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Network World - As a member of the fifth generation of his family's 135-year-old business, Jeff Honerkamp is proud of the customer service his company delivers. For example, industry veterans are onhand at all times to answer tough questions from customers about lumber and plywood.
With the 2001 acquisition of a Long Island laminate distributor, Honerkamp was looking forward to expanding the company's in-house expertise, but communications snafus, including an archaic phone system, hampered his efforts.
"The company we acquired had a phone system that was extremely outdated. We couldn't even transfer calls - we had to call the main number and then have the person paged. That took a toll on customer service as people were kept waiting," Honerkamp says.
Replacing the PBX-based phone system for 92 employees at both locations was out of the question. "With a company our size, I'm the one who knows the most about infrastructure - we don't have an in-house IT or telecommunications team to own and manage the PBX system," he says.
To date, a third of the company is on the VoIP system, including customer service, accounts receivable and accounts payable, and Honerkamp says the company is already seeing the benefits.
"The VoIP system is our main telephone system, and it allows us to have customer service in one place. If someone calls, we can transfer them to the appropriate expert in either location right away, or they can contact that person directly," he says, adding VoIP enables better collaboration and communication in-house.
The company also is taking advantage of VoIP to allow employees to telecommute and the flexibility to hire for either location. "With tolls and commuting, it can be hard to find employees for each office. Voice over IP gives us the option of hiring someone in Long Island to work for the New York office. Also, if someone wants to be a stay-at-home parent, we can now accommodate that," he says.
Honerkamp used VoIP to keep an employee who would have had to leave the company for personal reasons. "He now logs on from his home in Pennsylvania with an IP phone. The system grabs his profile, and he can piggyback onto our lines as if he were physically here," Honerkamp says.
The best part about VoIP is the single bill he receives for locations and telecommuters, he says.
"Before, I had seven or eight bills to sift through, and it was tedious looking through surcharges and fees. Most people sign off on those bills, but I've found so many errors. A VoIP bill, which has one monthly charge, is definitely a lot easier than a typical carrier bill to read."