Manchester Unity reaps VoIP savings

Health insurer Manchester Unity has reaped "enormous" savings through insourcing its call centre and moving the entire organisation to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony system. The group's new Alcatel-based telephony system went live some 18 months ago, as part of a move to a new head office in the Sydney tech hub of St Leonards.

Health insurer Manchester Unity has reaped "enormous" savings through insourcing its call centre and moving the entire organisation to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony system.

The group's new Alcatel-based telephony system went live some 18 months ago, as part of a move to a new head office in the Sydney tech hub of St Leonards. Manchester Unity brought a 60-seat call centre in-house at the time and moved those agents and several hundred more other staff to VoIP from legacy TDM solutions.

"The savings for us as an organisation have been enormous," the group's acting chief information officer, Mark Mathieson, told a VoIP forum held yesterday in Sydney by industry self-regulatory body the Communications Alliance.

"We were paying an awful lot of money for the contact centre as a service, outsourced."

Mathieson declined to reveal the dollar savings but said they were "significant". "It's hard to pin down exactly what proportion of that is because of VoIP, and what proportion is just because of bringing the call centres back in-house and managing it properly," he said.

The acting CIO acknowledged there were some initial hiccups in the deployment, which was rolled out with the help of communications integrator Integ. But the overall benefits were substantial.

Manchester Unity's new solution was extremely scalable, he said, had a central console for looking at its (separate) voice and data networks, had simplified administration and was integrated with staff desktops and customer relationship management systems.

Additionally, Manchester Unity's regional offices could now take calls (delivered over the group's wide area network) during times of peak load in the St Leonards headquarters.

Mathieson acknowledged the trend within the contact centre industry to move to the VoIP platform, with integrators and hardware vendors such as Alcatel pushing the technology strongly.

He estimated there were probably 10 or 20 VoIP deployments in contact centres Down Under.

But he warned fellow CIOs it might not be easy getting a VoIP deployment past higher management.

"When you talk to a CEO, or to a chairman of a board, don't use terms like ISO or VoIP or Internet Protocol," he said.

"Speak to them in language they understand ... The first thing we realised was that the moment you say VoIP, your CEO's eyes roll backwards and your board goes to sleep. So I started calling it 'the telephone network that saves money'. And all of a sudden people started to listen."