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This week’s guest is Shana Mallin. Shana is Director of Customer Premise Equipment with Frontier Communications, and she has 24 years of experience in telecommunications technology. Shana and her team work with businesses of all types and sizes to help identify ways to increase revenue, decrease costs and improve customer service via technology. During this episode, Shana mentioned several Business VoIP resources and references which are presented below for your enjoyment.
Contact Shana Mallin via LinkedIn
Host Skip Lineberg
Send your feedback, comments and questions to BusinessEdge@Frontier.com
Man: Welcome to “Gain Your Edge,” the podcast created for IT professionals, business owners, and leaders looking to sharpen their edge over the competition. Our ever-perceptive host, Skip Lineberg, introduces you to industry thought leaders. Listen and learn from their insights as Skip gets inside the minds of our guest gurus revealing new ideas, opportunities, and insightful updates for you. It’s all sponsored by Frontier Business Edge, your edge and success. Now, here’s our host, Skip Lineberg.
Skip: Welcome to “Gain Your Edge,” the podcast on all things IT. I’m your host, Skip Lineberg, Senior Marketing Manager with Frontier Communications. Our goal with “Gain Your Edge” podcast is to help you gain a competitive edge in business. This week we are talking with Frontier Zone, Shana Mallin, Director of Customer Premise Equipment.
Shana has 24 years of experience in the telecommunications industry, coming from the operations side of the business, working with technicians primarily. She’s been with Frontier Communications for nearly six years, and she supports the CPE, Customer Premise Equipment team in seven states and works with 32 Account Executives and their customers to provide solutions to their problems. Shana and her team work with businesses of all sizes to help identify ways they can increase revenue, decrease costs, or improve their customer service via technology.
Today, we’ll be exploring the technology of VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol for the uninitiated. We’ll be diving into what exactly Voice over Internet Protocol is, the latest developments around it, and what you need to know, that’s right, to gain your edge in the business landscape. Good afternoon, Shana, thanks for joining us on the show today.
Shana: Hi, good afternoon.
Skip: Shana, let me start with your title, Director of Customer Premise Equipment or CPE. For those outside telecommunications, that’s sort of an odd phrase. What is encompassed within that phrase, customer premise equipment?
Shana: Oh, Skip, it’s really just equipment that’s located on the customer’s premises, like, their physical location rather than unless they are location. Some examples would be like telephone equipment, handset, video equipment, wireless access points, routers, and switches. You know, CPE, it’s really evolved to encompass much more than just what’s on premise, if you will, because my team’s does a lot with software solutions and cloud solutions. So really CPE isn’t the best title for me and my team rather it’s more about solutions.
Skip: Got it, yeah.
Shana: What we do, Skip, is we really build solutions that solve our customers’ problem.
Skip: Okay. So it’s grown beyond the equipment if you think of equipment as gear. Now you’re into software and holistic solutions?
Shana: Yeah, absolutely.
Skip: Okay. Well, I wanna start with the basics, Shana. Before we start throwing around shoptalk, let’s start with what exactly Voice over IP or VoIP is and why it’s one of the biggest communication advances for business.
Shana: Sure. Well, Voice over IP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. And it refers to a way of carrying phone calls over an IP data network, whether on the internet or on your own internal network. And for many people, internet protocols are more than just a way to transport data, it’s also a tool that simplifies and, let’s say, streamlines a wide range of business applications. Telephony is more of the obvious one, the most popular one.
Skip: Okay. So what happened to voice over copper? Why are so many businesses shifting away from it?
Shana: You know, voice over copper still exists, but you’re right. Businesses are shifting away from it. Older digital and analog voice circuits require a separate table plan from data networks. Hotlines, plain old telephone service, they’re subject to extensive regulation while VoIP isn’t in most cases. So it’s shifting over to voice.
Skip: Okay, cool. So why is VoIP such a key technology for businesses these days? In other words, what are the benefits?
Shana: Hmm, okay, that’s gonna be a hard one because there are really a lot of benefit. Let’s see. In most cases, Skip, I would say Voice over IP is cheaper. It allows us and our customers to have more flexibility. It’s more scalable and hands down much easier to move. With Voice over IP, companies can increase their revenue by more effectively connecting their salespeople with their customers on any device, anywhere, anytime. And I would say that’s probably for me the biggest opportunity because we can connect real time. There aren’t as many voicemails. Our customers aren’t getting busy signals. We’re not doing phone tag. So, salespeople won’t miss an opportunity.
From a cost perspective, I would say that installation, moves, adds changes, and even troubleshooting takes a lot less time. You know, as a result it’s cheaper. A couple benefits there for you.
Skip: Yeah. So I heard you talk about cost savings. I heard you talk about flexibility and performance. Would that be a good summary?
Skip: Okay. So let’s think a little bit more about that. What types of industries or agencies stand to benefit the most from a move to Voice over IP?
Shana: Well, I would say that any business really, a business school, nonprofit, they can all benefit from Voice over IP. I would say they would recognize lower cost due to shared cabling and no local circuit as well as flexibility. For me, the most obvious one, that most obvious benefit is ability to connect multiple location across the world together without having a private network. And with this, all users in all the different locations can work as though they’re at one location, like a seamless integration. They can three-digit dial each other, or some call that intercomming. They can see who’s on the phone in one location and the other. They can transfer calls to each other. They can be in multiple hunt groups, but really the list goes on. You know, the benefit here it’s not only reducing cost, but it’s also increasing productivity and customer service and, of course, revenue.
Skip: Okay. Of course, one of the key benefits of VoIP is that it gives users access without being anchored to a specific geographic location. Why do you think that’s so important in this day and age for business?
Shana: You’re right. It’s huge actually. We call that teleworking. And it benefits not just the businesses but also the employee. Users or the employees can virtually work anywhere. They can work in the office. They can work in the home office, in a hotel, on the road. And what that does is it increases employee productivity and also morale. And both of those are so important. Another benefit is that voice helps companies with their green initiatives by reducing the need for the facilities for those employees, lots of benefit.
Skip: Got it, perfect. Let’s shift the focus toward the financial. Are there some cost savings associated with Voice over IP that will benefit the company that install such a phone system?
Shana: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Depending on the deployment, there are many cost savings associated with Voice over IP. Voice over IP usually requires less structure cabling, less maintenance than a traditional voice network. And most companies find that they can handle most of the maintenance themselves with some assistance from our Frontier technician. Also, Skip, the Voice over IP phones are much more portable than digital phones. So like if you wanna move a phone, it’s a matter of simply unplugging the phone from one location, taking it over to the other one and plugging it back in and the phone number automatically follows. And this makes office moves and even modifications much cheaper and simpler, of course.
Also, with hosted Voice over IP systems, software upgrades are included in the cost and they happen automatically. So, on-site maintenance is practically non-existent. With Voice over IP systems, adding new lines can be done easily and quickly without having to have more wiring installed.
Skip: Well, it’s pretty clear to see where the financial advantages come in with Voice over IP.
Skip: Let me shift just a little bit. In terms of conferencing and video conferencing, why is Voice over IP perhaps an excellent platform for customers?
Shana: Well, to begin, a Voice over IP, video conferencing, they all share the same standards and protocols, allowing for full inter operations between the two and seamless voice and video. There are so many options for conferencing and videos today. And they really do help improve communication, like quickly and easily, bringing people that are scattered everywhere together. You can think of it like if you wanna bring people together to train them or you wanna bring people in different locations together for a sales meeting or whatnot. You can do that without having to have the added expense of flying people in or having people drive it. I’ll give you an example, Skip, if we have time.
Skip: Yes, please.
Shana: Okay. So imagine that you’re a customer service rep from a service company, you’re talking to a customer, and they’re asking you a question like how do I add an ink cartridge or how do I fix this lawn mower, change a tire, whatever type of, you know, physical support that they need. And a customer service rep, you’re on the phone with them and you don’t…you can’t really visualize how to help them. So, you can call a technician. And you can contact a technician in real time to help solve that problem right away. And if the technician can’t really wrap his arms around what the customer is trying to explain, you can turn on video. And so the technician can then see what the problem is and walk the customer through fixing that. So, I think that’s really great. And, you know, today’s customers, they really expect great customer service. And this type of technology can really differentiate your service company from another one. Another example for video is. You know, from a sales perspective, I can just imagine how many more sales, or you know, how I can increase my clothes rates, the velocity of my sales cycle. If I could see my customers face to face, that’s a big differentiation.
Skip: Those are some great examples. And the first one you mentioned, I was quickly harkening back to my experience this spring with my lawn mower that wouldn’t start and ended up having to rebuild the carburetor, but a little bit of a video tech support there would have been quite helpful.
Shana: The jack of all trades.
Skip: We’ll be back after this short break.
Man: The best edge in business is inspiration. If you’re inspired by this podcast and today’s topic, Frontier is ready to help you put that inspiration into action. For a free consultation and to learn more about communication solutions that give your business an edge over the competition, call us at 888-200-0603, that’s 888-200-0603 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Frontier Business Edge, the edge you need to succeed. Now, back to the podcast.
Skip: Welcome back. We’re continuing our conversation on Voice over Internet Protocol. Today we’re joined by Shana Mallin, Director of Customer Premise Equipment with Frontier Communications. So, Shana, for a long time, I know one of the main concerns for businesses was that if there was a power failure, Voice over Internet Protocol being transferred online would go down just like the overhead lights. How should companies address this and other potential Voice over Internet Protocol concerns or weaknesses?
Shana: Skip, you’re right. Both digital and Voice over IP telephone systems require power. Some use UPS’s, which are uninterruptible power supplies and others use generators. They can use those to avoid system outages. IP phones do require an additional power source. So that would be a PoE switch or a power brick. Because Voice over IP is treated just like a company’s data network, you have to use the same precautions. You know, some companies choose to outsource their Voice over IP to the cloud, such as Frontier AnyWare powered by Mitel to remove that extra point of potential outages.
Skip: Okay. If I’ve done my homework well, it appears there are some security and control advantages a business might enjoy when it moves its phones to a Voice over Internet Protocol platform. Am I right about that, Shana? And could you expound on those aspects for us.
Shana: You’re right, absolutely. So with an old telephone line, you can attach a telephone set and you can listen in. But with Voice over IP, that’s no longer an issue. VoIP is just a different type of data packet on the wire, and it can be encrypted just like any other connection, making it secure and giving our customers a peace of mind. I’m not sure if you know this, but army bases have even moved to Voice over IP for that one reason.
Skip: Oh, wow.
Skip: I did not know that. But that’s quite a validation for the security and control advantages of Voice over Internet Protocol.
Shana: Yeah, absolutely.
Skip: Well, it seems this technology is constantly evolving. From a business perspective, what are the latest Voice over Internet Protocol advances that excite you the most?
Shana: That’s a dangerous question. Do you have an hour?
Skip: Take all the time you want.
Shana: Okay. Well, probably, Mitel knew my team collaboration software. It’s really very new right off the process, and it’s one tool that lets you do everything. So you’ve got your messaging, your voice, video collaboration, and more on any device you want or wherever you are through the power of Mitel. And so basically, what all that does, it allows me to do more with less. It’s really important to me. So me and my team, we can increase our productivity with less clicks, less homepage, with less application, less devices and so on. What’s important is real-time.
Real-time is how we provide our customers with a great experience. And, of course, it improves our results. We’re sales after all. As you know, my team is mobile, so having one number that their internal and their external customers can connect with real-time, no matter where they are, they could be an office, a home office, their car, a hotel. Again, it’s real-time crucial. And so let me…Do I have time for an example?
Skip: I’d love it if you’d share an example with this, Shana.
Shana: Okay, great. So imagine my team. Someone sitting at their home office and a customer calls. Before they answer the phone, they’ll get a screen pop on their computer showing them who it is. You know, their account pops up. They can answer the call appropriately, but if for some reason during the conversation they realize that they need to bring a resource into the call, they can add a technician, for example. They can chat with technician and say, “Hey, are you available? I have a quick question. I want you to join my call.” Technician says yes. So my person can add them into the phone call and they can have a good conversation. But then if they realize that they need to escalate that call to a video call so they can all be seeing each other, you could just with the push of a button connect everyone via video. And you know, at that point, if you realize you still need to take it a step further, you can start sharing your desktop. Maybe you could be sharing a schematic of some sort but you’re all talking about the same thing. There’s no room for error. And so ultimately here, Skip, what we’re trying to do is really move at the speed of our customer. That’s what excites me.
Skip: Yeah, I can see why that’s so powerful and so exciting.
Skip: Let me flip the tables just a little bit, Shana. Let’s delve specifically into the small business arena. Do you think Voice over Internet Protocol is a good choice specifically for a small business, Shana, and why or why not?
Shana: Okay. I have to tell you. This is probably my favorite question you asked me today because I firmly believe that small businesses have the same communication needs as enterprise businesses. They just have fewer employees. My team has sold more my voice office VoIP systems to small businesses this year than last year, above and beyond digital. And what this does is we can give our customers enterprise features and applications at a small business price. You know, another option for small business is our Frontier AnyWare cloud solution. Some small businesses don’t have somebody on staff who can work on the phone system. So we do all that. We maintain the data center, the software applications, the upgrades, the maintenance, and so on. You know, the benefits here are less of an IT, let’s say, hassle for small business, if you will, if they don’t have anyone available, lower cost, unlimited scalability, increased mobility, easy upgrades, and, of course, reliability. All of that is really important to small business.
Skip: So the scalability, most small businesses are trying to grow. And so if they’re growing and adding employees, if they’re adding desktops, if they’re adding locations, the solutions that we’re talking about are well-suited to grow with them, is that right?
Shana: Oh, absolutely. And you know, with any systems, once a system is installed and running with Voice over IP, again move doesn’t change. They’re so simple. We can order a phone, program it, ship it out, and the customer just has to unwrap it from the box and plug it in and it’s gonna work because we can do all the programming remotely. So it’s really a no-brainer and all businesses, small and large alike benefit from that.
Skip: It’s really pretty amazing when you step back from it, isn’t it?
Shana: Yeah, absolutely, especially if you’ve been in the industry for so many years and you’ve seen it where you’ve had to send a truck out to do every little thing as simple as changing somebody’s name on their phone. We no longer have to do that. It’s a convenience for our customers, and it helps us support more customers throughout the day.
Skip: It’s very cool. Okay, Shana, for those business owners shopping around right now as we speak for a phone system, what features should they be looking for? What are the hallmarks of a great system that’s gonna give them great value?
Shana: Well, you know, I don’t know if you’re gonna like my answer, but a phone system is a phone system, as a phone system, yup, I say that what you wanna do really is look for a good partner, a partner that has in-house expertise to build a complete solution because anybody can sell you a Voice over IP phone system. Anyone can do that. But what we do is we go in and we seek to understand our customers’ business. We sell solutions to the problem. So every solution that we deploy helps our customers in one way or another. We can help customers increase their revenue. We can help them decrease their cost, improve customer service or their brand, or any combination of all of them. So really, I encourage our customers to go out there. Do your due diligence on the different vendors, the different manufacturers. Go online to Gartner, G-A-R-T-N-E-R. Call references, not just the vendors’ references, but also the manufacturers’. You know, does the vendor have the financial stability and the resources to support you and your solution? How many certified technicians do you have within a 30-mile radius? For our Frontier customers, Skip, I know you know this, but one of our biggest differentiators is our local general managers. We have general managers sprinkled throughout our territories, and they’re ultimately responsible for our customers experience. They’re out there working in our communities, supporting our technicians. Again, anyone can sell a phone system, but what it does, it takes a true partner to support you.
Skip: Yeah. So I’m getting that. It’s all about the service and support. And I buy that. Those are all very weighty points that you shared with us, Shana.
Skip: Well, it seems like a case study would be a great way to wrap up this discussion on Voice over Internet Protocol. Shana, is there a case study that you could share with us about a newly installed Voice over Internet phone system that would just sort of wrap this all up and highlight the power and potential of these systems?
Shana: You know, I was thinking about if you were to ask me that question, Skip, if I have any great examples of customers that we were able to help take to the next level and help them address specific needs. You know, there are so many, but my favorite ones are where we help schools with safety and security. It’s really great to be able to help customers recognize more revenue and save money and improve customer service. But really the ones that I get most excited about are where we help improve safety. So, one that comes to mind is Fort Wayne Community Schools in Indiana. We did help them improve their communication, not just externally with parents, but also with teachers and staff. But what we did do is we helped them to comply with E911. And they now have an emergency plan that they can actually, you know, execute. So, I think that’s a huge win right there. That one was about 56 locations and about 3,800 phones. You know, that’s a big one. We do that even for the smallest of businesses. But ultimately, Skip, no matter what the solution is, how we help our customers, digital or Voice over IP, what we do is we sell solutions to problem.
Skip: Right. Well, I love the example. I’m a parent. I know you have children in school. So if you’re using Voice over Internet Protocol to make our schools safer and more secure while improving their communications, then that’s a big win.
Skip: So, Shana, let’s drift off topic just a little bit because I like to give our audience a glimpse at the personal lives of our guest gurus that we have that join us on “Gain Your Edge.” So I understand that you have gotten into the pursuit of chicken farming. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Shana: You know, some people at Frontier were sharing with me years ago that they had chickens, and I just thought that was the oddest thing. And I live in the woods, and someone said that they eat mosquitoes. Of course, that was very exciting to me. The more research I did, the more I learned. And I thought that it would be a great life experience for my kids. I’ve got six kids. They love electronics, and I’m always looking for ways that we can do things together as a family. So anyway, long story short, I bought “Chickens for Dummies.” So it’s a big yellow book. I read the whole thing. My kids read parts of it. And we went out and bought 10 silky chickens, free-range, which means you don’t know if they’re male or female. And we kept them in our house for four months over the winter. And this weekend we just spent building them a beautiful coop and outdoor range, and we have eggs. You know, Skip, that’s one thing I didn’t do research on though. I didn’t find out how big silky eggs were gonna be. It takes about 12 of them to make an omelet.
Skip: But how do they taste?
Shana: You know, everyone says they taste different. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference. I really can’t. I just know they’re organic and I’m eating something good, but I can’t tell the difference.
Skip: And I have to imagine that part of the beauty of this whole project that you’ve undertaken is what your kids have learned by getting their hands dirty and picking up tools and cutting and nailing and that sort of thing, is that right?
Shana: Oh, yeah. You know, manual labor, it’s great. The whole weekend they didn’t pick up their electronics and it was out there. We were just being together, and it was really beautiful. At the end of it, we all stepped back and we looked at our final product and, you know, we built that. And it’s really special. So, I don’t think a little bit of manual labor for a feminine…you know, next time I…I have an itch now to make a garden. So we’ll see. Maybe next time I’ll be able to share that I have a beautiful garden.
Skip: Oh, great story, great story. Hey, Shana, as we’re wrapping up, you’ve shared a couple technology references with us. And if I can get you to send those to me, we’ll package those up in the show notes portion of our podcast, so folks can click along and learn more. Would you be willing to do that for us?
Shana: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Skip: Excellent. Shana, I think this was a great show, absolutely excellent information, especially for folks who aren’t sure what kind of phone system to choose for their business. So thank you again so much for joining us.
Shana: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for having me, Skip.
Skip: That’s all the time we have today. I encourage you to download this podcast and share it with your friends and colleagues. You can find it at frontier.com/gainyouredge or you can find us on iTunes. If you enjoyed this episode, I invite you to subscribe to our podcast through the podcast app or your favorite content aggregator. When you subscribe, you can be sure you won’t miss a single episode. We have a year’s worth of “Gain Your Edge” content available for you so that you can listen, learn, and enjoy. For more information on Frontier Communications and our telephone solutions, including Voice over Internet Protocol, check us out on the web at business.frontier.com. Please join me, Skip Lineberg, next time on “Gain Your Edge.” Until then, have a great week.