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Business telephone systems case study: Womens Pioneer Housing Association

Women’s Pioneer Housing is a registered social
landlord that provides an accommodation to women lead households. We’ve been established
since 1920. We are looking forward to are in centenary in 2020. And, moving forward,
we’re looking to enhance our existing services and create developments for new services to
our existing and future tenants. We were aware that our
existing telephone system was old. It didn’t enable us to do all of the things
that telephone platforms could do. And so we worked with a consultant who helped us
to prepare a tender, and specifications so that we could bring in a new company to provide
our telephone system. We looked at several tenders, shortlisted it down to three. And
we invited those three providers to come in and prepare a short presentation on their
product. Ultimately we selected Foehn. We were happy
with their presentation, with the product. We felt that they matched their specification
to meet our criteria and we also felt that they took the time to look at our specifications
rather than preparing a generic product. The key thing for me, apart from the obvious,
which is price, was around value for money. It’s a very important factor in our sector
at the moment. And this is much broader than just the price. We’re also looking at things
like quality of service, which includes, for example, speed of response to our tender.
How we expected the company to respond to our needs that were very clearly set out in
a specification. And so there were a number of other factors as well. But they had very clearly got a number of
people behind the scenes. It wasn’t just the salespeople, although they were very impressive
on presentation. But the actual strength and depth was very clear. And that was something
that was very important to me. I’ve given presentations before and I’ve felt in the
past that perhaps they don’t always get what they say on the tin. With Foehn they certainly
did. From my perspective the appeal of the Foehn
proposal is that they were able to implement delivery of the new telephone system with
very little active involvement on my part. They certainly were able to make a fresh,
to make a start, deliver everything that we expected from them and I was able to stand
back, get on with other areas of my work and only be involved as a contact or as a contact
for queries and questions around the deployment. But I was quite happy that they were able
to come in, and from start to finish I was able to sit back and get on with my work. From a finance perspective, price is important.
Value for money is also important, and in comparing the price offered by the providers
that we interviewed it became clear that it was no use looking at just the capital cost,
the first implementation part. We had to look at the price over a three-year period to make
the bids comparable. Having done that it became very clear that Foehn was leading the way. However, it wasn’t just about price. We were
also very keen to ensure quality of service and we looked at the mode of implementation.
So, for example, we didn’t want to have to spend loads and loads of time sitting with
them, implementing things ourselves. We wanted to make sure somebody was gonna take that
off our hands and to just take it forward for us and we were satisfied that Foehn was
the one that was going to do that. One of the things that we value and regard
quite highly is the fact that our tenants provide positive feedback on their experience
when they contact us over the phone. We haven’t been able to substantiate that with any evidence
other than general feedback, and a few random surveys that suggest that our service is professional
and is efficient. That’s also compounded by the fact that the
people who answer the phone have long careers with Women’s Pioneer Housing. So, not only
do they know our business, but they also recognize and know our tenants. And from a reporting side, and particularly
from performance reporting, which is important to us, because it’s something that we have
to report through to the board and that should improve substantially. For example, we can
record how quickly it takes to respond to a call. How many calls individuals are getting,
how many they are making. We can even record calls, which is something
totally new for us. What we’ve been trying to do is establish some parameters so that
we can set some useful targets, measure how well we actually do when we answer the phone.
And actually report with meaningful information. With the new telephone system we’ve been able
to do that and we’re not saying anecdotally that we do well. We’re actually providing
evidence that supports that. I think one of the key things for me is the
ability now for people to ring me directly so that I think that the business as a whole,
the perception of external stakeholders has improved. So, people like our lenders, the
bankers, professionals such as solicitors and auditors can just dial in directly rather
than going through a switchboard. Which took everybody’s time but also interfered
with the smooth running of the organization and particularly with tenants trying to get
the calls in as well, so there have been huge benefits from that side. From the presentation
of the original project, down to the implementation, and the delivery of the new telephone system,
what was clear to me was that there was a clear division of expertise within Foehn. The sales pitch was actually quite impressive
and we were, in comparison the others, we were actually quite pleased with the way that
the 2 sales consultants delivered the product, their obvious knowledge of the product and
made us feel quite assured that we were looking at a company who obviously had a good knowledge
of what they were offering to provide to us. Since implementation and actually having the
telephone system installed, what was really also quite obvious to us is, from the moment
we selected Foehn, we were told who was going to be handling our project and it moves swiftly
from sales to the technical expertise. We had a good technical director giving us their
understanding of how the project would be implemented and then we moved down to the
actual technical expert in the installation briefing us, making sure we were happy with
the deployment of the actual product. My own experience of the technical support
has been positive, and I have to say that I’m quite impressed that you get chased for
feedback, we get chased for follow-up, and clearly any reports that I make are not left
languishing. People actually come back to me to find out what I felt about the support
that I received and whether or not I was happy with it.

Robin Kshlerin