Mobility in a crisis
Municipalities are also witnessing the benefits that VoIP phones bring to the table. Oklahoma City maintains some 3,900 phones, and of those, 2,400 are now VoIP and are mainly used in the police department, public works department, and 911 call center.
Today, a police officer can sit down anywhere with a VoIP phone and log into the system and it becomes his phone, says Mark Meier, director of IT. "In a crisis situation, it allows complete mobility,'' Meier says.
And it saves the city plenty. A cell phone costs an average of $32 per month, while the cost of a VoIP phone is about $6 per month.
"It was about dollars and cents and new capabilities," says Meier. IT built in unified messaging capabilities so that people can reach individual police officers or their voice mail, and the system will send them an e-mail if they miss a call.
Meier says they are easy to use because they typically have an LCD screen displaying whatever type of information an individual wants -- instructions, the ability to scroll through message call logs, and, if customized, even the Internet and local applications. Employees can also log into reference information such as police or fire records, all of which they didn't have with their analog phone system. Another function is the ability to place a series of phone numbers that a person commonly uses onto the phone -- sort of like a dynamic phone book that presents different numbers based on the person's role, he says. "It eases performance and makes it more consistent," says Meier.
BCG's Paglione says their system is very programmable and salespeople on the road can have calls routed to their hotel phone, cell phone, or home phone. Besides reliability, scalability is also a priority. Paglione says as they add employees, all they have to do is purchase another phone, plug it in and all features are there.
The company has pulled reports on how employees talk to clients -- how they describe a product or their technique on the phone. Paglione says if management doesn't like what it hears, additional training can be provided.
"One neat feature is we can search keywords so if we wanted to analyze what was going on, we'd tell system to look for words like 'sue' or 'cheated'; even curse words or anything negative, so you could see what took place in that recording," Paglione says.
Likewise, in Oklahoma City, IT can build reports and allow management to see such data as the number of calls coming in during a particular time frame, who is receiving them and what the lag time is before someone answers the phone.
In an event such as an ice storm, Meier says the system enables public works to be proactive and double or triple its call center manpower for a period of time. "With VoIP, information that was only available long afterward is now available on the centralized system," he says. "Managers and people responsible for those systems can be immediately notified and assign additional personnel in response to this event," he says. "That's been very powerful for us. "