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“You want a company that is looking at research and development going forward that can be provided to the end customer – Avaya is always making sure they’re there.”
– Andrew Harris, Director of IT, Ballantyne Strong
COMMERCIAL LIGHTING SPECIALIST TAKES A SHINE TO AVAYA ENGAGEMENT SOLUTIONS
Easy Deployment, Ease of Use Mark Move to New Platforms
Omaha, Nebraska-based Ballantyne Strong, Inc. began in 1932 as a cinema equipment company. As its business evolved to selling state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment and professional lighting, its business communications platform over time gradually fell out of date. The shortcomings of the old TDM system became especially obvious as the company realized it needed its own call center. Additionally, the acquisition of another company based in Alpharetta, Georgia, meant that Ballantyne Strong faced five-figure travel bills each month.
The event that triggered a move to solicit bids for a new business communications platform was the decision to move into a new headquarters location in Omaha. As part of that move, an upgrade was needed so that the company could expand its network operations center (NOC) — a key part of the business that provides comprehensive technical support to Ballantyne Strong customers. Meanwhile, travel between Alpharetta and Omaha was time-consuming and expensive. The company began seeking a partner that could help ensure a smooth implementation to a stronger call center model as well as a solution to cut back on travel expenses.
Capabilities, Contact Center Visibility Are Must-Haves
Ballantyne Strong had big plans for its NOC, according to Andrew Harris, Director of IT. When he arrived at the company three years ago, he saw the need to get its business communications platform up-to-date. This would allow Ballantyne Strong to set up multiple call queues based on the technician availability, as well as view agent status on a large board in the NOC. That would provide visibility into who was handling calls, as well as allow the NOC managers to ensure calls were getting handled correctly.
With the Alpharetta acquisition, Ballantyne Strong would also need to expand whatever contact center system it chose. “From my perspective, I wanted to be able to have a plug-and-play system that I can expand based on the company’s desire to go in a certain direction,” Harris said. “If a senior executive said, ‘let’s open a regional office,’ I don’t want to have to replace a whole telephone system.” Ballantyne Strong also wanted to enable agents to work remotely on an as-needed basis.
“It was probably one of the smoothest cutovers ever. People were shocked at how smoothly it went.”
Andrew Harris, Director of IT, Ballantyne Strong
With the NOC at the forefront, Ballantyne Strong began looking for a contact center solution that would provide the necessary capabilities for its needs today — and in the future.
The Importance of Partners
Ballantyne Strong was familiar with Avaya’s reputation for quality before it started its search, and Harris made it a point to seek out local firms who partnered with Avaya. Other vendors didn’t have the local support or technology that could support multiple locations or at-home users, and Ballantyne Strong would have needed third parties for its phone system to work. “I would rather have one throat to choke,” Harris said. “I want to be able to go to my partner and not hear that it’s someone else’s software. I wanted it to be one system, one software platform, and not have to worry about third-party add-ins.”
Ballantyne Strong, after receiving multiple bids, selected DataVizion as its implementation partner for its “buck stops here” attitude. And DataVizion rose to the Ballantyne Strong challenge: a lot of planning needed to be done to cut over to IP Office Contact Center and Scopia. With only a month to plan, DataVizion examined the call routing of Ballantyne Strong’s 800 numbers, gathered the information required, and worked with the phone company to get the circuits installed in the company’s new facilities. The hard work paid off: Ballantyne Strong cut over to the new Avaya system on a Friday morning at 8 a.m., and was fully functional within 10 minutes. “We actually had the call center in one building and were bringing up the new call center in another. We transferred the 800 numbers one at a time, then transferred our people,” Harris recalled.
“Our VAR really understood telecom, as well as the technology, and was able to support anything that happened,” he said. “It was probably one of the smoothest cutovers ever. People were shocked at how smoothly it went.”
Immediate Visibility, Ease of Use Noted with IP Office
Almost immediately, the NOC manager gained insight into call answer patterns and agent availability. The large board mounted in the contact center eliminated the guesswork of the old round robin phone system. The display allowed NOC managers to view conference calls and transfers live.
“We love that we’ve been able to set up a disaster recovery mechanism, as well as the fact that we can send agents home to work from home as needed.”
Andrew Harris, Director of IT, Ballantyne Strong
Meanwhile, agents were able to use IP Office Contact Center with minimal training. Switching over all operations to another location proved to be a relatively simple task. This came in very handy during an ice storm in Alpharetta, which left the local agents unable to commute to the office. Ballantyne Strong was able to quickly configure IP Office Contact Center to route calls to Omaha and to remote agents based there, as if they were Alpharetta-based. “We love that we’ve been able to set up a disaster recovery mechanism, as well as the fact that we can send agents home to work from home as needed,” Harris said.
A Robust, Cost-Effective Call Center Unfolds
The intelligence built into IP Office Contact Center has helped the business in other ways. Included functionality allows Ballantyne Strong to route calls to technicians appropriately, based on the 800 number the customer is calling. Setting up dedicated customer support lines for its clients’ customers has been almost as easy as hitting a button; the call rings through to an agent, and the agent is prompted to answer with, “Welcome to Acme,how can we help you?”, for example. Ballantyne Strong is also able to manage to the service level agreements it provides to customers.
NOC managers also have the ability to jump on calls in “whisper” mode. For training purposes, this lets new agents take live calls while allowing the manager to coach the agent through a call without the customer hearing the coaching. Ballantyne Strong can also record calls for training purposes and to better provide customer support, reviewing calls when necessary to ensure information was communicated properly. The reporting features have also allowed Ballantyne Strong to install a third-party plug-in, pulling reports from Avaya IP Office Contact Center into an easily digestible format for clients.
Thanks to the routing and visibility, as well as load balancing, Ballantyne Strong has been able to better anticipate the number of calls an agent can handle. The company also uses IP Office Contact Center reports to view the types of calls an agent takes and how many seconds it takes to answer the calls. This has saved the company the cost of hiring at least one new agent as business grew.
As an added bonus, using IP Office Contact Center has saved Ballantyne Strong on long-distance charges between the Omaha and Alpharetta offices. Before Avaya, the company was spending $1,000 per month, but now, callers dial a four-digit extension, as if Omaha and Alpharetta are located in the same building, and calls are routed over Ballantyne Strong’s network.
“From my perspective, you want a company that is looking at research and development going forward that can be provided to the end customer – and Avaya is always making sure they’re there.”
Andrew Harris, Director of IT, Ballantyne Strong
Travel Costs Drop 80% with Easy-to-Use Videoconferencing
Meanwhile, in the executive offices, senior management was split between Omaha and Alpharetta, 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively. Monthly travel costs, with flights and hotels, cost Ballantyne Strong approximately $10,000, not counting time lost waiting in airports and in the air. Voice-based conference calls weren’t sufficient for meetings; senior management needed to see each other’s faces, gauge reactions, and overall be visually connected to peers. The technology also needed to be simple to use. Senior managers generally don’t have a lot of extra time in their days for training purposes, and calling in IT would result in wasted time for a simple call setup.
Avaya Scopia took care of both needs. Since implementation, Ballantyne Strong has cut its travel bills down to $2,000 per month – an 80 percent savings. Additionally, the estimated carbon footprint savings from reducing travel are equivalent to 27.25 metric tons, which is comparable to taking 5 cars off the road each year.1 The technology is also easy to use: an executive can go into the conference room and dial into a video call as easily as a phone call. “Senior management wants to have meetings; they don’t want to deal with technology issues,” Harris said. “Avaya Scopia has taken the headache away.” Additionally, Ballantyne Strong executives find company-wide meetings via Scopia helpful in order to see peoples’ faces and reactions during the course of the video call.
Being Able to Peer into the Future
The Alpharetta acquisition certainly is unlikely to be the last for Ballantyne Strong. As it eyes potential purchases and partnerships, the company will be able to easily expand its existing IP Office Contact Center deployment or use systems that integrate with it. Having that option will greatly ease the IT burden in mergers and acquisition situations.
Additionally, Scopia is tablet- and smartphone-ready. Senior executives aren’t clamoring for these capabilities yet, but Harris has tested and deployed this capability, anticipating the request coming in the near future. And he knows that DataVizion will be able to help as the company grows and uses new features.
“We’ve been very happy with the support from DataVizion. We are comfortable with where Avaya is going with their technology,” Harris said. “From my perspective, you want a company that is looking at research and development going forward that can be provided to the end customer – and Avaya is always making sure they’re there.”
1GHG impacts of the Scopia product have been accounted for in this analysis.
Ballantyne Strong, a specialist lighting firm, handles design lighting assignments such as engineering the custom lighting for NASA’s Space Shuttle.