zoom phone family

Zoom Phones: An Inside Look at an Integrator’s Experience

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In mid-2019 we found ourselves needing to update our phone systems. We became an early adopter of Zoom Phones, which we fully implemented just before the world went WFH in March 2020. COVID was the ultimate stress-test in flexibility, ease-of-use and reliability for our new phone system.

It was a test that Zoom Phones passed, and over a year later we are still very satisfied with our choice. In fact, it has been such a good experience we decided to offer Zoom Phone licenses and deployment to our customers.

Here’s an inside look from a technology integrator on our process for selecting a new phone system and why we chose Zoom.

Why we upgraded

Up until 2019, we used an antiquated on-prem PBX phone system. It worked well when we were a smaller, one-office company. We then acquired a company in Seattle and quickly ran into limitations with our existing phone systems.

The first barrier was creating a cohesive customer experience between the two offices. Many of our employees in the accounting, marketing and procurement departments served the teams in both offices. Frequently, clients would dial the Boise number when they actually needed to talk to an employee in Seattle and vice versa.

Instead of transferring them to the correct office, we would provide the other phone number and the client would have to call themselves. Customer experience is a high priority at Neurilink, and the idea clients had to burden these extra, unnecessary steps was a major pain point for us.

Our desire to provide customers a standard Neurilink experience regardless of location led to our second issue. When a client called into one office they got an auto recording phone tree and in the other a live person picked up. We’re not fans of the phone tree. Part what our customers love about working with us is they’re treated like a real person, not a number lost somewhere in a sea of touchtones.

We wanted a live person answering the phone in both locations; however, making this change was harder than it sounds. Getting into the admin portal of our existing system was difficult and adding call queues wasn’t easy. It took a 3 page ‘how to’ guide to change the voice mail greeting. Not simple, not user friendly.

The final straw came when we decided to move our Boise office a few miles down the road. This was the perfect time to get everyone on a standardized system and upgrade the phones at both offices. We now had a timing element that triggered us to search for a more modern, flexible solution.

Poly Phone

Our Criteria for a New Phone System

We initially explored mostly PBX solutions. As a Zoom partner, we knew they were launching Zoom Phones so we added it to our ‘potential’ list and started investigating.

Priorities in our decision-making were:

1.     Reliability is an obvious one. Our employees (like most) need to communicate with clients, vendors, and each other. If the solution wasn’t reliable it wouldn’t work for us.

2.      Porting over existing numbers was a must-have. The same office number served us for about 15 years, and we have no plans to change it.

3.     Unifying the phone systems in our two offices. We needed the ability to transfer callers from Boise to Seattle and vice versa. We also needed wanted to be able to send calls to employees’ cell phones if they were working from home or were on the road. (This proved to be critical during the early months of COVID).

4.     Easy administrative portals. We’re pretty techy and wanted to be able to make tweaks to the system ourselves. A 21st century admin portal would give us the flexibility to customize the experience, add lines, and make updates quickly and efficiently.

5.     Mobility. Most of our employees work both in office and on-site.  We needed a solution that would ring both a desk phone and cell phone (or just cell phone if the employee didn’t want a desk phone). That way they could respond to clients whether they were in the office or on the road.

6.     Re-using existing hardware. Some people on our team have come to love their Polycom (now Poly) desk phones. Who are we to take away someone’s trusty desk accessory? We wanted them to be able to keep using their desk phone without having to buy new hardware.

7.     Price. Like most companies, phone systems are a budgeted line item on our financials. That meant price was a factor but not the deciding factor. Finding a system that met our criteria was our highest priority.

zoom phone family

Why we chose Zoom Phones

We ended up selecting Zoom Phones because it hit every want on our list. To be fair, the traditional PBX offerings hit most of them as well, but our team already uses Zoom for video conferencing and has widely adopted the platform. Zoom Phones seamlessly integrate with the rest of the Zoom UC platform both on the desktop and mobile. It creates an easy-to-use experience for our team whether it’s on a traditional Poly phone, laptop, or mobile device.

When we ran the numbers, our Zoom Phones saved us about 20% less per month compared to the traditional solution available when we made the switch. In addition, with a traditional PBX system we would have to upgrade the on-prem hardware in both our Boise and Seattle office which would add an upfront capital expenditure in addition to the monthly costs. Since Zoom Phones are fully cloud-based, we wouldn’t incur this additional cost.

How Zoom Phones Work

We’ve been using Zoom Phones for about 18 months. Our experience has been overwhelmingly positive. We did a few brief trainings, and our team was off to the races.

Zoom Pro users receive an optional direct line. This is a real value-add for both the company and the employee for two reasons.

  1. Many of our employees get a stipend to use their personal cell phone at work. Now, they can provide clients their direct Zoom number instead of their personal number. Employees can set their own ‘office hours’ so the Zoom Phone only rings during certain times (for example 8:00–5:00 Monday-Friday).
  2. The second big value add is on the employer side. If you have turn over, clients don’t continue calling an employee that no longer works with you. Instead, you can forward the direct line to a new hire or ring group.

Before COVID, our employees were, for the most part, office based. Like many companies we made a quick switch to remote working where possible. This was a forced stress-test of our shiny new phone system (and Zoom’s platform in general).

Zoom Phones preformed really well. Having the flexibility to send incoming calls to a ring group working from home proved to be a critical function we didn’t know we needed until COVID. Even with employees working from home, we didn’t experience any major friction points with dropped calls, lag time, or other inconsistencies.

Final Thoughts

We give Zoom Phones two thumbs up. They’ve delivered on all the features and functionality that sold us in the first place. That, along with the seamless integration into their UC platform, makes it a winner in our book.

Our CEO and owner, Mike Fornander, led the selection and deployment of Zoom Phones. “For us, it’s not just a phone system. It ties into our unified communication system. That gives us tremendous flexibility and a seamless experience across use cases,” he said.

Neurilink has deployed Zoom video conferencing systems in meeting spaces around the Northwest. We are a Zoom Certified Integrator and Reseller and are pleased to also offer Zoom Phones. If you have any questions about our experience or would like to see if Zoom is a fit for your organization, feel free to contact us.

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