Relocation to impressive new Manchester offices prompted the UK’s largest Chamber of Commerce to embark on a communications revolution, installing state-of-the-art technology to secure savings and further enhance customer service.
When you’ve more than trebled your staff within just two years, you know you’re doing something right – and that you might just need to move into bigger and better offices. Decisions like that tend to make themselves although how they’re implemented can make a world of difference to the future success of a business.
Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce saw its move to Manchester’s landmark Elliot House as more than a simple relocation, but an opportunity to embrace the latest communications technology. It wasn’t just about being in bigger, better equipped and more prestigious offices, but giving staff within them, and in the field, the ability to work more effectively.
“It was clearly vital that we installed a new ‘phone system that was robust, that could be plugged into the IT system to provide a smooth seamless interface,” explains the Chamber’s Director of Policy & Marketing, Chris Fletcher. “But it was equally important that whichever system we chose would support where we need to go in the future.”
On the advice of their incumbent business mobiles supplier, Pennine Telecom, the Chamber opted for Avaya’s impressively specified IP Office. More than simply a telephone system IP Office is a powerful and flexible integrated communications solution which can support a huge array of functions. These include video conferencing, instant and SMS text messaging, remote mobile access, call recording and BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – whereby staff can safely and securely access workplace applications and data using their own laptop, smartphone or tablet.
The possibilities excite Chris Fletcher. “We are looking at increasing the number of Chamber members and to do that we’ve got to be able to communicate with them more effectively, to make sure they can access us. It’s not just about what we can do in the office because with IP Office your ‘desk’ could literally be anywhere. We’ve primarily got a business-to-business model but at the end of the day we’ve got to be out meeting people, to have a sales force that’s mobile so it’s important that when they’re out on the ground meeting people they have access to the same technology as if they were sat behind a desk in the office.”
Whether staff are in the office or out serving the business community across a huge geographical patch that embraces 10 local authority districts, he wants them to be supported with the best communication and client management tools. That’s why the Pennine solution includes 20 power user licences, the users of which can access both mobile and teleworking functions, including the ability to transform a mobile device such as an iPad into a video soft phone.
It’s also why the Chamber is set to integrate the new system with an existing CRM platform. “We’re looking to plug our telephone system into our CRM system to create automatic functionality so that when a call comes in we know immediately who’s on the phone and their ongoing records are displayed,” reports Chris.
Having undergone a major office move and installed not just new communications technology but a whole new IT system, he’s aware that it’s still early days in terms of fully realising the potential of the IP telephone solution. Nonetheless the freshly minted solution devised by Pennine is already reaping rewards. Aside from staff finding the system and accompanying handsets easy to navigate, the Chamber is already starting to generate a return on investment, not least through a significant reduction in telephony costs.
Those savings have been secured thanks to the installation of SIP trunks which enable free Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony through the Chamber’s existing relationship with PennineMobile, Pennine’s virtual mobile network. The latter has enabled the inclusion of some 70,000 landline minutes and mobile numbers within the Chamber’s existing mobile package to substantially reduce call spend.
Indeed the success of the pre-existing relationship was a key reason why Pennine was awarded the wider communications contract as Chris explains. “They’re an impressive local company. We’ve done quite a bit of work with them and they’re well respected, a good team and a great group of people.
“They also understand the Chamber of Commerce which is important, they get our challenges, the changes we wanted to make and the benefits they would bring. They could see why we wanted to do this and came up with and delivered a good solution and we are extremely happy with the end product.”