Marketing agency improves technology, saves $87,000 with cloud-based telephony
For BDSmktg, its field staff is the core of its business, with only a small percentage of employees at headquarters. BDSmktg is using Skype for Business Online in Microsoft Office 365 to knit these two groups more closely together, accelerate business, and save bundles of money. With Skype for Business Online, BDSmktg will save US$87,000 annually in personal phone charge reimbursements, audio conferencing fees, and PBX maintenance, and avoid the need to spend $250,000 on a new PBX system.
Flustered by phones
James Metcalfe never imagined that the most troublesome technology in his company would be the most mundane: phones.
James Metcalfe is Director of IT Network Infrastructure for BDSmktg, an agency that provides retail marketing services for world-class brands by representing their products and services in stores. The Irvine, California¬–based agency provides thousands of representatives each year to some of the biggest names in retail.
James Metcalfe had already outfitted several hundred of the agency’s full-time employees with Microsoft Office 365 to give them anytime, anywhere, any-device access to email, document storage, document sharing, and web conferencing. Employees used the latest PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
But old-fashioned phone communications posed a growing problem. Only a small percentage of BDSmktg employees work at the Irvine headquarters, while thousands work in the field—from home or on the road—because their jobs require that they be near the stores they service.
A significant portion of the company’s large recruiting team and extensive field staff used their personal phones to conduct business, and BDSmktg reimbursed them for the charges. But this was expensive and problematic. When job candidates returned calls to recruiters, they could end up talking to a recruiter’s family member. Or, if recruiters or field operations managers left BDSmktg and went to work for a competitor, they took job candidates’ phone numbers with them.
“There were delays in tracking down phone numbers to reach colleagues, which slowed down the business,” Metcalfe says.
In the Irvine office, the company’s private branch exchange (PBX) system was old, out of date, and hemorrhaging money. “Every time we had budget talks, the PBX system came up, but sticker shock ended the discussion,” Metcalfe says. “The timing was never right to make the large investment to replace or upgrade it.”
One way to connect everyone
In late 2015, BDSmktg asked to be part of a Microsoft early adopter program for a new version of Skype for Business Online (part of Microsoft Office 365) that included significant telephony enhancements. Cloud PBX and PSTN Calling provide software-based PBX functionality with a bank of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone numbers. PSTN Conferencing allows people invited to a Skype for Business Online meeting to join by dialing in over a landline or mobile phone (rather than the Internet).
BDSmktg gave Skype for Business Online to about 300 of its employees, and adoption was instant and enthusiastic. “We’ve been using Lync Online for years, so our staff already had experience with chat, screen share, and video and web conferencing,” Metcalfe says. “Adding PSTN Conferencing and PSTN Calling just makes communications even simpler. With Skype for Business Online, we have one way to connect everyone, wherever they are, whatever device they’re using, and whether they’re connected to the Internet or not.”
More professional, more accountable
Today, BDSmktg employees who work from home have an assigned Skype for Business Online phone number that they use for work calls; no more giving out personal phone numbers. When an employee leaves BDSmktg, there’s no longer the worry that a personal phone number is a contact’s only link to the company. BDSmktg simply reassigns the Skype for Business Online phone number to a new employee, maintaining continuity with client and job candidate communications.
“With PSTN Calling, we can track every inbound and outbound call, see the number called, and the duration of the call,” Metcalfe says. “We have much better accountability around a critical part of our business.”
Work effectively from anywhere
Employees working from home now feel better connected to the company because they can connect quickly with colleagues. “We’re able to provide more seamless communication for our employees who work from home,” Metcalfe says. “People are blown away by the quality of the HD Voice in Skype for Business Online. They don’t want to go back to regular phones.”
BDSmktg management likes the flexibility that the new features provide. “With Skype for Business Online, we have more freedom to place people wherever the business needs them to be, rather than having technology limitation determine employee access,” says Ken Kress, President of BDSmktg.
Management also likes the savings. By using Skype for Business Online for field staff telephony, BDSmktg eliminates the need to reimburse employees for calls made from personal devices—a US$12,000 annual savings.
By replacing the $8,000-a-month licenses from its current conferencing provider with a $1,700-a-month Skype for Business Online subscription, BDSmktg will save $75,000 annually.
And by replacing its physical PBX with Cloud PBX, BDSmktg will avoid a $250,000 replacement cost and ongoing maintenance costs of $35,000 a year.
Last but not least is the real estate cost avoidance that BDSmktg could realize by using Skype for Business Online. “We’ll avoid significant costs to expand our office as our company grows as we enable more people and roles to work from home,” Metcalfe says.
Easy to manage
From Metcalfe’s perspective, having telephony functionality bundled with Office 365 makes his life easier. He eliminates the work and expense of a physical phone infrastructure. It’s far easier to move employees around the office and to move them from office to home. “Scaling up and creating additional phone numbers with PSTN Calling is very straightforward,” Metcalfe says.
There are fewer vendors and bills to manage. More services on user desktops are connected and interoperable, making support easier. “Giving employees new capabilities and saving money is what a successful IT department strives for,” Metcalfe says. “I’ve been championing a new phone system for three years, and to finally find a solution that is affordable, easy to implement, and easy to use is a game changer.”
Next, extend to every field employee
Metcalfe’s vision is for all the company’s thousands of field staff representatives to have access to Skype for Business Online and other Office 365 services. The above-mentioned savings could well make this possible.
“It would be ideal for our field operations managers to easily and instantly connect with the representatives that they manage,” Metcalfe says. “Everyone would have the Skype for Business Online mobile app on their smartphones. As our field programs ramp up and down, we adjust our Office 365 subscriptions as required using a central admin portal. It would make us more nimble, more responsive, and more competitive than ever.”