Voice over IP (VoIP) or IP telephony is one of the hot IT topics for 2005. VoIP uses Internet technology to transfer voice telephone calls over a Broadband network. These are known as “on-net calls” and could generate potential cost savings, as well as other important business benefits such as increased efficiency or enhanced customer service.
Telephony savings are easiest to quantify, so they are often used as the most obvious item in a business case. However, because there are costs associated with implementing VoIP, Falk Bleyl, Senior Product Manager VoIP at THUS plc, believes that retailers must consider the business case carefully.
“It’s essential to look first at the volume of outbound calls,” he says. “If the current volume of on-net calls between sites is low, there are little potential call cost savings. If the frequency of intersite calls is high, there may be a case for moving to VoIP. And, if line rental savings are included, this may make it a more attractive case. A site with DSL connectivity may be able to have a total of 5 lines for the line rental costs of one, plus any changes made by a service provider for VoIP provision.”
The scenario is different when looking at incoming calls. If sites within a retail group are receiving high volumes of incoming calls, it may be more efficient to handle them centrally through a single call centre. But, as Falk Bleyl explains, “With a broadband network in position, the call centre staff can forward customer calls to a local branch over the network without additional cost. VoIP can realise potential cost savings there, with the additional benefit of improvements in customer satisfaction.”
When putting together a business case, it’s important to remember that VoIP is just one of a number of applications that can be implemented on a retail Broadband network. As Falk Bleyl explains, “The multi-service network could support email, real-time stock control, remote alarm systems, Chip ‘N’ PIN and Voice over IP. If the business case for a Broadband network does not stack up for one service alone, a joined-up case may provide the justification.”
Even if you consider that VoIP may not be appropriate at this point in time, it is important to future proof your network. An upgrade path will keep your options open for migration to VoIP services in the future.
THUS has a strong pedigree in delivering networks that support VoIP, THUS has already helped multi-site organisations, including radio group GWR and Glasgow City Council to ensure that their current networks will allow a future transfer to VoIP services if required. Voice over IP could prove to be an important communications tool for multi-site retailers, but it is essential to examine calling patterns and cost structures before investing in technology.