At JJ Food Service, employees in three locations improve operational efficiency with Cisco Unified Communications.
Established in 1989, JJ Food Service Limited is a leading independent food service company in the United Kingdom, with 600 employees. The company prides itself on delivering superior customer service through the use of network technology, such as a state-of-the-art contact center for customer orders based on Cisco® Unified Contact Center Express.
When JJ Food Service added two new locations, one of them a three-hour's drive from headquarters, the family-owned company wanted to help ensure that employees could still communicate efficiently and effectively. "For 15 years we had been a one-site company, and our culture was to walk over to another person's office to discuss issues directly," says Rif Kiamil, IT manager. "When we could no longer just look down the hall to see if someone was in the office, we began spending more time trying to get hold of people with voicemail and e-mail."
JJ Food Service had used Cisco Unified CallManager and Cisco Unified IP Phones at headquarters since 2001. Employees' favorite features include four-digit dialing, directory lookup, conference calling, and Cisco Unity® Messaging, which they use to check voicemail from their e-mail inboxes. Another favorite feature, extension mobility, enables employees to log on to any Cisco Unified IP Phone to personalize it with their own phone number and preferences. JJ Food Service wanted to extend these same IP telephony features over the network to the other locations, as well. One location was brand new and had no voice platform, and the other location, which the company had acquired, had a traditional private branch exchange.
A team of just three people manages the IT infrastructure and applications for all 600 employees, so ease of management for the voice system was paramount. Therefore, the IT group wanted a single voice platform that it could manage centrally. "We also wanted to reduce the amount of time employees spent simply trying to reach each other," Kiamil says.
The company met its goals by deploying Cisco Unified CallManager 5.0, which provides voice services to employees in all three locations. Cisco Unified CallManager 5.0 is based on Linux, sparing the IT group the need to constantly install software patches for the Windows operating system. JJ Food Service continues to use its original Cisco Unified CallManager 4.0 platform for its contact center and some headquarters employees, and is migrating the remaining employees to the new platform a few at a time. "If one person is logged on to Cisco Unified CallManager 5.0 and another to CallManager 4.0, neither party can tell the difference," says Kiamil. "The compatibility is helpful because we are under no pressure to upgrade large groups of employees at once."
Managers use Cisco Unified Personal Communicator software, which applies the new "presence" technology in Cisco Unified CallManager 5.0 to help them reach other employees on the first try, improving operational efficiency. "Cisco Unified Personal Communicator shows me whether someone is on the phone, and if so, I send an instant message instead, which saves time," says Kiamil. "If I need information from one of several people, I can see immediately who is available instead of calling multiple people until I finally reach someone." Managers' ability to reach the right employee the first time also presents a more professional image to visiting customers.
"New features in Cisco Unified Communications-such as presence technology, easy-to-use video phones, and SIP support-make our company more cohesive."
- Rif Kiamil, IT Manager, JJ Food Service Limited
Cisco video solutions enable richer conversations among JJ Food Service employees in different locations. Managers can use a Cisco Unified IP Phone 7985 with an integrated video display exactly as if it were an ordinary IP phone. The manager simply dials an extension, and if the other party has either a video IP phone or Cisco Video Advantage software and a camera on their PC, the video connection is established automatically.
JJ Food Service employees use Cisco Unity Messaging to listen to voicemail messages from their e-mail box and to forward them just like any other e-mail attachment. "With Unity messaging, we can quickly scan a list of voicemails to answer the most urgent messages first, increasing operational efficiency," says Kiamil. Mobile employees can also call their voicemail box-say, from the airport-to hear their e-mail read aloud by a text-to-speech translation feature in Cisco Unity Messaging.
Employees can reach the right person, the first time. With Cisco Unified Personal Communicator, JJ Food Service employees know who is available and who is on the phone. In the latter case, employees save time by sending an instant message instead of leaving a voicemail message, or by calling someone else who is available. They have the ability to also specify their preferred method of contact: voicemail, e-mail, or cell phone, for example.
Setting up unplanned conference calls is also faster using Cisco Unified Personal Communicator. Previously, employees used a Web interface to set up a conference call on Cisco Unified MeetingPlace® Express. "Now I just look at a list of employees on Cisco Unified Personal Communicator and drag the names of the available people into my Cisco Unified MeetingPlace Express conference," says Kiamil. "This eliminates time spent calling people or waiting for people to receive the e-mail with meeting details."
Video telephony more closely approximates face-to-face communication. Video adds an extra dimension to voice conversations, according to Kiamil. "When you can see someone's face, you can tell whether he or she is hesitating about a course of action, for example," he says. "Video also tends to make people pay closer attention to the conversation and avoid distractions such as checking e-mail." Employees appreciate that Cisco Unified Personal Communicator can display the caller's photo, department, manager, and other information. "We have several hundred employees whom I have not met in person," says Kiamil. "Now I recognize employees when I pass them in the corridor because I saw their photos when they called."
The IT group spends less time managing the voice system. Upgrades for Cisco Unified CallManager 5.0 are provided on a single CD, and the IT group can perform upgrades while employees continue to use the system. The management interface is easy to use, and adding the 60 new employees from the acquired company took just one day. "As soon as the site had IP connectivity, we simply connected our Cisco Unified IP Phones and they worked immediately," says Kiamil. Employees who move to a new location can use the Extension Mobility feature to log on to any Cisco Unified IP Phone to instantly personalize it with their phone number and preferences.
Capital costs have decreased. "Extending service to a new site required no capital investment other than IP phones," says Kiamil. Some mobile employees and teleworkers use Cisco Unified Personal Communicator on their laptops instead of phones, sparing JJ Food Service even the cost of additional IP phones.
JJ Food Service plans to begin sending outbound calls to the public switched telephone network over a managed service provider's IP network. Cisco Unified CallManager 5.0 supports session initiation protocol (SIP), which means that the company can work with any service provider that offers a SIP service and freely change to another provider as business requirements evolve. Working with a managed service provider will enable the company to stop leasing T1 lines from the phone company, for an annual savings of US$64,000.
The company is also planning to add SIP-based telephony devices, such as BlackBerry personal digital assistants, to its network. Mobile employees will be able to access the same telephony features, such as four-digit dialing and conferencing, as employees using standard IP phones.
"New features in Cisco Unified Communications-such as presence technology, easy-to-use video phones, and SIP support-make our company more cohesive," Kiamil says.