This section illustrates how Cisco IPC Express is used in the retail, financial, and healthcare industries. These case studies clarify the range and types of features available with Cisco IPC Express and how they are used in different business types. Additional industries that have found Cisco IPC Express an attractive option include education (schools), government agencies, and transportation firms.
The examples discussed in the following sections are also applicable to a wide range of small and medium businesses, such as law firms, accounting firms, and real-estate agencies. Some of the differences in small and medium business solutions are in the platforms, Cisco CME feature licenses, and phone licenses purchased because of the fewer number of users in the office. A smaller office size may also dictate the selection of analog connectivity to the PSTN rather than digital connectivity.
The retail sector is a highly competitive market. Retailers face intense cost and competitive pressures from the many players that exist in this space. In addition, the number of large discount stores and Internet-based companies in this market has grown, leading to price pressures that benefit customers but not retailers. Because of this, margins tend to be low. Retailers look for every opportunity to cut costs and increase per-store productivity and operations. One of the ways to decrease operational costs and increase productivity is with a streamlined IP telephony network.
Current Retail Networks
Retailers with a large number of stores and a QoS-enabled WAN are likely to deploy a centralized Cisco CallManager system for their needs. Many smaller retailers may prefer Cisco IPC Express for their call processing needs, particularly those with a limited need for store-to-store calls and infrequent communications with headquarters. WAN connections in the retail industry tend to be very low-bandwidth (56 kbps or less), lack QoS, or, in some cases, traverse the Internet via a VPN.
PSTN connectivity for retail stores depends on the size of the stores. FXO is common for smaller stores, and T1 is common for larger stores. Retailers' communication needs revolve around phones, because few businesses use PCs or laptops for the average employee in the store. Phone communication scenarios involve incoming calls from customers who are unable to stop by the store and who want to inquire about a particular item or about store hours or who want to speak to a particular person or department.
In a typical call scenario, an employee answers most incoming calls, because the human touch is important for business goals. The employee answers the calls, puts the caller on hold, uses a paging system to contact the right department or person, and then transfers the call to the proper department or employee who can help the customer.
Because a retailer's call processing system is the main source of communication with customers, the type of features supported dictates which communication system is purchased. A number of features are advantageous. These include paging, speed dial, call park and picking up a call, hookflash transfer to free up PSTN FXO trunks, multiple-line appearances, and support for wireless phones.
A store typically would use shared-line appearances on its phones, meaning that when a certain department receives a call, all the phones in that department ring. This allows any sales representative not assisting customers to pick up the call.
Voice mail systems typically are not used during regular business hours, because retailers strive to answer calls as they come in and to process the customer query immediately. Voice mail may be useful to certain store employees, such as managers and supervisors, to aid in communication with headquarters (for example, a broadcast message about new sales goals or special incentives).
Certain stores have a full-time manager who supervises the employees, walks around the store, and uses the phone frequently. In large warehouse-type stores, it can be a problem when the supervisor is paged but is located far from a wired phone, and the customer is put on hold for a long timeor worse, forgotten. Because of this, stores may equip their roaming managers with wireless phones.
When an AA exists, it is often a local AA that has menu options for personalized store hours and store direction and location information. There are few multilevel AA options, because it is desirable to have customers speak to a live person as soon as possible. Local AAs are very popular during nonbusiness hours when the AA menu either directs customers to a centralized call center or allows them to leave a voice message.
Many retailers have internal service requirements for how soon they respond to customer calls. These guidelines can include answering incoming calls by the third ring and not having customers put on hold for longer than two minutes. Retailers also like to create a hierarchical call response structure for certain departments. For example, if no sales associates are available to answer calls in the shoe department, these calls should be directed to the manager in that department. If no one is available, the calls revert to the operator.
Using Cisco IPC Express in a Retail Environment
The Cisco IPC Express solution lets retailers begin migrating new stores to an IP telephony solution. It also allows the flexibility of later deploying a centralized call processing model if the retailer decides this is a better deployment model.
A small retail store may use a Cisco 2801 IPC Express system enabled with VIC-4FXS/DID and VIC2-4FXO voice interface cards for fax and PSTN connectivity, respectively.
When customers are put on hold, a file stored on the router delivers music on hold (MOH). This file can easily be modified to include news of sale items and upcoming events during sales promotions. MOH can also connect to an external source, such as a CD player or radio.
Cisco UE AIM is added to the platform to deliver a cost-effective AA system. The AA delivers different menu options based on business hours. During regular business hours, the menu options present store hours, store directions, and the option to speak to a live operator. During nonbusiness hours, the menu options present store hours, store directions, and an option to leave a voice mail message.
A Cisco 7920 IP Phone is provided for the store manager and mobile employees within the store. It supports secure roaming across access points. It also supports up to six line appearances, similar to the Cisco 7960 IP Phone, and provides features such as hold, transfer, and conference.
A Cisco 7960G IP Phone with these same features is provided for the sales associates. A Cisco 7902G IP Phone with limited features is used in the break rooms and storerooms.
The IP phones are also equipped with a phone directory that lists important phone numbers, including nearby store sites. The directory is downloaded centrally from headquarters, easing provisioning when phone numbers change or additional stores are established.
Financial Services Business
The financial services industry in general has tended to be an early adopter of technology. Cisco IPC Express is ideal for small financial services businesses such as small banks, insurance companies, and credit unions.
Current Financial Services Network
The current financial institution network is fairly sophisticated. The WAN connectivity is typically a T1 pipe, with 64 kbps to 1.544 Mbps of bandwidth provisioned on it depending on the size of the office. The PSTN connectivity is also typically T1 for larger sites and analog FXO trunks for smaller sites. Cisco IPC Express call processing is ideal for either of these sites.
Smaller organizations, such as regional credit unions and insurance companies, typically field calls from local customers asking questions particular to the branch. Phones use the shared-line appearance feature to allow phones to ring on all desks. If representatives such as agents, cashiers, and tellers are unavailable to pick up the calls, the calls are cascaded using hunt groups to the supervisors and managers.
Similar to the retail industry, a receptionist is often preferred over an AA. An automated attendant is used outside regular business hours. Larger organizations, such as large banks, field calls from all over the country with centralized national call centers.
Certain banks have specific representatives they dedicate to their top customers. These calls receive priority, and hunt groups normally direct these calls to either a specific employee or the highest-ranking employee in a particular department.
In the banking industry, voice mail applications are often limited to bank managers, vice presidents, or other employees who find voice mail useful in their job. However, in a small insurance or mortgage company where all the employees are agents who interact with customers, all employees can be empowered with voice mailboxes.
The typical phone features used are call hold, transfer, speed dial, and shared-line appearances. Other features include intercom for assistants to communicate with managers, and paging to notify certain departments or break rooms when assistance is needed.
Using Cisco IPC Express in a Financial Services Business
A medium-sized credit union may use a Cisco IPC Express 2851 system enabled with VIC-4FXS/DID and VWIC-1MFT-1T1 voice interface cards for fax and PSTN connectivity, respectively. The T1 port provides connectivity to the WAN and PSTN, and the FXS ports are used for fax machines or analog phones.
Cisco UE AIM provides voice mail capability for the loan officer and office manager. Additional voice mailboxes can be provisioned for additional employees or when the credit union expands. Cisco UE also offers an integrated AA that can be customized for the credit union's needs.
A Cisco 7960G IP Phone is selected for the credit union tellers and office manager. The Cisco 7960G IP Phone has six line appearances and supports the myriad of features required by the credit union. A Cisco 7905G IP Phone with fewer buttons is provided for the break rooms and the lobby. A Cisco 7914 IP Phone Expansion Module is provided for the credit union receptionist, who must monitor and manage the various call states.
An integrated switch, such as the NM-16ESW-PWR, is used to connect and power the IP phones and provide connectivity to employee PCs.
Classes of service, also known as class of restriction, are defined for the Cisco 7960G IP Phones to allow only the loan officer and office manager to place long-distance calls. Lobby phones are restricted to local calls only. Account codes on the phones allow the credit union to track external calls and organize billing for specific services it provides to a customer.
IP phones are customized with XML applications that provide the latest interest rates and loan rates. When a customer calls the customer service department, a credit union representative can enter the customer's account number on the phone keypad and see details of the customer's account. This allows customer service to provide better service to higher-priority accounts.
Hunt groups are programmed to allow calls to be cascaded to the office manager when an employee is unavailable to answer them. A company-wide directory is also available on the phones to access any credit union employee with a few simple keystrokes.
Cisco IPC Express is ideal for small medical clinics or medical branch offices that are part of a larger network. These healthcare services clinics use IP telephony networks to reduce their operational costs and provide improved communication with greater staff mobility and reachability.
Current Healthcare Services Network
Healthcare services clinics and offices tend to have analog FXO lines to the PSTN and DSL access to the Internet. Small clinics typically have phones in every exam room; phones for doctors, nurses, and receptionists; and phones in common areas.
Typically, different classes of service are offered for doctors versus nurses. Popular phone features include wireless phones that allow doctors to roam around clinics. Other popular features include speed dials to connect to other extensions or departments within a medical clinic, hunt groups, and intercom.
Clinics typically interact frequently with nearby pharmacies using faxes and voice calls. Speed dials are commonly used to expedite these calls.
Phones may be available in the lobby, but long-distance calls are restricted on these phones. A required feature for the telephony system is intercom between doctors and nurses. Hunt groups are also required when receptionists are busy.
Using Cisco IPC Express in a Healthcare Services Network
A health clinic may use a Cisco IPC Express 2821 system enabled with VIC2-4FXO for PSTN access, a VIC-4FXS/DID for the fax machines, and a WIC-1ADSL interface card for DSL Internet connectivity.
The Cisco 7920 IP Phone is provided for doctors. This wireless phone allows doctors to continue being accessible while walking around the clinic. The same wireless access point that supports the Cisco 7920 IP Phone also allows doctors to access patient data and lab results using a wireless-enabled personal digital assistant (PDA) or portable computer.
The Cisco 7914 IP Phone Expansion Module is provided for the office receptionists to handle incoming calls from patients. In addition, the Cisco 7960G IP Phones are used for exam rooms and doctors' offices. The Cisco 7905G IP Phone is proposed for the nurses, the break room, and the lobby.
Different classes of service are defined for phones in the break room, lobby, and exam rooms. Long-distance calls are available only on doctors' phones.
Cisco UE's general-delivery mailboxes come in handy for the X-ray department and for the receptionists, who can use them to check for laboratory results and let patients schedule or change appointments.
Features available on the phones include speed dials to pharmacies and extensions for the receptionists, nurses, and doctors. Hunt groups are defined so that when a doctor's or nurse's phone is not answered, it is cascaded to the receptionist.
Key Cisco IPC Express Features
The features highlighted in this section were used in the different business scenarios just described. They can be modified to suit your particular business needs. A more complete list of Cisco IPC Express features can be found in Appendix A.
Other Cisco IP Telephony Solutions for the Enterprise Branch and Small and Medium Offices