Automobilgesellschaft Weilbacher, an authorized Mercedes-Benz sales and service company in Germany, has five locations throughout the country and nearly 200 employees. Each day, the company receives more than 300 customer calls, which are routed through a central call center. The company had a mix of IP telephony systems supporting its 70 inbound call lines. The heterogeneous environment was inefficient, which taxed the company financially, affected customer service, and hindered employee productivity. In 2008, the company engaged NTeam, a Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner, to implement a unified communications solution based on Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007. As a result, the company has improved customer service and increased employee productivity. It has also reduced communications and associated administration costs by 50 percent.
Automobilgesellschaft Weilbacher, based in Eberswalde, Germany, began operating in 1992 as an authorized Mercedes-Benz sales and service automobile company. Today, it has five sites throughout the country, revenues exceeding €40 million (U.S.$52 million), and nearly 200 employees.
||This solution has cut our communications and associated administration costs by about 50 percent. And we expect to see even greater savings in the future with Office Communications Server 2007 R2.
As the company expanded over the years, it experienced growing pains with its communications infrastructure. In 2006, the company had a mix of IP telephony systems, from vendors such as Alcatel and Nortel, supporting 70 inbound call lines. The heterogeneous environment required employees to use long-distance calling to reach other locations, and the resulting charges were expensive. Additionally, vendor support was costly.
The automobile company tried to overcome the problem by switching to mobile devices running Windows Mobile® software, but the volume of customer calls—more than 300 each day—was overwhelming. Employees in the company’s call center often spent valuable time just trying to get customers to the right sales or service person, which left many calls unanswered or on hold. “A lot of our customers couldn’t get through,” says founder and CEO Michael Weilbacher, “so we had a lot of angry customers and actually lost about 2−3 percent in revenues.” In addition, mobile phone service charges were exorbitant, costing the company more than €3,000 (U.S.$3,800) each month, which created a financial drain.
In 2006, the company took a different approach in its attempt to solve the problem. It implemented a Cisco CallManager 4.0 Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system for centralized call processing. However, the company could not integrate its different telephony systems into a unified solution. Also, Cisco CallManager didn’t allow for integration with the Windows Mobile phones, which sales representatives relied on for communication while on the sales floor or in the sales lot.
The company needed a solution that would simplify communications and reduce costs.
In July 2006, Automobilgesellschaft Weilbacher turned for help to IT services provider NTeam, a Microsoft® Gold Certified Partner. At the time, the automobile company was using the Windows Vista® operating system and had deployed Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007 for its desktop infrastructure. For companywide messaging and collaboration, it was using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005.
NTeam, an IT services provider located in Berlin, Germany, recommended that the company implement a Microsoft unified communications solution using Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 for presence awareness, instant messaging, software-powered voice over IP (VoIP), and conferencing. The implementation partner also suggested that the automobile company upgrade to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 with Unified Messaging so that users could manage e-mail and voice-mail messages from one inbox.
“The Microsoft unified communications solution was ideal,” says Weilbacher. “We wanted something that was cost-effective and would give us an integrated communications system, including mobile devices.”
In February 2007, NTeam began implementing the solution. The IT services provider used a mediation server and a Ferrari OfficeMaster Gate VoIP gateway at the central facility, so calls could be channeled through Office Communications Server 2007. NTeam used a separate Primary Rate Interface link to integrate the gateway with the existing telephony environment.
NTeam also deployed Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Speech Server to provide the automobile company with a comprehensive interactive voice response foundation for powerful speech-enabled, self-service applications.
||The Microsoft unified communications solution was ideal. We wanted something that was cost-effective and would give us an integrated communications system, including mobile devices.
As part of the new solution, the company migrated employees from the PBX phones to a combination of Bluetooth devices including Jabra BT530, Sony Ericsson HBH-300, and Plantronics Voyager 510 headsets. The company also implemented 30 LG-Nortel USB Phone 8501 handsets, 60 Samsung 225UW monitors, and two Microsoft RoundTable™ devices. RoundTable is a conferencing and collaboration device with a built-in 360-degree camera that provides a panoramic view of the conference room. When combined with Office Communications Server 2007, RoundTable delivers an immersive conferencing experience that extends the meeting environment across multiple locations.
After conducting user testing to ensure stability and proper functionality, NTeam disengaged Cisco CallManager, shut down and removed the old telephony infrastructure, and went live with the fully integrated unified communications solution to all 120 users in October 2008.
In March 2009, the automobile company worked with NTeam to implement Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 to take advantage of enhanced desktop-sharing and call-control features.
By migrating to the Microsoft unified communications solution, Automobilgesellschaft Weilbacher has significantly reduced communications costs, improved customer service, and increased employee productivity.
Reduced Communications Costs by 50 Percent
With the new Microsoft unified communications solution, the automobile company was able to avoid an expensive enterprisewide replacement of its telephony infrastructure while still implementing integrated communications. It gained an integrated system that is linked through a single solution, and employees can take advantage of instant messaging, software-powered VoIP, conferencing, and direct dialing to other locations through their computers and mobile phones.
The new system also reduced the need for costly telephony vendor support, eliminated the need for long-distance calls between locations, and reduced mobile phone service charges. “This solution has cut our communications and associated administration costs by about 50 percent,” says Weilbacher. “And we expect to see even greater savings in the future with Office Communications Server 2007 R2.”
Improved Customer Service
By implementing Office Communications Server 2007, Automobilgesellschaft Weilbacher has improved its customer service. For example, in the past, call center personnel had no way of knowing who was available to take a customer call. The call would be routed to one employee extension, and if that line was busy, the call would come back to be routed to another person, and so forth. This caused a delay in the customer getting to speak to someone, which often led to angry customers and even lost business. Now, call center employees can use presence information to see who’s available and then transfer the call directly to that person.
“Office Communications Server 2007 has definitely helped us improve customer service,” says Weilbacher. “Our customers can get through to us now, and we can get them to the right person faster.”
Increased Employee Productivity
Automobilgesellschaft Weilbacher was also able to increase employee productivity by implementing a solution that works seamlessly with the company’s existing IT infrastructure. Office Communicator 2007 integrates with the Microsoft Office programs that employees use every day, making it easy for them to manage their communications from their computers.
With the click of a button, employees can initiate IM conversations or phone calls from within familiar Microsoft Office applications. They also save time by receiving voice-mail messages in their e-mail inbox. In addition, the solution’s presence feature helps employees spend less time trying to track each other down.
Overall, the solution has helped the automobile company’s employees do their jobs more efficiently. ”It’s much easier to communicate through software,” says Weilbacher, “and our employees can do that now instead of relying solely on telephone-based systems.”
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Document published June 2009