Take IP Telephony To The Bank
Integrator Worknet Inc. turns a study of a bank's telecommunications system into a $400,000 IP (Internet Protocol) telephony installation.
During the past few years the financial services market has been heating up for VARs and integrators. Banking, in particular, has proven to be fertile ground for solution providers with wireless or document management expertise. With interest rates constantly fluctuating, banks are seeking new ways to improve customer service to retain customers. But improved customer service can come in many forms, such as via a new phone system.
In the summer of 2002, Naperville, IL integrator Worknet Inc. was hired to complete a study of a regional bank's telecommunications system. The bank, which has approximately $2 billion in assets, has seven locations in the Chicago area and targets entrepreneurs and up-scale clients. "We were referred by one of the bank's board members," explains Bob Unglaub, executive VP at Worknet. "Our report showed that their existing Nortel PBX [private branch exchange - i.e. telephone switchboard] switch was at full capacity. It either needed replaced or the bank needed to switch to a new PBX platform."
Eliminate Tolls, MAC Charges
The bank had a common problem. Every time it had to move, add, or change (MAC) a phone line, the phone company needed to be contacted. The bank was charged for each MAC and had to wait for the service to be performed according to the phone company's schedule. However, there was another problem the bank wanted to eliminate.
"The phone system's rate structure in the Chicago area is configured so that making a call from the city to a suburb 15 miles away is more expensive than making a call to, for example, New York," states Unglaub. "To eliminate these fees, we wanted to use the bank's existing wide area network [WAN] to route all of their calls between branches. IP [Internet Protocol] telephony allowed them to do that."
A Decentralized IP Telephony Approach
IP telephony technology uses the Internet rather than the circuit-switched connections of the public-switched telephone network for voice communication. Worknet demonstrated both centralized and decentralized IP telephony solutions for the bank. The centralized approach relied on the bank's WAN for communication and included one PBX unit that each location shared. The decentralized solution included a software-based PBX in each location that could still operate if the WAN went down. The latter solution, which consisted of an Artisoft (Cambridge, MA) TeleVantage phone system, supports Intel Dialogic telecom hardware and can scale up to 192 incoming trunks and 480 phones per server.
"Our distributor Paracon [Greenville, SC] provided us with some pre-sales technical support for this project," Unglaub says. "Four months after we demonstrated our solutions, the bank chose the Artisoft solution." In addition to the TeleVantage software and licenses, Worknet sold the bank 280 Aastra Technologies analog phones and an industrial server for each bank branch.
A PBX At Each Branch
Worknet installed the new system at the bank's branch offices first, working overnight to complete the cutovers. The bank's headquarters was completed later during a three-day holiday weekend. Training lasted about three weeks total for the entire project and was conducted by Worknet support specialists. The $400,000 project was finished by February 2003.
Unglaub says the new system is like having a PBX in each branch that can be managed from a centralized location. "The new system not only eliminates branch-to-branch calling fees, it gives bank employees a lot of functionality they never had before," he explains. "The voice mail and e-mail systems are integrated, allowing users to listen to a voice message on their computer or phone. A GUI [graphical user interface] enables employees to configure their phone systems, thereby eliminating any need to contact the phone company for MACs." The bank can also integrate the TeleVantage software with a CRM (customer relationship management) program for functionality like prioritizing communications from large banking customers.
The integrator expects future business from this customer as it continues to add branch offices. Plans are also underway to upgrade the client to the newest version of TeleVantage software.