are heavily discounted because we are placing the calls over the Internet. The audio on the calls is impeccable, and the sound on our handsets is as clear as day. CrystalBlue is reliable, and we can count on our phone service to support our business. Our retailers are all over the country, and we communicate with them primarily by voice and by fax so availability and reliability of our phone system is very important to us.

Sunset feels it boosted productivity by benefiting from FoIP. Sunset has a heavy reliance on faxing to support many of its standard business practices, and before selecting Whaleback the company relied on stand-alone fax machines for receiving orders and sending information to its customers. When a fax is sent manually via a stand-alone fax machine, the user typically has to print the document, walk to the fax machine, write out the cover sheet, type in the fax number and then wait around the fax machine to send the fax and confirm delivery. This process can easily take five minutes per fax, so the labor cost for sending faxes quickly becomes daunting. Receiving faxes can also be an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Companies not only have to constantly feed fax machines with ink and paper, they also have to route received faxes to intended recipients.

But Sunset selected Whalebacks OrcaFax feature as part of its CrystalBlue Voice service. OrcaFax is a secure, high-performance desktop fax service that allows subscribers to send and receive fax messages from their PCs and the company has been able to simplify and streamline the transmission and receipt of faxes. Sunset has been able to avoid the bandwidth charges for analog fax transmissions and now sends an unlimited number of faxes for a fixed, low-cost monthly fee.

OrcaFax has allowed us to enhance productivity, automate customer interactions and increase sales, stated Conway. We regularly receive over 600 faxes each week and they are automatically routed to the appropriate administrator. We only print what we need, and we can forward faxes within the company via e-mail. Because everythings automated, we dont have to worry about hardcopy faxes getting misplaced or incorrectly routed, and we can more quickly respond to customer requests. Nearly all of our orders come in via fax, and we have been able to improve our quality control, more efficiently ship inventory and accelerate our revenue recognition via faster and more accurate delivery of our products to our customers.

Sunset not only benefits from inbound faxing directly to e-mail inboxes; the company also has increased its communications with customers by generating regular broadcast faxes to customers. In the past, when a retail store placed a furniture order, a Sunset representative would call the customer daily to keep them abreast of when the order would be delivered, but Sunset has automated this process via outbound faxing. Each day, an administrator generates a group fax that goes to all customers awaiting shipments, and it includes updated delivery information and information on any special promotions. The administrator selects the customers that are going to receive the fax from Microsoft Outlook and broadcasts the fax via e-mail from a PCwithout ever having to print any faxes or feed them into standalone fax machines.

Its amazing how the daily outbound fax has helped us accelerate and increase sales, said Conway. We not only streamline our customer communications, we also create opportunities for incremental sales. Previously, customers often waited until the last minute before placing an order but now they receive daily reminders of our products and theyre more likely to place orders sooner.

Sunset is planning to increase its use of broadcast faxing by generating periodic newsletters with product information and promotions, and then faxing them to all of its customers. Well be able to drive down the cost of customer communications by eliminating bandwidth charges and the productivity drain of processing thousands of outbound faxes each month, explained Conway. Well use our e-mail system to regularly shoot out information on new products and promotions to our customers, which all of our customers will receive on their fax machine. OrcaFax allows us to keep our customers abreast of our products and promotions in a more timely and efficient manner.

On the Horizon: Leveraging New Features to Grow the Business

Sunset also plans to leverage CrystalBlue to provide full-featured telephony support to traveling employees, and also to potentially support remote workers not based at the companys headquarters location.

We plan to provide sales representatives with Whaleback soft phones that they can load on their laptops and gain access to our voice system from anywhere they can get a broadband connection, said Conway. This will allow our traveling employees to keep in touch with us and with customers from a hotel room, Wi-Fi coffee shop or airport. Theyll be able to place and receive calls, check voice mail messages and create conference calls from their laptop computer to increase productivity while on the road.

As Sunset continues to grow, management foresees the need for remote workers based throughout the United States, and they will have access to the CrystalBlue Voice Service and all of its robust calling features. Well be able to open up remote offices with local numbers, and remote employees will be reachable by headquarters employees by just dialing an extension, said Conway. CrystalBlue supports our calling needs today and we can cost-effectively expand it to support new employees and offices. The ultimate benefits that Sunset receives from CrystalBlue are that it helps us increase our productivity and sales, improve the timeliness and efficiency of our communications with customers and it helps our employees to multitask by taking advantage of desktop faxing.

Sunset Trading www.sunsettrading.com
Tel-Net Systems www.telnetsystems.com
Whaleback Systems www.whalebacksystems.com


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