Though the recession created a renewed focus on the cost benefits that can be achieved by implementing a VoIP solution, it’s been widely recognized that the future of communications is in features and applications. When I spoke with Huw Rees, 8x8’s (News
) vice president of business and channel development, last week, he acknowledge that, with the economy now stabilizing, the emphasis seems to be shifting back to the features of VoIP systems.
That said, it’s hard to overlook the significant savings businesses can enjoy with VoIP, especially when those savings amount to more than an 80 percent savings on monthly phone bills, as is the case with Utah florist FlowerPatch.
Not long after I spoke with 8x8 chairman and CEO Bryan Martin (News
) late last year, and he explained that, at the time, 8x8 had shifted its focus
to the cost benefits of VoIP with the economy still struggling, FlowerPatch deployed 8x8’s Virtual Office hosted VoIP, looking to cut its phone bill, which had eclipsed $13,000 a month since it began operations more than 30 years ago.
Having grown to nine locations, plus its corporate headquarters, FlowerPatch had moved to a traditional call center model several years ago, which helped cut costs to a degree, but didn’t help solve all the operational inefficiencies that often negated the cost savings – which is where the features and functionality of a quality VoIP system play in to the value proposition.
Long wait times resulted in hang ups, calls were routed to the wrong locations, and generally, the model didn’t work well for a multi-site business that relied on being able to address customer questions and orders immediately. Saving on monthly costs is great, but not at the expense of operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.
This was also not the company’s first experience with VoIP – it did try a local provider in an effort to cut costs further and resolve some of the inefficiencies in their operations, but the quality and reliability of the service presented challenges that were difficult to overcome for a local vendor in a competitive industry that includes several nationwide supplier chains.
As with any business, there are peak periods for FlowerPatch. For florists, those periods come on special occasions, like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, and other holidays. When on Valentine’s Day, FlowerPatch’s phone system was out of service, sales manager Parrish Gordon realized that, despite having gotten its monthly costs down to $5,200, “It wasn’t worth the loss of business and havoc we experienced that day. They just couldn’t support us.”
After considering several alternatives, FlowerPatch decided to move to 8x8’s Virtual Office system
, which is designed to help small businesses
, like FlowerPatch, to enjoy the features of enterprise phone systems without the overhead costs and management headaches of on-premises deployments, while delivering the flexibility for users to configure their own phone systems as needed.
With the 8x8 system, Parrish is able to change voice greetings at each location remotely using an online interface, instead of having to visit each physical site. It also allows him to set up an auto attendant, so customers are able to reach any of FlowerPatch’s locations simply by dialing an extension, as well as configuring ring groups, voice mailboxes, and on-hold messages to create a better customer experience.
For instance, customers can be notified of specials, holiday hours, and other important information as they are waiting for an employee to check on order status or product availability. Of course, the system also includes all the functions of a traditional phone system to allow employees to handle calls with ease, such as transferring a call to a location closer to the customer.
“It’s all about efficiency,” says 8x8 Chairman & CEO Bryan Martin. “8x8 Virtual Office is helping businesses save money so they can spend what they have in better ways. But, it is also giving them tools that, as a smaller business, they never had before. And it’s these tools that are doing the most for their business and their customers.”
For additional flexibility and service quality, FlowerPatch added cordless IP phones
to its system at each location, allowing employees to more quickly respond to customer needs and cutting down wait times.
Of course, there’s still the little matter of cost – FlowerPatch now pays $1,700 a month, an 82 percent savings from its original monthly cost. When considering that cost savings with its ability to more effectively meet its customers’ needs, and without having to worry about the reliability of its system, Parrish is patently pleased with the new system, which tool only four days to deploy from the first contact with 8x8.
“The day the system went live, it took just eight hours from start to finish – just in time for Mother’s Day,” he noted. “Everything came together easily and without interrupting the business, and we have been reaping the rewards ever since.”
It’s results like this that keep 8x8 growing, which is why it recently moved to a new, larger corporate headquarters
facility in Sunnyvale, California, which it officially opened with an open house last week.
Erik Linask (News - Alert) is Group Editorial Director of TMC, which brings news and compelling feature articles, podcasts, and videos to 2,000,000 visitors each month. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Erik Linask