Vancouver auto dealer shifts into VoIP

A Canadian auto dealership is taking voice-over-IP along for the ride as part of its expansion plan.

Later this month OpenRoad Auto Group Canada, based in Vancouver, will be completing the acquisition of its sixth dealership.

As it comes under new ownership, the Richmond, B.C.-based business, which specializes in Hyundai cars, will be added to a telephony infrastructure based on 3Com’s NBX phone system, according to director of information technology Peter Mo.

“”When we move them to a new location they will definitely be on 3Com,”” he said.

OpenRoad first began deploying voice-over-IP almost two years ago when it was experiencing phone problems at one of its older dealerships in Richmond, Mo said. Based on an aging PBX system from the late 1970s, OpenRoad was having trouble transferring calls between other remote locations.

“”There was a delay — any call we received, there was a one-second to two-second delay,”” he said.

OpenRoad had evaluated voice-over-IP (VoIP) before, Mo said, but had been put off by the price and the reliability of the equipment. This time, the company visited another 3Com VoIP customer before it decided the technology had matured. In the end, the company put the NBX products at its headquarters first and rolled out the older PBXs there to the two other locations to solve the time delay problem.

Greg Zweig, 3Com’s NBX product manager, said few customers make the switch to VoIP without a compelling business driver.

“”In the case of OpenRoad, it was very easy, the cost was very obvious. They couldn’t get calls from one part of the business to the other, which was unacceptable,”” he said. “”There’s a lot of less-obvious situations. You have people in environments with older products that don’t have any back-end integration. They’re looking for ways to make employees more productive.””

Mo said OpenRoad is saving about $3,000 annually since cancelling the firm’s telco contract for new lines, while the Web-based maintenance tool has saved $1,000 a year so far.

“”When you have more than one remote site, it kind of makes to me to use IP phones,”” he said. “”When you build a brand new building — as we have just done two brand-new buildings — you only run one (Category 5) cable. You don’t need to worry about two.””

Mo said he originally looked at products from Mitel and Cisco as well as 3Com, and purchased from the latter even though the products cost slightly more than the traditional PBXes.

“”Total cost of ownership is definitely a powerful message for voice-over-IP, but we also believe you have to have price points right from the beginning that are competitive,”” Zweig said. “”Those customers typically don’t have multi-million dollar telecom or IP budgets.””

Mo said OpenRoad deliberately hires a young staff which it encourages to move up through the ranks. The ease of installation with VoIP-based phones means they can change offices in minutes, he said.

“”They seem to be able to handle it themselves — no has called us,”” he said. “”For training, we only did it once.””

Mo said the NBX will also be used at three other dealerships this year.


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