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Communication Challenges Across Multiple Locations from an IT Director Perspective

Mark Preletz comes to this conversation with over 25 years’ experience in building and managing robust IT systems. Currently he is the IT Director of at Scott Robinson Automotive Group, which has proudly served the Los Angeles Area for more than 50 years. Scott Robinson Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Southern California has 3 locations and multiple departments. Their philosophy is to go above and beyond by working hard to ensure each customer’s car-buying or -servicing experience is tailored uniquely to individual customer needs.

Topics Covered:
  • Back up SIP Trunks (if any site were to fail)
  • HQ Directory server fail over (if local server were to fail)
  • Hot stand by IP phones ports (if local switch were to fail)
  • EdgeGateway (provides users to work from any place via the internet or if an entire site was deemed inhabitable)
  • Mobility Router (any user will user their smart phone to conduct business as usual)
  • In summary: Full 100% redundancy providing for 100% continued business continuity.

What made managing a business phone system such a challenge?

When we initially started to search for a better way to provide a better customer experience and to ensure the phones would never go down. We could not continue with what we had. In the automotive business, you must always be “reachable!”

Our phone system at the time was an analog system and the hardware was expensive to buy and required a phone specialist to manage the system. Moreover, we have multiple locations and needed more than just voice to help us analyze and address these 3 points:

  1. How many calls were coming into each location and department?
  2. How many calls were missed and dropped? How many hang-ups were occurring while on hold? 
  3. What did “call flow” look like and how could we adjust staffing levels to accommodate for call volume?

What did you choose and why?

We knew we had to change, and we wanted to use technology to give us a leg up in customer service. This path led to the cloud. In order to ensure our business phone system was always up and operational, we moved our voice services to a Colocation (Colo) in the cloud. When one site goes down, another site is able to take over to ensure we never lose service. For example, we chose to back up SIP Trunks so that if any site were to "fail" (not be available), we had an instant back-up. We also set-up load balancing to detect high latency or downtime and move our voice from one system to another in the case of failure. To protect our systems locally, we implemented hot stand by IP phone ports to take over in the case that a local switch failed. The end result was the guarantee that our phone and communication systems would be operational at all location, at all times.

Moving from managing everything onsite to moving the back-end hardware and software into the cloud did take some time to get used to. Initially, I thought I might have to learn a “new phone system,” but that was far from the truth. Our switches, routers, and servers are in the cloud. We can add and remove users and features from a simple dashboard. The time savings is incredible. Updates and changes can all be managed on a virtual machine and what used to take hours now takes minutes.

Did you do this alone, or did you have someone to help?

No way! IT professionals are already stretched thin, and trying to add a complex phone implementation in the cloud was not the best use of my team's time. We partnered with KTS Networks and discovered a knowledgeable communication expert as well as a critical (to our business) partner to our business.

One of the things that have made KTS Networks a partnership that continues long after the initial sale is the fact that their team keep us aware of new advancements in unified communication as they evolve with the Mitel offering. They are also honest with us and are willing to tell us candidly when we should and should not adopt something new to the system. Plus, their engineers solve problems fast, and that continues to add value to our partnership.

"I believe our team and customers benefit from our choice to leverage technology to provide a better customer experience!" (Preletz)
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