A corporate travel agency has saved $200,000 in telecom costs and was able to close down one branch office by having consultants work from home over broadband connections, making their calls from Internet Protocol phones.

Denver-based Navigant International Inc., which operates as TQ3Navigant, employs 300 workers in Canada, 250 of whom work from either their clients’ offices or from one of Navigant’s six Canadian locations.

The other 50 work from home, and the company plans to move more of its employees to home offices.

Three years ago, Navigant installed an Internet Communications Platform 3300 private branch exchange from Ottawa-based Mitel Networks Corp. at its Mississauga, Ont. Canadian head office.

Over the past year, it has installed ICP 3300 boxes at its branch offices in Calgary, Vancouver and Winnipeg, while its Ottawa and Montreal offices use Mitel’s SX200 IP PBX.

More than half the company’s cost is salaries for its travel consultants, who book business trips mainly for corporate customers, said Sherry Saunders, TQ3Navigant’s vice-president of operations for Canada.

TQ3Navigant’s customers usually want to deal with the same consultants, with whom they’ve established working relationships, rather than call a toll-free number and get one of 200 agents. It’s difficult to hire and retain good, experienced consultants in some locations, Saunders said, so senior managers started offering some consultants the option of working from home.

“You’ve got a lot of moms who want to put their kids on the bus, et cetera, so they like that ability to work out of home,” Saunders said.

But before they bought IP phones, it was difficult to route enough calls to keep them busy the entire day, and to “control peaks and valleys” of call volumes, she said.

Now, each agent has a Mitel 5224 IP phone, whether they’re at home or in an office, said Lee Garbig, strategic account manager of Delphi Solutions Corp., the Toronto-based integrator recently acquired by MTS Allstream that installed the Mitel products for Navigant.

Employees are grouped through Mitel’s Automated Call Distribution (ACD) software, which can route calls to the appropriate agent over IP, regardless of location.

Navigant consultants operate in small teams, and the IP communications system means it’s easier for a team of four to work from different locations.

Saunders said this feature came in handy when one customer in London, Ont. decided it needed the space occupied by three Navigant consultants working on its premises.

“Now, all we had to do was put an IP phone in each of their homes, connect them through one ACD grouping and that customer went through no change whatsoever.”

To set up a home worker, Navigant needs to provide them with an IP phone, high-speed connection and virtual private network (VPN) connection to a Navigant office, Saunders said.

Over three years, the business lines and long-distance would have cost $150,000, and the company’s total return on its investment so far has been $200,000, she added.

Navigant was able to close down an office in the north Toronto neighbourhood of Willowdale, because it was able to relocate consultants to their home offices.

The Willowdale office was originally opened to help attract Toronto-area workers who did not want to commute all the way to Mississauaga, Saunders said.

In addition to saving money on business lines and long-distance, Mitel’s call centre products also help keep statistics on quality of service.

Garbig said by using the 6110 Contact Centre Manager, Navigant is able to get information on the availability of agents, number of calls per day, and the number of calls per day for a specific group or location, he added.

He said more companies are looking at relocating workers to their homes.

“It’s getting more common all the time with the proliferation of high-speed to the residence.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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