Knott’s Berry Farm – How Does a World-Famous Theme Park Make a Great First Impression?

Upon entering the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park, California, you’re immediately immersed in another time. My first impression was of the charm of the place, its friendly “olden days” feel with a sense of Old West adventure. Even with the drama of live-action shows, the addition of its famous wooden roller coaster, exciting rides, shops, and dining choices, Knott’s Berry Farm has managed to retain its historical feel. But is all this history and charm really typical of a customer’s very first impression?

Actually, my first experience with Knott’s Berry Farm began online, followed by a phone call for more information. Just as most people these days would go online to purchase tickets, or book a full vacation package.

The Knott’s Berry Farm theme park is just one part of a larger brand experience. The company also offers the convenient on-property Knott’s Hotel lodging for guests, and the nearby “Soak City” Water Park. As a potential customer, my first impressions could well have been formed by speaking with a contact center representative who assists with guests’ vacation arrangements.

I dare say we’ve all experienced long hold times, and struggled to navigate prompts on an older phone system, trying to reach a live agent just so that we can solve a problem or simply make arrangements to pay for goods or services. Knott’s Berry Farm sought to solve this exact challenge for its customers.

With three distinct Knott’s entities to consider, all struggling with older systems that had long since passed end-of-life and support, Knott’s Berry Farm was faced with some big decisions. Decisions about how to make essential and long overdue changes in their communications system without incurring critical downtime, or disrupting their daily operations, or causing staff re-training headaches—and, since it would impact thousands of end-points, what is the most dependable yet flexible solution with the most efficient network?

Basically, how do you select the right new technology and then transition over from the old, while still maintaining ongoing operations of a giant multi-faceted entertainment enterprise?

Our Knott’s Berry Farm story will share with you the challenges, solutions, and successes of their recent strategic migration to two (2) UNIVERGE SV9500 communications platforms, complete with NEC’s UC for Enterprise (UCE) suite of unified communications (UC) and contact center applications. They chose this flexible, comprehensive UC solution that is fully networked, highly intuitive for staff, provides critical operations information, simplifies administration, has built-in disaster recovery–and was actually cost effective. In their own words, “It was a seamless transition”.

By providing routing assistance and delivering effective toolsets for the newly networked call centers–as well as basic features such as Caller ID, Collaboration, and Mobility for other Knott’s personnel, the upgrading from their existing NEC systems that have served them well, not only helped to enhance customer service between the hotel and park operations, it effectively improved the operation’s internal communications as well, simply by enabling much-increased functionality.

First impressions are important for this kind of Entertainment/ Retail/ Hospitality industry, and are really all about a happy workplace, providing a worry-free environment that can create great memories, for guests and staff alike. Knott’s Berry Farm can now deliver an improved guest experience, from the very first “Thank you for calling Knott’s Berry Farm”, to the last fond farewell.

If you’d like to learn more about this historical venue’s modern day move to state of-the-art communication solutions just let us know, and we can provide you with a free consultation with one of our hospitality experts.

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UC M&A Activity Further Validates NEC’s Smart Enterprise Strategy

Seems like every time I read about what’s happening in the marketplace, I learn that there’s another merger or buy-out happening in the enterprise communications space. Mitel announced recently it is acquiring rival ShoreTel, reportedly to accelerate its “move-to-the-cloud” strategy. This acquisition, along with other recent moves by Avaya and Toshiba, only reinforces my belief in NEC’s strategy for the Smart Enterprise.

NEC’s long history and innovation heritage means we are much more than just a voice and UC company – we are a true enterprise technology pioneer with roots dating back more than 50 years in the United States and over 118 years in Japan.

In developing our wide range of technologies and services, we strive to build solutions that will address specific business needs and challenges by driving safety, security and operational efficiency. These solutions, when integrated and combined in various scenarios, form our portfolio for the Smart Enterprise – our definitive technology strategy for NEC’s vision of the future.

Want advice on how to enrich your customer experience?But let’s get back to the cloud, and more specifically, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). NEC has developed a wide range of unified communications (UC) solutions that can be deployed in the cloud, on-premises or in a hybrid scenario.   For starters, NEC has a strong UCaaS offering called UNIVERGE BLUE Business Cloud Services. UNIVERGE BLUE allows a business to host all or just some of its UC in the cloud.  We also offer the UNIVERGE SV9100 BLUE solution, which is a full phone and UC system deployed on premises with no large up-front investment.   The cloud allows us to offer SV9100 BLUE as an operating expense with a single bill for hardware and service.  All of this is offered today through our extensive channel partner network.

Our portfolio also includes Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), software defined networking (SDN), data center technologies, Unified Communications (on-premises, cloud and hybrid), biometrics, analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence solutions. With a world-class network of Channel Partners and as a direct solutions integrator, we can deploy these solutions globally. Here in the U.S., we also have NEC Financial Services which delivers tailored leasing structures of extraordinary flexibility to customers nationwide.

Additionally, we are discovering new and innovative ways to utilize our biometrics solutions by integrating them with our other solutions. For instance, we have developed a virtual receptionist solution that integrates one of our biometrics applications with our Android™-based touch-screen UT880 telephone. The telephone can be placed in the lobby area and a remote worker is able to greet visitors and then screen them through our NeoFace Watch facial recognition application.

Don’t just take my word for it, the Boston Consulting Group named NEC as one of its 50 Most Innovative Companies and Frost & Sullivan recently honored NEC with their 2016 North America Frost & Sullivan Company of the Year Award for our market approach for the Smart Enterprise by stating, “NEC’s Smart Enterprise initiative is providing holistic enterprise communications transformation options that help customers adapt and flourish in the face of complex challenges.”

While the technology world is ever-changing, one thing that you can count on is NEC and our solutions for Smart Enterprise. We have demonstrated over the years our long-term commitment to our customers and to understanding their unique needs as well as their particular vertical industries. If you are ready to learn more about our solutions for Smart Enterprise and how they can help you optimize your business, please contact NEC today for a free consultation.

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Is Your Business at Risk Running an Outdated Communications System?

(Editor’s Note: This is an update to an article originally posted June 2, 2014.)

You know your communications system is way past its prime, and economic pressures have led you to delay its upgrade or replacement.

But there comes a point in time when it no longer makes sense to put off replacing your communications assets—from both a financial perspective and a business/productivity perspective. Retaining outdated equipment can essentially increase your IT costs and prevent your users from utilizing communications tools that help your business processes.

Plus, keep in mind; the greatest risk to your business if your communications go down is your business shuts down. This can lead to huge losses for your business, including customer dissatisfaction, customer loss, damaged reputation and costs related to regaining your reputation. These all can greatly affect your business and result in huge losses.

Phone systems are one of the assets that many companies take for granted as long as they have dial-tone. They don’t think much about it and will definitely spend their budget elsewhere if they can. As a result, many of these organizations are sitting on archaic (or end-of-life) equipment that is no longer efficiently supporting their business while possibly putting it a risk.

Yet for some, the prevailing practice is to continue operating the existing system well past its useful life and beyond the end-of-support – not realizing the potential costs and the risk they are putting their business in.

We often hear the following reasons to avoid upgrading:

  • We don’t have the budget, or there is a higher priority budgetary request.
  • The lifespan on the last communications system was too short.
  • We’re afraid that if we upgrade tomorrow, something better will come out next week (a.k.a. the cycle of obsolescence).
  • We’re unclear on our unified communications plans and how our phone system should fit in with UC.
  • Newer phone systems are becoming too complex to use.
  • The buying cycle is too long, and we will have to get too many people involved who will all have different opinions.
  • We don’t know which approach to take—i.e. premises, hybrid, or cloud-based.

There’s a chance that the phones you think are supporting your business aren’t. While the value of your older technology may not have appeared to change—for example, the phones still work, and you can still make calls—the outdated system may be hurting your business.

Free White Paper:  Time to Replace that Old PBX

We know the decision to move to a new telephony system is sometimes a difficult one to make. That’s why we’ve created the following list of 3 of the benefits of a modern unified communications system over an outdated phone system.

1. System Stabilization

If you are a business owner or decision maker, you have probably thought, “We save money keeping the old system. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Every day your business uses an analog, TDM, or older VoIP phone system that has reached end-of-life, you run the risk of having your phone system fail without access to support. If that happens, revenue will likely be lost as a result. How much? Well, you could lose what equates to hours, days, or even weeks of revenue—depending on the amount of time it takes to quickly repair or worst case find and install a new system. Not to mention what was previously stated about customer dissatisfaction and loss.

And hurrying to find a new system isn’t ideal. If your system fails, it could mean you are forced to make a quick replacement decision. Companies that don’t have the time or don’t take the time to research properly before purchase usually discover they’ve spent too much money or are unhappy with their purchase after it is too late to change it. Taking the time to find the right IP Telephony solution or Unified Communications solution will improve your business processes and efficiencies without over-extending your budget.

2. Improved Operational Costs

Maintaining separate systems like directories, conferencing software, voicemail, and telephony is expensive and time consuming for IT departments to sustain. In fact, it can be so time-consuming that the IT department spends the majority of their day keeping these systems functional—time that can be better spent on more strategic IT projects.

The older the system, the higher the operational cost is when you don’t upgrade. Some of the costs businesses accrue using older systems include:

  • Proprietary hardware at each location (equipment, phones, PBX)
  • Installation
  • Licensing
  • Maintenance, repairs and upgrades
  • Additional services
    • Fax
    • Business SMS
    • HD video meetings
    • Audio conferencing

When you factor the lost IT time spent maintaining each separate communications system with the opportunity cost of not having the advanced applications and features that modern unified communications provides, you end up with a total cost that is just too high for most businesses to ignore.

3. Competitive Advantage

Have you stopped to think about whether your competitors are taking advantage of modern communications software? If they are and you’re not, then chances are they are able to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently. Working smarter gives them an edge by increasing their productivity and creating a competitive advantage.

Your competitors that are working with updated communications systems, most likely have these advanced features at their disposal:

  • Audio/video/web collaboration, white boarding and document sharing
  • Support for the mobile workforce with a consistent user experience across smartphones and tablets
  • UC clients that provide status, presence, call history, call control plus more
  • Integrated vertical applications through standard and open services

While the cost of upgrading may seem high, the advanced applications and features associated with modern communications systems will help re-gain lost competitive edge and offer companies an opportunity to better serve their customers.

Unified communications can help businesses re-gain competitive advantage in two ways:

First, a new system can help you increase your revenue by providing your business with the communications applications needed to be more productive and efficient. You could gain better advantages and increased competitive edge by choosing a modern solution with a lower total cost of ownership and features that enable collaboration across your business, improving the speed of your communications.

Secondly, UC provides communications software that makes enterprise-level communications applications available on an ad-hoc basis. This either gives you access to applications that you might not have previously been able to budget for, or, saves your organization money as you no longer have to pay the fees required to utilize multiple services. Replacing hosted web, audio or video conferencing services is a perfect example. The accrued savings can boost the return on your unified communications investment, and expand your competitive edge through re-investment into other IT projects that help your business grow.

Increased Productivity

If you fear that your new technology will become obsolescent and use that as an excuse to avoid upgrading, you shouldn’t. Look for vendors that offer software assurances and extended warranties for hardware that will provide your business with more security and less risk in the long run.

With a modern communications solution, you ensure that your system has the flexibility to handle rapid growth, giving you the ability to provide support to your increasingly mobile and distributed workforce. Your IT team will re-gain some of their time, allowing them to focus on other strategic IT initiatives. And, your employees will re-coup benefits that improve the speed of communication from access to applications that positively impact your daily business—whether it’s through more efficient collaboration with colleagues, or improving customer response times.

Options Available to Your Business

Ultimately there is a high cost, in terms of inefficiencies and operational cost, when you continue to operate an outdated or end-of-life phone system.

Some organizations struggle with selecting the best model (premises, hybrid, or cloud-based) to meet long-term communication needs. Ultimately you’ll look for the platform and vendor that has the flexibility to customize the right solution to meet your specific needs.

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Free White Paper
Time to Replace that Old PBX

To learn more about the risks associated with running an outdated communications system and the steps you should take in purchasing a new system, fill out the form to download the white paper written by Dave Michels, principal analyst at TalkPointz.

 
 
 
 
 



Can you Change the Customer Experience with Technology?

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit the YMCA of Greater Louisville to gain insight into how they used technology to solve a common business problem. After speaking with customers and employees in the branches, I noticed just how much the organization cares about serving its members and visitors. And I was even more impressed with how they handle customer interactions. You can check out the results of our visit in the video case study.

One of the first things I noticed was how quiet the lobby was. Not one phone ringing. Instead, members were having direct face-to-face conversations with Y team members at each desk, and receiving their undivided attention.

Since the YMCA of Greater Louisville has centralized all incoming calls to customer service via UNIVERGE® 3C and Contact Center solutions from NEC, the front-line staff at Branch locations can focus on providing a great customer experience. This gave on-site employees the necessary time and the freedom to address every concern in person, while the customer was in the branch. Part of the YMCA’s mission is to ensure customer satisfaction via uninterrupted, one-on-one interaction, either in person or by phone.

So often, as we get caught up in the technology and not the people that it serves, we lose the intended purpose of the technology. But this was not the case for the YMCA of Greater Louisville. This organization found the right balance to meet their customer needs.

Free Ebook: UCaas RFP 2016

YMCA’s VP of IT (Ryan Kingery) and CEO (Steve Tarver) had encountered a problem that is not unique to any retail outlet or public organization serving its community: WAIT TIMES! At the core of the YMCA mission is the ability to serve its community and members, but the challenge they faced was the increasing wait times in their branches, which necessarily led to less in-person customer interaction due to long lines and busy phones.
Think of this scenario: if you have kiddos, you know that swim camp, t-ball registration or even your own “ME” time at the indoor pool cannot be done without registration. And the quicker you can get your registration(s) complete, the quicker you move on to being a satisfied customer, which is what we all want. The solution the YMCA put in place did just that–and it improved the quality of the real-time, one-on-one interactions between employees and clients.

Happy Customer = Better Customer Experience = Revenue Growth

Whether it’s about internal accounting clients at your company utilizing core IT- supported services, or a customer whose satisfaction is crucial to the continuing revenue growth of your company, a pleasing customer experience is the ultimate goal.

So, after this experience with the YMCA, I am wondering how many IT professionals are running across similar business problems that negatively impact a customer experience within your own organizations. What are you doing to change that experience?

You can watch the video below to see how the YMCA was able to achieve its mission.

Free Ebook: UCaaS RFP 2016

Free Ebook:

UCaaS/Hybrid RFP & Review IP Telephony and Unified Communications System

There are significant differences in offerings from the major vendors in terms of architecture, functionality and total cost of ownership. IT organizations are encouraged to work with their business units to understand their unique requirements and to articulate these in an RFP or other formal procurement vehicle.



Putting the ‘Power’ into Empowered Enterprise Communications

Meet Matt, a harried, frustrated VP of Sales who is in need of a more effective way to communicate with his sales team. Since Matt took the helm, sales have increased so dramatically that he is able to expand into new marketplaces while increasing the sales force in 15 satellite offices. He recruited savvy sales people to effectively promote the product, and now he is having trouble communicating with his team members to ensure they receive proper updates and have everything they need to function as a cohesive sales team.

Matt is not the only one. Helen, the receptionist, cannot keep up with all the new team members, so it’s difficult to route calls correctly. Jeff, the IT guy, is just as frustrated. His current communications system does not have centralized management so any moves, adds, or changes are very time consuming, requires travel to individual sites and really impacts his productivity.  So with the addition of sales people in 15 different satellite offices, he is counting up the airline miles he will be racking up over the next several weeks and trying to figure out how to delegate everything else that needs to be done while he is working on this project.

For Matt, Helen and Jeff, growth has a whole set of problems that if not addressed, could mean minimizing sales, productivity and creating a scenario for poor client experience. So what does the savvy enterprise do in this case?

Power Up with Empowered Communications

Matt, Helen and Jeff are fictional characters, but their problems are very real. The truth for most organizations is that growth, expansion and the consistent move toward a more mobile workforce create challenges. Fortunately, a single solution can solve these challenges and empower communications within any organization.

NEC’s UNIVERGE solutions provide businesses with a choice of comprehensive on-premise and cloud-based unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions – enabling employees to connect from any location, on virtually any device, and collaborate with colleagues, customers and partners. #Organizations can tailor their #communications to meet their specific needs Click To Tweet and leverage the unmatched flexibility, reliability and scalability of NEC’s platforms. NEC’s UNIVERGE solutions will increase your ability to remain competitive, while also maximizing productivity and ensuring communication is constant.

The Power You Need When You Need It

Not all businesses are the same, and each requires a flexible solution to really power up communications and collaboration. To achieve success, organizations need to innovate via the best tools. With NEC, you receive custom-tailored solutions to meet your unique needs. Whether it’s to connect and communicate from anywhere using any device, or the ability to manage large call volumes across multiple locations, NEC UNIVERGE solutions are up for the challenge.

NEC’s UNIVERGE solutions provide a native UC on all platforms with easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy delivery models. Enhanced vertical workflow solutions ensure your communications remain strong. In addition, you can choose to deploy an on-premise, cloud or a hybrid delivery model and even opt to use our professional services to manage and monitor your network.

UC-Downtime-Banner

With a natural migration path that will evolve to meet future needs, NEC’s UNIVERGE solutions offer investment protection and provide organizations with a platform that is poised for growth. Businesses that implement the right communication and collaboration tools can improve customer satisfaction and increase efficiency of operations, which can create a competitive advantage.

Are you ready to learn more about how to put the “power” in empowering your communications? or take a look at this post to get additional insights.