Making A Sensible Connection

NetSpeed customer Santa Rosa Auto Parts, a five-location retail chain headquartered in Santa Rosa, Calif., wanted to consolidate communications between locations and upgrade its legacy PBX system without breaking the bank.

“We had the Merlin Legend system from AT&T and added to it significantly. We added voice mail and a T1 card with eight trunks off of it, but then it just got to the point where we wanted to have more and it couldn’t supply any more,” said Ken Thengvall, controller at Santa Rosa Auto.

Three locations had AT&T systems and one had a Toshiba system. Only three locations had voice mail, and the company was paying for data lines at each.

“We were paying for the data circuits, and those were not cheap. We had been talking for years of being able to do voice over those data circuits, at least for intercom purposes, but the hardware required at each end was cost-prohibitive,” Thengvall said.

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While researching VoIP systems, he contacted telecommunications vendor Avaya, Basking Ridge, N.J. Avaya, in turn, passed the lead along to its reseller NetSpeed.

The solution provider evaluated Santa Rosa Auto’s system and thought that they could see improved communications and savings by switching to a VoIP system connecting its headquarters to its retail locations.

NetSpeed recommended Avaya’s IP403 Office Phone System with two IBM XSeries 206 Servers with Windows 2003 Server for the headquarters location, and IP Small Office Edition systems at the retail locations.

“Because it is an IP-based system, administering and managing all four sites was simplified. The manager at the HQ can do all of the changes remotely. To change, add or remove won’t require a technician,” Sammy Sao, president of NetSpeed, said.

“We also were able to look at their overall cost on the voice side and looked at their existing data network that was based on DSL and using a VPN connection across their DSL. We rearchitected their call traffic,” he said.

“The most challenging part was the age of their inside wiring. That’s another benefit of IP Office. It uses digital phones as well as IP phones. In a situation like this where they have existing wiring, it’s extremely costly to rewire everything,” he said.

“We were able to use their existing wiring with minor modifications. That was one of the key challenges. There was a bit of a learning curve as we were redesigning how their system works,” Sao said.

Calls on the VoIP system are directed through a central server. Employees have voice mail and the ability to contact one another using three-digit extensions.

“They deal with a lot of Spanish-speaking customers, and they don’t have Spanish-bilingual managers at every location, but they’re able to easily conference in on the fly any of the Spanish bilingual staff from other sites,” Sao said.

Equipment and installation came to just under $65,000, but Thengvall said that the cost is being made up by substantial reductions in operating expenses and increased sales.

“We went to an auto-attendant approach for all routing, and we’ve seen a huge benefit on that. People can call in and get to who they want to talk to instead of being transferred around,” Thengvall said. The system also allows calls to come through without giving customers busy signals, which are lost sales dollars in the auto-parts industry.

Since installing the system, Santa Rosa Auto has seen 7 percent growth in sales and gross profit. Meanwhile, they cut their monthly maintenance costs in half from $6,000 to $3,000.

“My next dream would be to have a call center that would answer all non-identified customers. Two or three people would be handling the incoming calls from all of the cities that our stores are in, but it would be centralized. As far as the customer was concerned, with our data network, they might as well be in that store they were calling,” Thengvall said.

It also would free up the counter salespeople at those stores from phone calls and allow them to deal with walk-in customers, he said.