The Cream of Communications

The Cream of Communications

Fed up of feeling like a cash cow to its previous telecoms supplier dairy giant Clover decided it was time to look elsewhere.

For most of us understanding how our milk gets from a cow to our cornflakes is not something we put a lot of thought into. But like any commercial operation there are a lot of industrial and business processes that take place to get the carton into our fridge. Perhaps surprisingly to some is that Clover relies heavily on an outbound call centre to generate most of its own sales. With around 120 agents, mostly making outbound calls, the call costs in 2005 were very considerable. Monthly bills were reaching levels above half a million Rand. Clover decidedthe high telephony costs fromthe incumbent operator had to be slashed.

Willie Maritz, senior network specialist at Clover explains: “Our call centre provides an essential function for the company, with around 80 percent of our orders being conducted through this facility. With the company on a cost-cutting drive, this was a good opportunity to make substantial reductions in our telephone bill.”


A Quick Buck

Clover decided to opt for a VoIP system supplied by ECN. The savings achieved on phone bills were almost instantaneous. “Once the system was up and running, we saw a dramatic drop in costs. Bills were reduced by up to 35 percent,” confirms Maritz. Against previous high costs, the monthly savings achieved literally translated into hundreds of thousands of Rands. It’s often said it takes money to make money, so what were the financial outlay costs for Clover? “There were no upfront fees for the customer as all equipment and backhaul costs were deducted from savings. In effect, it cost the customer nothing to deploy the ECN VoIP solution,” notes Andy Openshaw, chief commercial officer at ECN. Of course, cheaper doesn’t always mean better. And Clover did have concerns over call quality when switching to a new supplier, and to a VoIP system. “ECN approached us and claimed they could reduce our telephone bill and deliver carrier grade voice quality. We were a little sceptical at first, especially since there wer some teething problems. However once ECN had overcome these, we soon started to see the benefits,” says Maritz.

ECN understands the importance of such concerns from its customers, and ensured that it ironed out any quality issues. “It is all well and good to demonstrate a reduction in call costs, but if the calls being made by the salespeople are unintelligible, sales will suffer. That is just not an answer,” says Openshaw. To ensure call quality was maintained ECN added in full redundancy with the traditional PABX system kept in operation as well. To this day, the PABX remains as an overflow solution and a failover should an IP-link go down. ECN’s entire solution for Clover uses IP to backhaul traffic to a central point where it is handed over to the incumbent networks via certified SS7 trunks. The solution has been robust enough to win the plaudits of Maritz. “We have had no problems over the last two years. And ECN has demonstrated that it will do what it takes to make the solution work. There can be no question that VoIP has delivered true value to Clover over the term of our agreement,” he concludes.