ShoreTel – the Apple of unified communications

Disruptive innovation and simplicity earn great customer satisfaction scores

August 1, 2012

Disruptive innovation and simplicity earn great customer satisfaction scores

BY BENNIE LANGENHOVEN, MANAGING EXECUTIVE, TELLUMAT COMMUNICATION SOLUTIONS

The consumer world is enthralled with Apple, and corporates are scrambling to accommodate its technologies in their enterprise communications and access fabric. The reasons are clear – beauty and simplicity of design, leading-edge hardware and software innovation, as well as ease of use and setup – all leading to great customer satisfaction scores.

In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of other strong brands that share these design and engineering principles. This new generation of vendors is leaving legacy manufacturers and developers behind with their focus on drastically reduced complexity and disruptive innovation, and their solutions often greatly reduce costs and the risk of failure.

Simplicity and innovation

In unified communications, that company is ShoreTel. Simplicity of design, operation and support weave together in a common thread to create “brilliantly simple” business communication solutions.

Products

The vendor started its portfolio design from a clean slate, without legacy complexity, basing products purely on the Internet Protocol. This makes it easy to deploy, use, manage, and scale ShoreTel implementations.

Built using open standards, it further integrates easily with existing infrastructure, and will work seamlessly with existing business applications.

ShoreTel’s unique single-image distributed architecture, using embedded switch-based routing, moreover saves on capital costs, network upgrades, implementation, training, MACs (moves, adds and changes), system management, long-distance charges and energy consumption.

Deployment

While other providers have complex product classifications and permutations, ShoreTel offers one core solution that adapts to any environment – whether extending it to include call centre capabilities or using it to whip up a streamlined live demo solution in under one hour.

Scaling up is similarly streamlined: For 50 users, ShoreTel requires one switch and one server. For 250 users, the system requires only one more switch – all other equipment is retained. At 1500 users including UC, the customer still keeps the original equipment, needing only more switches. Other vendors require at least two forklift upgrades along the way and an entirely new call control platform with additional servers for UC.

Management

Regardless of the size of the deployment, a ShoreTel system uses a single interface for all UC apps – including phones, voicemail, presence, call centre, emergency services and conferences. ShoreTel Director provisions all applications for a user at once.

ShoreTel Director is further browser-based and can be accessed from virtually anywhere, and its interface takes half the effort of other vendor systems to master.

Use

In addition, end-user ease-of-use is such that ShoreTel IT managers often report getting no help desk calls. ShoreTel Communicator offers a common interface across user types, allowing users to manage their communication and media simply and in one place.

Customer satisfaction scores

Another touch point between Shoretel and Apple is the great rating both get in Net Promoters** customer satisfaction surveys as a result of the abovementioned design principles.  The Net Promoters analysis divides customers in percentage brackets of Promoters, Passives and Detractors, benchmarking leaders in customer satisfation.

While Apple’s score is 67, ShoreTel’s is 57, meaning a significant majority tend to promote both companies – no mean feat in today’s connected, opinionated world.  By comparison, Cisco stands on 50, NetApp on 25 and Alcatel-Lucent on 23.

Low cost, low risk

A new wave of innovators are using new architectures on which to base a new beginning of evolved simplicity. Companies like ShoreTel are at the forefront of this wave of change, combining it with industry standards to offer customers low-risk implementations with low total cost of ownership.

* Tellumat is the South African distributor of ShoreTel systems.

** A company’s NPS score is calculated by the percentage of customers promoting it minus the percentage of customers detracting it. Data is gleaned in a wide range of industry benchmarks, including, most recently, the social media conversations customers have about their vendors.