VoIP Slashes Retailers Wages and Phone Bills

By: Marian Macdonald

Operating 10 offices as a single call centre using VoIP technology has saved a retailer $140,000 each year in wages and another $30,000 in call costs, without compromising service quality.

"The business benefits are huge," says CPAP Australia's managing director, Ben Greenaway. One of Australia's largest retailers of equipment to solve snoring and sleep apnoea, CPAP Australia has offices stretching from Cairns to Canberra.

An Epygi IP PBX routs customer calls. Using Aastra IP handsets from Alloy, CPAP Australia staff members can put callers on hold, transfer calls between offices and pick up voice mail. The system's designer, Lee Watson of Spring Mountain Technology (SMT), said the Quadro operated like a number of distributed telephone systems and a network server in one.

"The Epygi IP PBX delivers features like voice mail, three-way conferencing, call waiting, and even access call statistics," he said. "In effect, CPAP has a highly sophisticated call centre that would only be viable for large corporations using conventional technology."

Mr Greenaway said the SMT system had brought savings beyond cheaper VoIP phone rates.

"Our call costs fell by 65 per cent in the first few months and we're saving at least $30,000 a year in phone call costs and line rentals alone," he said. "Even more importantly, the SMT VoIP system lets us run our business more efficiently, saving us $140,000 per annum in labour costs."

"We are running a virtual call centre spread over 10 locations. Remote sites assist with the workload of incoming calls during their quiet periods, which means we need fewer staff members. We also have the ability to transfer a call from Rockhampton, for example, to the technician in Canberra who saw the patient."

Expansion is also easier thanks to the flexibility of the SMT VoIP system.

"We're adding new remote locations every two to three months," Mr Greenaway said, "and because calls between our offices are free and there are no extra line rentals, expansion no longer brings the spiralling costs it used to."

"Support is more affordable too. With conventional systems, you pay around $130 per hour for a technician to attend to a breakdown or make changes. In contrast, almost all changes, updates and support for our VoIP system is done remotely. This is both quicker and cheaper."

The savings have not compromised service quality, according to CPAP Australia, which intensively researched its options and phased in VoIP implementation. Among the criteria for the selection of SMT as a provider was its ability to deliver both the equipment and the service, ensuring compatibility and accountability.

"When we first considered VOIP, we could see the cost saving but as our company relies on inbound calls we were hesitant to jump straight in without testing the water," Mr Greenaway said. "Each customer's inbound call can be worth $1000 to $2000, so high quality voice calls were always our number one priority. After a nine-month investigation of VoIP solutions, it was clear that SMT was the only company that could deliver a complete solution."

"The implementation phase was very painless. Having connected the copper lines from the old system to the new Epygi Quadro4, we shipped SMT's bundle of the modem/router and Aastra IP phone to remote locations."

Lee Watson said the selection of Aastra phones and the Epygi IP PBX followed extensive testing that showed the two were perfectly compatible and highly manageable.

"Successful VoIP systems have three ingredients: robust hardware, a quality voice service provider and reliable internet connection with adequate bandwidth," he said. "The Aastra phones offer high build quality designed for heavy use environments and offer all the features most centres want. An example is power over Ethernet which centralizes and protects phone power along with dual Ethernet that reduces the need or eradicates the need to add any additional cabling for desk phones."

CPAP Australia initially used an existing ADSL service to carry both voice and data but early quality of service issues prompted the use of dedicated DSL for VoIP at the central office and increased bandwidth for remote locations. After trialling the VoIP system in tandem with the existing PSTN network for two months, CPAP switched all inbound calls to VoIP.

"Using SMT as the service provider as well as the equipment provider, service quality has exceeded all expectations," Mr Greenaway said.
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