Hold the Phone—Rethinking PBX
What do organic farmers in Wisconsin, fitness trainers in Los Angeles, and call center reps in Mississippi have in common? A love of cheese? An obsession with stretching? A desire to speak with strangers? Communication problems, that’s what.
In each case, they work in an organization that was limping along with an expensive and outdated PBX (private business exchange) telephone system that was costing time and money: the farmers as members of the Organic Valley Family of Farms; the fitness trainers as employees of nationwide chain LA Fitness; the call center folks as Mississippi-based customer service reps for Milwaukee Electric Tool. Let’s take a look at the problems of each and how they solved them.
At Organic Valley, the predicament involved expansion. In 2010, this already large farmer-owned cooperative wanted to grow further, but there was real concern over the capacity of the business infrastructure to handle continued enlargement. In particular, major headaches loomed in the planned seven–year expansion of the co-op’s MItel-based PBX system, from 550 seats to 2,500. Not only would the expansion require time-consuming counts of phone lines and call volumes, but it would more than double the number of employees needed to manage the PBX. And after all that, Organic Valley still wouldn’t have modern communications features like instant messaging, presence, and Web conferencing.
LA Fitness had its own set of communication problems. With more than 340 clubs spread across North America and a corporate headquarters in Southern California, the company faced big hurdles in effectively sharing sales, operations, and training information with its 20,000 far-flung employees, not to mention communicating with its tens of thousands of existing and prospective customers. In an effort to satisfy such large-capacity communication needs, LA Fitness had developed a mix of PBX telephony systems and an open-source voice over IP (VoIP) solution. Problem was, both parts of this combination were failing under the stress of continued company growth. The VoIP solution was increasingly unreliable, while the PBX systems were costly to maintain and required a large collection of different local voice providers.
And then there were the call center reps at Milwaukee Tool. Although their employer was fully committed to technological innovations in its products—power and hand tools—the dedication to contemporary communication technology was, well, somewhat weaker. For telephony, the company relied on an aging PBX system that had, believe it or not, been hit by lightning. Not only was the system vulnerable to failure, it offered no help to harried call center reps who need to quickly find subject matter experts to answer customer questions.
Okay, the common pain points are pretty clear: these three organizations were hamstrung by PBX systems that were not just costly to maintain and ridiculously expensive to expand, they also were missing out on the productivity gains offered by modern unified communication systems. The solution?
All three opted to eliminate this aging infrastructure and move, instead, to Microsoft Lync 2010.
So, why Lync? Well, for starters, the switch to Microsoft Lync 2010 can result in significant cost savings. According to Forrester Research
, an average organization that utilizes a Microsoft unified communications solution can expect an ROI of 337% within 12 months of deployment. In the fertile farmlands of Wisconsin, shifting to Lync netted Organic Valley hefty reduction in their overall communications cost—the equivalent of goodness knows how many tons of aged cheddar. Meanwhile, the buff gang at LA Fitness easily retired over 150 PBX systems, eliminating lines and long-distance charges in their clubs and painlessly saving over half a million dollars a year, giving the lie to the adage “no pain/no gain.” And what about Milwaukee Tool? The toolmaker drilled a big hole in its communication costs, with an anticipated savings of $3 million over five years.
The cost savings would be reason enough for many companies to switch from PBX to Lync, but the goodness doesn’t stop there. Lync’s unified communications system provides capabilities that you just can’t get with old-style telephony, including presences, instant messaging, and auto attendant—not to mention conferencing and integration with Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint.
At LA Fitness, for example, Lync’s instant messaging gives sales counselors ready access to information when they’re talking to prospective customers. What’s more, corporate headquarters can easily send alerts through Lync, letting the clubs know about critical events and upcoming maintenance schedules.
Lync’s unified communications solution has enabled call center reps at Milwaukee Tool to provide better customer service over the phone. Not only do the reps have vastly improved access to information and SMEs, the system also improved response efficiency by routing calls to any available call center worker, regardless of location.
And thanks to instant messaging, rich conferencing, and presence, Organic Valley has been able to couple a 100 percent increase in functionality with a 50 percent reduction in the cost of adding each new user to their communications system. That’s double the functionality at half the price!
What’s worked for these three companies could work for yours as well. If you’re still making do with PBX, then you owe it to yourself to take a look at Microsoft Lync 2010. You’ll get all the features of a traditional PBX—call by name, hold, forward , transfer, divert, park, retrieve, phone conferencing, and voice mail—along with real-time presence information, enhanced instant messaging, and rich conferencing features that support audio, video, and Web collaboration. And you can potentially save a ton of money over the cost of supporting your old PBX system.
What’s that? You say you’re not ready to completely move away from one or more of your old PBXs? No problem, you can still add Lync 2010 to your existing PBX solutions and get the benefits of instant messaging, presence, and audio/video/web conferencing. Alternatively, you can deploy Lync 2010 fully at branch or remote locations or to disparate user groups, while maintaining PBXs in your main locations. Either way, Lync can enhance your communications capability and increase productivity now now while setting you up to integrate Lync throughout your entire organization down the road.