Experience with VoIP

Communications are important for
any business. When you need communications to not only receive orders from customers and place orders
with vendors but also to host a radio
call-in show, you need a system that provides mobility, serviceability and dependability. Tying into your computer
system and saving money are added
benefits.

Dr. Len Brancewicz, owner of The
Medicine Shoppe in Rochester, Pa., and co-host of nationally syndicated “Ask the
Pharmacist” radio show, depends on his
telephone.

“In my business, if I lose the ability to
communicate, I’m done,” Brancewicz says.
“With several business segments to run and
calls needing to be returned all over the
country, I need a communications system
that is first dependable and second cost-effective. A VoIP system was just what we
needed.”

Smart Business talked with Brancewicz
for more insight on how and why he chose
this system and what it has done for him.

What exactly are your business and communications needs?

Besides owning and operating The
Medicine Shoppe in Rochester and The
Nutrition Shoppe in Wexford, I am a partner in Medicine Shoppes in Oakmont and
Penn Hills. I also co-host the ‘Ask the
Pharmacist’ radio program live five days a
week in the Pittsburgh area and at various
times throughout the country on numerous
radio stations and satellite radio through
syndication.

In the pharmacy world, we have to be
very efficient in processing all the different layers of insurance. To compete with
the grocery stores and other chains, we
need to fill prescriptions the quickest
way possible, communicating with multiple doctors, insurance companies and
vendors. All of the updates in computerization over the past several years and
the advent of DSL paved the way. Our
business also requires frequent one-onone conversations as patients and
callers have questions that can only be answered by individual conversations by
telephone.

We needed a system that allowed us to
receive numerous calls at all times of the
day and night and be able to route them in
an efficient manner for both the customer
and us.

What was the primary trigger that got you
looking at VoIP?

We were notified last summer that the
Rochester shopping center that includes
our store would no longer have the phone
and Internet service that we had been
using and that we would have to change
providers. I had known John Curry at
Curry IP for some time and asked him to
do an analysis of our whole communications and computer system.

The first thing we did was put in two DSL
lines from two separate companies. We
then set up things so that if the line with
phone system goes down, it is automatically switched to the other line with the computer system. The same thing happens
with the line to the computer system. It
would automatically switch to the other
line.

The next thing we needed was an economical phone system that provided virtually unlimited calls. We have to return
calls all over the U.S., and regular long-distance charges would have been very
costly.

The next step was to reanalyze the
whole system. We started with just the
one store and the radio show. Now that
we have had some experience, we have a
much better handle on what can be
accomplished and how we can make communications between locations more
cost-effective. One area we are discussing
is combining purchasing by networking
the stores. Not only would there be cost
savings, but we could track inventories
more efficiently.

What kind of cost savings have you realized?

Our previous communications, local and
long-distance phone service and Internet
connections were running between $820
and $860 per month. We have doubled our
service. Last month was our first full
month, and the bill was $349. Yes, we have
the hardware and DSL lines to pay for, but
we are getting more done at less cost per
month, so it won’t take long to make up the
initial costs.

Do you have any suggestions for those considering VoIP?

Choose a vendor that is easily accessible
and is willing to really try and understand
your business and its needs. Be flexible
and willing to update as new processes
are evident. If no downtime is a critical
factor, make sure you have failsafe systems and someone to contact quickly if
problems occur. Plan not only for immediate needs, but also look at how you
might grow and how a properly designed
system can help.

LEN BRANCEWICZ is a Pittsburgh-area entrepreneur. Reach
him at (724) 728-7455 or though the Web site
www.lenandjoe.com. Reach John Curry, owner of Curry IP
Solutions (www.curryip.com), at (412) 307-3600, ext. 9007 or
[email protected].

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