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Knox County Housing Authority Case Study

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Case Studies

Knox County Housing Authority evicts unreliable, costly Cisco system and moves ShoreTel VoIP in

Error-prone VoIP solution is sent packing

The organization had a Cisco Voice over IP (VoIP) phone system. But the system was unreliable, once even prohibiting a call to 911, which was one of the last errors the housing authority would tolerate.

A flexible VoIP solution that provided monitoring

The Knox County Housing Authority in Knoxville, Tennessee administers public housing and HUD voucher assistance programs for its citizens. The organization had a Cisco Voice over IP (VoIP) phone system, but it wasn’t as flexible as the organization wanted it to be, especially when it came to making last-minute changes to greetings or users. The Cisco system also lacked monitoring and analysis features the organization needed to continually improve its internal communications and operations. Finally, the system was expensive to manage and the governmental organization needed to find ways to cut some of its communications costs.

The Knox County Housing Authority called on its integration partner for insight, expertise, and advice. Its partner recommended a new ShoreTel VoIP system for the organization. To maintain balance in its search for a new system, the housing authority also spoke with representatives from the Cisco reseller about updating the Cisco solution to meet its needs.

After carefully considering the associated costs and implementation steps, as well as the future management capabilities of an upgraded Cisco system versus a new ShoreTel system, the Knox County Housing Authority chose ShoreTel, citing the solution’s cost-effectiveness, reliability, excellent and consistent voice quality, and robust feature set as top reasons for its choice.

ShoreTel provided the Knox County Housing Authority with a comprehensive solution to replace the old Cisco system, including a voice switch and ShoreTel IP phones. ShoreTel’s Director is used to manage the solution.

For reliability, the housing authority’s telephone system must always work properly, due to the nature of apartment complex management. “The new ShoreTel system is very reliable. Voice quality is also excellent, unlike the Cisco phone system, which sounded like a bad cell phone connection every now and then. We also needed to reboot the old Cisco system often—it seemed more prone to going down during storms and power surges,” explains John Pollock, assistant director with the Knox County Housing Authority.

New ShoreTel system costs less than a Cisco upgrade

The new ShoreTel system cost less than an upgrade would have cost for the housing authority’s leased Cisco system. “Upgrading the Cisco system would have been expensive and it wouldn’t even belong to us—it was leased,” says Pollock. “For less than that price, we could buy the entire ShoreTel system, which was also more cost-effective in the long run. With ShoreTel, we’re looking at savings of $20,000 per year in lease expenses, usage fees, and T1 line charges. We no longer need all of the lines. In addition to cost savings, the organization has simplified its management tasks with ShoreTel’s browser-based management interface, ShoreTel Director.”

Director allows the housing authority’s information systems personnel to access the system from anywhere on the network and manage every site and feature, including voicemail, automated attendant, and desktop applications. When a new user is added, an administrator simply clicks “add new” and enters the user’s name, which in turn automatically updates the centralized database and voice switches within seconds.

“WITH SHORETEL, WE’RE LOOKING AT SAVINGS OF $20,000 PER YEAR IN LEASE EXPENSES, USAGE FEES, AND T1 LINE CHARGES. WE NO LONGER NEED ALL OF THE LINES.”

John Pollock, Assistant Director
Knox County Housing Authority

“With ShoreTel, we now do maintenance in-house, which saves us time and money,” states Pollock. “With the Cisco solution, if we had a problem, we had to leave a voicemail with a request for help and then wait for them. We’re far more productive now that we can do maintenance ourselves. Also, with ShoreTel Director we can look at call volume per line, change messages and on-hold options, and more. Reviewing this information regularly allows us to make the best use of all our lines and quickly see where we need to make changes.”

ShoreTel’s Auto-Attendant provides the housing authority with 24-hour automated call answering and routing capabilities. ShoreTel’s powerful Follow Me Find Me feature allows employees to configure the system so that callers can find them wherever they are working—for instance, on their cell phone or an alternate phone.

ShoreTel Personal Call Manager is integrated tightly with Knox County Housing Authority employees’ Microsoft Outlook so they enjoy unified messaging, such as directory dialing, contact screen pop, and calendar integration. With ShoreTel’s email integration, email and voicemail can be managed centrally right from employees’ desktops. With the intuitive ShoreTel solution, employees spend less time navigating a complicated telephone system and more time performing job-related tasks.

ShoreTel improves internal and external communications

“Since we replaced the Cisco phone system with ShoreTel, we are definitely noticing improved communications—both internal and external,” said Pollock. “Calls from outside are routed quickly to the right person, and we can review things like call volume and voice mail logs, which is powerful information when it comes to continually making customer service improvements.”

The Knox County Housing Authority is happy with its decision to go with a new ShoreTel VoIP system. “Our employees like all the features of the system that make their lives easier, and I appreciate the fact that we can manage it in-house and don’t have to depend on anyone else,” concludes Pollock. “We’re looking at adding some new departments and expanding our network and the ShoreTel system. We’re happy to have ShoreTel on our side as we grow and continually make improvements to our communications system.”

“WE’RE LOOKING AT ADDING SOME NEW DEPARTMENTS AND EXPANDING OUR NETWORK AND THE SHORETEL SYSTEM. WE’RE HAPPY TO HAVE SHORETEL ON OUR SIDE AS WE
GROW AND CONTINUALLY MAKE IMPROVEMENTS TO OUR COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM.”

CHALLENGE:

  • The Knox County Housing Authority had a leased Cisco Voice over IP (VoIP) phone system that was, according the organization, unreliable, inflexible, and costly to maintain. The Cisco system also lacked monitoring and analysis features the organization needed to continually improve its internal communications and operations..

SOLUTION:

  • ShoreTel provided the organization with a comprehensive solution, including ShoreTel Voice Switches and ShoreTel IP telephones.

BENEFITS:

  • Cost savings of $20,000 per year
  • Better reliability and voice quality
  • Improved productivity
  • Intuitive and easy to use