To accommodate strong ongoing growth, including a doubling of its customer call centre in the last two months, leading SA online retailer TAKEALOT.com moved into new premises in Century City, Cape Town, early in 2011.
To support the move and accommodate more anticipated growth further down the line, the company went shopping for a communications and call centre solution that offers quick, cost-efficient scaling, sophisticated manageability and features, and extensibility.
The solution was always going to be hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), says David Turner, chief technology officer at TAKEALOT.com.
- Scalability – No analogue PBX system can compare with an IP-based PBX in its ability to scale both up and out, should call volumes grow further or outlying depots and outlets need more capacity. “It can be done with analogue, but not without unnecessary fixed costs,” says Turner.
- Quick and easy to deploy and manage – Compared to analogue, IP can be deployed quickly, flexibly and cost-effectively, and is highly manageable, he says.
- Future-proof – IP and SIP (session initiation protocol) are universally-agreed communications standards.
- Managed – In addition, a hosted (cloud-based) solution takes away all the trouble of owning, managing and updating a system, allowing customers to focus on service while being assured of quality managed communications.
- Platform for advanced unified communications – Customer service is further supported by VoIP’s integration of advanced technologies, such as video-conferencing, presence and integration with business systems and directories.
Introduced to Connection Telecom by a business partner, TAKEALOT.com evaluated the company along with the incumbent, Telkom. “We couldn’t continue with Telkom without a significant capital investment,” he says, “so Connection Telecom was a very real alternative.”
In the end, Connection Telecom was chosen as much for the numerous benefits of its technology as its own dedication to customer service.
“They have shown themselves to be very responsive and personable,” says Turner. “We have a dedicated account manager, and have had access to their engineers during implementation and faults, which is not the case elsewhere.”
Proof of the pudding
To meet TAKEALOT.com’s needs, Connection Telecom implemented a hosted solution with Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms and line redundancy from the customer premises to the local exchange, backed up by site failover in the cloud and data centre disaster recovery.
True to its promise, the solution offers sophisticated converged communications features, and was quick and easy to deploy and a cinch to manage, Turner continues.
“The VoIP project was completed in two weeks,” he says. This included site analysis for network readiness and capacity requirements, redundancy planning, device rollout and line provisioning.
“To have gone with the incumbent would have meant carting a lot of extensions across and spending money and effort every time an expansion or reconfiguration was necessary.”
He says the old system also didn’t give easy access to data about call centre flows. “The new system gives remarkable insight into call centre operations, which helps our resourcing, training and of course customer service.”
Turner says the solution has proved itself within a relatively short time, with minimal remaining issues.
“The local exchange suffers from poor capacity and congestion, but that should not dissuade VoIP customers, because QoS and line redundancy is easily achieved with Connection Telecom’s ViBE service. We have a fault tolerant solution that works around these problems.”
Turner feels the solution should comfortably provide for future growth. “For now we’re in good shape, but in time we may need more capacity in the outlying regions, and Connection Telecom is the partner to get us there.”