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Interview: Christopher Everson, Infrastructure Manager at ECHO Incorporated

Christopher Everson
Infrastructure Manager
ECHO Incorporated

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Chris Frey
VP of Cloud & Contact Centers
Converged Technology Professionals

Converged Technology Professionals

 

In this 20 minute interview with Christopher Everson, Infrastructure Manager at ECHO Incorporated and Chris Frey, VP of Cloud & Contact Centers at Converged Technology Professionals they discuss how ECHO was able to utilize RingCentral's suite of unified voice, video meetings, team messaging, and contact center tools to gain a competitive edge throughout the organization.

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Transcript:

Chris Frey:

Okay. So for those of you that may not be familiar with the organization, can you give us a run-through of what we know of Echo USA by the numbers? So we can get a sense of the size and scope of your organization?

Christopher Everson:

Sure. So echo USA or Echo Inc. We are a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment. So chainsaws leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, things like that, anything that is landscaping related is something that we would manufacture or produce.

So like any manufacturing company, we kind of got different divisions or different locations around the United States, couple of locations in California, one in Phoenix, Arizona, and then our main manufacturing site is in a town called Lake Zurich, Illinois, which is about, I don't know, give it 35, 40 miles Northwest of downtown Chicago.

Chris Frey:

Okay. Thank you. As far as the decision to take your communications to the cloud, and that's really what we're talking about here today, what were some of the driving forces that you consider to be the largest factors to make that decision?

Christopher Everson:

Sure. A couple of things, really, we were kind of coming up against a on-prem PBX type solution. We were running a ShoreTel platform and it was installed before I started with Echo, but I think it was installed back in 2009, 2010 in the summer. So we were kind of coming up against the end of that useful life. The company had grown. It was hard to scale that system to different locations.

And we were just kind of in that mode of maybe modernizing the communication's environment at Echo. So we're now entering into that. What are our options? Is it another type of problem solution if we go into the cloud. And ultimately we came to the decision, if we're going to make this change, basically an enterprise-wide communications change.

We might as well kind of go towards kind of where everything is headed into the cloud. So that was our direction and we can start it off. That was a jumping-off point. What's kind of modernizing that communication segment.

Chris Frey:

I think in some of our previous discussions, we had also talked about that you didn't really have a mobile solution in the past. How did, how did Echo utilize mobile communications with what their employees previous to the move to cloud?

Christopher Everson:

So, previously kind of, we were more traditional in the aspect of, of mobile where there were some groups. If your job fell into a certain group, then you had a company-issued cell phone. As the company grew, and people kind of started to be hired, they didn't necessarily want to carry two phones.

They didn't necessarily want to have their number brought over into our corporate agreement for cell phones.

Christopher Everson:

So the mobile app was certainly something that was a big feature and to be able to give that option to new employees, even existing employees, where you can install the mobile app on a cell phone and basically have your work number anywhere you go.

Especially the people coming into the company and joining the company that is, a big feature because they can keep their cell phone number private and just have their work number for communications.

And you can make phone calls, you can text to it, you can join meetings from it, basically anything that you do from the desktop application or from your desk, you basically do from a mobile phone with any sort of data or internet connection. And it really does kind of work.

Chris Frey:

Would you foresee that the need for the business to purchase mobile phones will decrease now with the ability to bring your own device? Is that already something that you see happening?

Christopher Everson:

Yeah, certainly. And it is something that we see happening where a lot of the new hires; since we put in RingCentral, I can't recall issuing the cell phone anymore. It's just the option to do install the app. And a little bit of this is how it works.

You may call us, you can text from here and basically, you keep your private world private and you have your work number on the app. So what we've done is, there is some data usage and depending on where you are, so we've kind of come up with a reimbursement or a stipend plan for people that would qualify for this.

Christopher Everson:

And basically it just kind of is a monthly stipend. That basically will cover the data usage for the app. And really we kind of came up with a number that would make it a little bit more worthwhile and certainly lower than a full cell phone contract.

But it's also something that's not like you wouldn't if you do, and not many people do anymore, but if you do pay per you know, per megabyte or per gigabyte for data, it's not something that you would use up sort of a thing. So it has certainly been something that everybody is, when we offer that it's something that they certainly take us up on.

Chris Frey:

So this should pretty much aid in the elimination of company-sponsored equipment, really usher into the area of bring your own device. And everybody pretty much wins in that scenario.

Christopher Everson:

It does. And I'm not going to go out and take cell phones away from people that already have them issued. And certainly going forward, it's not going to be something that we issue often to new employees.

Chris Frey:

You said you had a ShoreTel solution in the past, I know the brand and I know that it's available in retail stores. So I'm assuming you deal with customers. Does that also mean that you have a customer care department?

Christopher Everson:

It is so all of our support and we kind of two different aspects from that. We have our customer support, which would be somebody like your dealers, Home Depot, things like that when they're calling to maybe place an order to check down orders, things like that.

So it would be businesses that we're calling. And then we also do have a consumer support division or group, which is mostly customers or end-users. People that would have purchased a chainsaw or a trimmer and they have a question about it, or they have a problem with starting it, or what type of mixture of oil and fuel do I use.

Christopher Everson:

So there are quite a few calls. And especially with the last year and a half, and everybody being at home, we've seen those calls drastically go up.

Previously they didn't have a whole lot of insight into who was calling. We did have call queues and it did kind of balance outcall mode, but until they answered the call and they ask the information got their name, where they're calling from, they really didn't have a whole lot of insight into it.

The move to RingCentral and our contact center platform, that it drastically changes that, gives them access to a lot more information before the call is even answered.

Christopher Everson:

And certainly be able to answer the call and you've got information and know who's calling you know if they've called before, maybe what they've been calling about. Plus it gives them a lot more of the managers of that group gives them a lot more insight into data, who's on the phone, how long have they been on the phone?

A lot of that aspect was missing before, they didn't have that. It was just kind of very, very basic reporting, where now it's very granular. It can be by user and the amount that it can be presented, it's very well received with our customer support group.

Chris Frey:

So let's expand on that a little bit here. We'll kind of go off on a tangent and talk about your tech center. So did you previously, we're talking about customer care, but did the previous solution, did you have a contact center for them or what we would typically think of as contact center, or is that an addition to that group here with the new solution?

Christopher Everson:

So previously there were some fall cues that when a caller would come in it would just give them some phone options. And that was about, it was just basically route calls.

In the contact center now it has the ability to route calls and it has the ability to even kind of do some self evaluation where you can kind of call and answer some questions and maybe some of the more common answers or questions that people have and can answer right there without necessarily having to go through the whole process and talk to a live agent.

So it certainly has changed the way that our customer support group is operated and how they do the different calls that they do take.

Chris Frey:

Are there some features that you're intending to add? So I think it sounds like you've added replaced voice with a new voice channel. Are there some other channels or methods of contact that you're looking to add in the future?

Christopher Everson:

Yeah, certainly. So we kind of went with the approach of all right, let's take what our agents know and know well, which is phone and voice.

And just to start off with just replace that. So we went live actually with the contact center back in the middle of February, with the whole goal of modernizing the way that they can answer calls and what they see to before they answered and who that they're talking to, and then kind of take a phased approach to some of the other features that they have, or that the contact center has available.

Christopher Everson:

So, some of the other features that we were going to start layering in is being able to communicate via text. You can kind of text into the support number and say, Hey, I need this. Somebody will text them back, so more on the casual side, not necessarily having somebody that, I need help with this right away.

And then one of the bigger features that they're really looking forward to is to be able to switch that call to basically a video call where you can send a link to the end-user, because the majority of those calls are somebody outside in their shed or in their garage.

Christopher Everson:

They've got the unit in front of them where now they can be face-to-face with that agent where the agent can say, okay, flip your camera around and I can kind of point you and direct you to what you need to change.

Maybe somebody has an older type chainsaw may need to adjust the carburetor or something like that. They can be like, okay, the screw to the left, turn it a quarter of a turn or something like that. That would be very difficult to do had you not had a video or being able to see what somebody is looking at and I mean, real-time.

Chris Frey:

Yeah. I think that could be huge differentiator for your brand in the marketplace as well, to provide that level of support and people are talking about it, but not a lot of people doing it yet. So I'm excited to see that come to fruition for you.

Let's pivot a little bit, and let's talk about the role of the partner, the partner being us converged. And traditionally the partner reseller works with you and in a very direct manner throughout the sales and implementation process.

And usually, the manufacturer is part of the supporting cast but these roles change a lot with the move to cloud. So how did you foresee, or how did you witness this change in the relationship between the partner firm, for this type of a project versus one where maybe it was, you're buying an on-premise solution?

Christopher Everson:

Yeah, so it really filled a lot of the gaps as far as what it was that we were looking for. So we kind of had an idea of what a system or a cloud-based system can do. But certainly, I didn't have anybody on my staff or in-house that was an expert that can really say I can this and this, what the possibilities were. So Converged really was that analysts for us, we had questions.

They were the ones that were able to provide answers or do the research and really it came down to providing what the best solution was for Echo. Even when it came just to the phone system, on the office side to be able to download an app, here's kind of how it works, here's a lot of what the features would work in your environment.

Christopher Everson:

And then with the context center, really kind of taking that and bringing in our customer support group and demoing it for them answering any questions that they have to be able to you. Cause there were questions that I wouldn't necessarily even think to answer.

I don't work in that or even questions to think, to ask, I don't work in customer support. I'm not on the phone. I don't know necessarily what those agents or those contact representatives do or what they feel on a daily basis. So just got to be able to, to answer those questions and really have that aspect and feel comfortable with a product that you have been purchasing.

I wouldn't be able to provide the level of support and knowledge. So it was certainly a partner in basically in a very analytical state base to kind of come through some of those answers and what they could do.

Chris Frey:

So as a partner, we also assigned a technical account manager or somebody that we refer to as a Tam. And for us, this is kind of a unique individual and they're there to provide Echo with a liaison between the organizations and provide some guidance. Has that particular resource had a positive effect with your team?

Christopher Everson:

Yeah, absolutely. The Tam that was assigned to Echo, she was on every call, provided a lot of insight even to the point where I would ask questions to her about even some of the other cons that they have, and just get an idea of how other people were kind of deploying this and what some of the best practices were because I didn't necessarily have experience in rolling this sort of enterprise platform out.

And it was just somebody to one that would be a RingCentral technical expert through the process that would always be available if I needed a question answered or something like that.

Christopher Everson:

And just another person to kind of keep everything in check. And then just going through the meetings, things that we talked about, being able to kind of keep the project on task and everything, even though there was RingCentral project manager and technical aspect to it.

I don't necessarily speak a lot of the same language. I don't speak a lot of the phone system language where the converged representative was able to speak that language and then kind of dumb it down for me, like okay, what did, what is it that you're talking about? What does it actually do? So it was certainly a great partner.

Chris Frey:

I appreciate the candid feedback. That's really good to hear and happy that it was a good experience. I have one final question for you, and then we'll wrap up here and that's about outcomes. And usually, we have lots of planned outcomes for these projects. Were there any unexpected outcomes with the move to RingCentral?

Christopher Everson:

Yeah, a couple, to be honest, we ended up, COVID being a driver for one of them. We kind of were faced with the rest of America and being able to work remotely out of the office with our previous system, we didn't necessarily have cell phones or the ability to have somebody take their phone number remote. So when everybody went home March of last year, they basically lost access to their phone number at work.

A lot of them went to using their cell phone and that sort of thing where bringing RingCentral in its able to give that phone number back and we're able to basically go through a process. RingCentral had set up a series of training sessions that a majority, I think we had a pretty good turnout, 75%, 80% of our user base attended one of these training sessions.

Christopher Everson:

And they went through how to install the app, how to use it. That sort of thing, which really took a lot of the install process off of the ACO resources. That'd be one of them. And then everybody, by the end of the middle of fall of 2020, they had that back.

A lot of people were able to make calls from that phone, conference calls and things like that from their regular number, dialing entering cell phone, things like that. The other one being able to kind of, we were able to get rid of a couple of other communication platforms.

We had a Cisco WebEx instance that RingCentral basically covered everything that that platform did. So we were able to not renew that contract and save a monthly payment for that. So and then just being able to kind of work in different aspects like that in the contact center.

Christopher Everson:

But right now we're talking about maybe moving them off-site altogether. They wouldn't necessarily have to come into the office when things kind of get back to normal, which is not an option from before. And it was not even something that we had necessarily talked about prior to RingCentral coming in.

So those are some of the ones that were a little bit unexpected. Certainly, the forward-looking, Hey, do we need to have these people onsite? Can they still remote work remotely? And they have all the tools that were in the office.

Chris Frey:

Chris, I really appreciate all your time today and all your candor and all your answers.

Christopher Everson:

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Chris Frey:

I will turn it back over to Greg and thanks everybody.