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(February 21st, 2005) – Network-based services vs hardware services.

(CORNWALL, UK) February 21st, 2006 – The majority of SMEs employ some form of technology to manage their telephony within their business. Most common is the PBX, a Private Branch Exchange, which is a solution that provides voicemail and may allow calls to be transferred to colleagues. There may sometimes be a need for more sophisticated functionality or resource i.e. when receiving more sales enquiries due to a successful marketing campaign or a new product launch. Another reason may be your business is expanding which means you need to put in more controls, such as formalising a process where incoming calls can be diverted to customer service or accounts… Another reason might be that whilst you may not be able to identify how many calls you’re missing, you may be told about calls you’ve missed. This could be dissatisfied customers who without having their issue resolved may have moved on to the competition.[break]

As a business you have three options:

  • Employ more people
  • Buy new hardware
  • Buy a network based solution

To manage an increase in calls coming into your business you may choose to increase your headcount, for example by employing a receptionist. What will happen when this person is on holiday or off sick or leaves the company? This leaves you open to human error and varying levels of service being delivered. By utilising technology, it may be more cost effective and offer a consistent level of high service.[break]

Buying new or upgrading existing hardware is often the only option that enters the mind of the purchaser if they are already paying an annual maintenance on their PBX. You could upgrade your PBX to a more functionally rich solution or purchase ‘add on functionality’ to compliment your existing PBX. Maintenance is typically 10-20% of the purchase cost of the PBX. Depending on the complexity of the PBX these can range in price from £3,000 to £15,000.[break]

You need to ask yourself what level of service your PBX provides.

  • Does it provide you with meaningful data for you to manage your business?
  • Do you know how many calls you’re missing?
  • Can you route calls between multiple sites?
  • Can you divert calls if there is no answer, or the line is busy?
  • Can you record calls?

If you wanted to intelligently route your calls using hardware you’d need to purchase an ACD (Automatic Call Distributor). This could be an ‘add-on’ or an upgrade. You would need to take out all of the phones at a cost of ?1,000-?2,000 per agent. The disruption to the business is immense and it is also very cost prohibitive for a SME due to high capex. Many businesses are not aware there are alternative solutions available in the network. [break]

However, for a small cost, you could choose to implement a network based call routing solution. This would compliment your PBX and would not cause any disruption to service. It is also flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of your business. Some products have options to route calls via an easy to use web interface. Another benefit is you only pay for the functionality you require. This is not the case with hardware where you need to pay for a complete package which means you’re paying for functionality you may not need or use.[break]

Network based solutions can be implemented within days as opposed to weeks with a hardware solution which translates into a rapid return on investment. With an ACD solution you would require a programmer in-house or you would need to pay a charge every time you change the routing plan, such as a change of target when someone moves desk or to change your opening hours due to a bank holiday. With a network based solution you could go online and retarget the number yourself.[break]

By using a network based solution you also benefit from resilience and inbuilt disaster recovery. For example, if there is a problem with the site where you are based your calls could be instantly diverted to another department or location. This is available for a small fee and provides piece of mind in case the unknown happens. You can implement this yourself anytime, anywhere providing you have an internet connection. If you had problems with your hardware you would need to wait for an engineer to come out to visit you plus there is the ongoing costly maintenance charge.[break]

Having existing hardware does not mean you should continue to purchase more hardware to increase your call functionality. There are various options available to you, such as network based solutions which will enable you as a business to reduce cost and improve customer experience.[break]


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