Bradleys Estate Agents benefits from a hosted unified communications solution that helps them provide unbeatable customer service across their 33 branches.
Bradleys Estate Agents was founded in 1992 and has grown into an award-winning estate agency with branches throughout Devon, Cornwall and Somerset offering a range of property services. swcomms installed Bradleys’ first telephone system in 1995 and throughout their subsequent expansion, we have continued to work as their single telecommunications provider.
The downturn in the economy had a significant effect on the housing market; property prices dropped, as did the number of people seeking to buy or sell a house. Bradleys was established enough to survive the recession, while other estate agencies fell by the wayside, and they were determined to put their business in an even stronger position as the economy recovered.
Resilient communications solution
They wanted a resilient communications solution that would encompass the needs of all 33 branches, creating a borderless system that would integrate all the elements of the business and remove any “branch mentality”. Bradleys wanted all the benefits of a centrally hosted solution while also supporting the flexible working practices of staff that operate from multiple branches and from home.
Bradleys wanted to make sure every call was answered professionally and dealt with efficiently, as any call could result in a potential sale. They were very keen to use call reporting software to ensure this was achieved. The company’s dedication to customer service also meant they wished to use call recording to ensure staff maintained its excellent standards.
The challenge was complicated by the mismatch of IT systems of their existing infrastructure, so a review of the entire data network and IT system was required. All of these objectives had to be achieved on a costneutral basis. Bradleys has leased much of their legacy equipment so did not want to incur upfront capital expenditure or increased overheads.
Following a detailed audit of Bradleys’ existing communications costs, we recommended a complete systems overhaul, starting with a new high availability wired and wireless network comprising of CAT5e structured cabling, data cabinets and patch panels. Cisco PoE data LAN switches enabled the convergence of voice and data within each office. While wireless access points were added in branch offices too for staff access to the network and the internet from their mobile devices.
Multi-site VoIP Mitel solution
Following a two-phased proof of concept trial, we then deployed a hosted, multi-site VoIP Mitel solution. Hosted in swcomms’ data centre, it has revolutionised Bradleys’ day to day working practices creating a unified business model. Every incoming call can be answered by any office no matter which number the client calls in on. Calls can be easily transferred between branches using unified communications and centralised diaries to gain full visibility of colleagues’ availability.
We integrated the Mitel solution with Reapit, specialist estate agent software, for screen popping of customer details that enables staff to quickly identify the property a caller is referring to and to gain access to centralised diaries to make appointments.
The Mitel solution has a distributed architecture meaning there is no single point of failure; the solution is both hosted centrally and installed locally at the branches. All the offices share the centrally located cloud-based hosted system while remaining confident in the knowledge that should any branch lose network connectivity to the central system, they will still be able to work independently.
System management has been accommodated by the browser-based Mitel Director, which enables Bradleys’ IT team to add, remove or change users and carry out any other system re-programming to realise a return on investment as this largely negated the need for ongoing third party engineering costs. Further cost savings were found by migrating Bradleys from 200+ separate telephone lines to 60 centralised SIP trunk channels to reduce call costs.
All 33 sites have been interconnected using a blend of leased line, fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and ADSL technology. A 100Mbps leased line links the Exmouth head office to our data centre while the branches are connected to the hosted Mitel system via dual broadband circuits. This gives the local offices a fallback service to ensure 100% availability for both voice and data. An automatic switchover solution copes with the expected fluctuations in speed and performance of both broadband services.
Internet connectivity was provided to head office via a 100Mbps leased line, backed up by a FTTC circuit, for drastically improved connectivity speed and a service level agreement (SLA) with a four-hour fault response. This replaced ADSL links with inadequate speeds and a poor five-day SLA. A resilient pair of Cisco firewalls, hosted in the data centre, facilitates onward connectivity to the whole business.
Network management has been simplified with the use of a SolarWinds software suite to give 24/7 visibility of all of Bradleys’ IT equipment to enable proactive management and quicker response times to reduce downtime and increase resolution time to minimise lost revenue.
Bradleys’ MD, CEO, area managers, IT staff and surveyors, whom are all field based and frequently roam between different branches or work from home, have a home handset and secure VPN connection into the network to enable seamless home working and the option of utilising a softphone app on their laptops while in the field.
Call recording and reporting software provides complete visibility of how calls are being answered, e.g. picking up calls after three rings. It is also used as a training tool and provides a useful legal and compliance-ready audit trail. Video conferencing enables point to point HD video meetings for use by home working staff and for distance learning across all facets of the business to reduce travel costs.
A seamless installation ensured there was zero downtime as any lost business was unacceptable. Three sites were initially identified as test sites before the entire solution was rolled out. Training was provided to end users on a branch by branch basis to ensure they were all confident about using the new solution. IT staff were given bespoke administration, enhanced fault finding and diagnostics training so they could provide first line support, backed up by weekday on-site and 24/7 remote engineering support from swcomms.
The entire solution was achieved on a cost-neutral basis. Bradleys has not had to invest capital for the initial installation, nor have they had to increase their monthly telecommunications spend, yet has still been able to invest in an extensive, brand new solution. Bradleys has improved its approach to customer service and has laid the foundations for the next stage in their evolution to offer extended opening hours to suit the needs of a 24/7 society.
Lyndon Bent, Bradleys’ commercial director, said: “We always manage to get the right result with swcomms and I’d never look anywhere else with regards to our communications these days.”
Download case study here