School boosts communications with VoIP

Coleg Glan Hafren


Staff members had to share extensions - sometimes with as many as 20 sharing one voicemail-box - as a result of this cost overhead.

The college considered simply upgrading its telephony system, but decided to switch to VoIP as the IT department had more skills in that area. "We didn't have much communications speciality, we're more technical. So this fit better with out expertise," said Burton.

After rolling out the VoIP system, the 600 staff at the college - including receptionists - can check their voicemail messages from any phone at the school, as when they logon at a computer or phone, their configuration follows them.

"It's brilliant," said Burton. "It's one of the easiest systems to manager that we saw out there. It sits very well with us."

The system also integrates with Microsoft Outlook, allowing staff to pick up their voicemail messages through their email. "The several dozen part-time staff can pick up using Outlook from home," Burton said.

The previous system was actually three separate systems across four campuses, with additional BT lines hired out. Now it's a single image across the telephone system - including at the college's training hair salon, off campus, which previously required its own BT line. "The new system has done away with all that," Burton said.

"The feedback has all been positive," said Burton. "Communications have improved greatly."

Indeed, the system went live in August, two days before enrolment - when the college typically fields as much as 35,000 calls. The auto-attendant handled the majority of calls, while the system's flexibility let Burton set up a miniature, temporary call centre from college staff to handle the rest - meaning the school no longer had to hire outside temporary staff to cope.

The system is also being used to alert students to news, such as snow days, using the auto-attendant. Students know to call in if they're unsure classes will happen, and it's easy to record a message for all callers to hear.

The Shortel system is on lease purchase, so it didn't involve a one-off outlay. The cost savings have made it "pretty much a free system," said Burton.