Gelst is a revenue generation consultancy working with technology, professional services and legal companies. The business is growing quickly, currently with 12 employees scattered across London and the surrounding area, as well as one individual working from Munich.

The company recently decided to switch its telephone system to voice-over IP (VoIP). The main reason was to save money, but it also enables the company to be more flexible in terms of the way the business is run, increasing the ease with which employees can work out of the office. In turn, this encourages the development of new opportunities because Gelst can better focus on clients and improve customer relations.

In the summer of 2006, all traditional landlines became completely redundant. The company maintains its traditional landline in the London office but purely as a backup (it has not been used since the switch to VoIP). The transformation was carried out by Vonage, the broadband telephony services provider.

The primary consideration when switching to VoIP was whether it could accommodate both their growth and the fact that their consultants are based in more than one office. Gelst chose Vonage and VoIP because its features and price catered best to the distributed nature of our business – working across London and in Munich. The Vonage service brings the flexibility to grow rapidly with the company, both geographically and by headcount.

It is, in effect, a plug’n’pay service, connecting new employees to the phone system quickly and easily with no additional expense or hardware requirements. “You are set up on the system as soon as you turn on the phone,” explains Geert van Der Elst, one of the founding partners. “With wireless, you do not even have to plug in.”

Users have also become enthusiastic advocates of the Vonage wireless WiFi phone. ‘“It’s great for them as they travel quite a lot around London and internationally, and it gives them a local London line whenever they’re in a WiFi area,” says Mr van Der Elst. “They use it between offices, forward their phones into it and even though they have had it pretty much since Vonage came out with it, they are continually discovering new places to use it, and expect to cut their mobile phone bills further with it.”

In terms of cost savings, Mr van Der Elst explains that the company had already optimised its landline system by streamlining phone bills before taking up the new service. For example, they were using the cheapest tariffs for international calls. “However, despite this, the surprising thing was that we still managed to save 10-20 per cent on our phone bills after taking up the Vonage service,” he says. He points out that with WiFi and VoIP, expensive roaming costs are slashed, plus there is no need to pay for dial-up internet access. “I would say that this is an interesting thought for other small businesses that think they are already getting the best telephony deals they can.”

VoIP capabilities represent more than just cheap calls but become a real business service for a number of reasons. For example, the Vonage service allows Gelst to present a united front to its customers regardless of where its employees are based, or find themselves on that day. They are all operating on a common London phone number. “One of the key benefits is the fact that the service provides us as a smaller business with the same features and benefits that larger companies have without having to invest in a large PBX system,” Mr van Der Elst explains. Further, the Vonage service allows Gelst employees to receive voicemail messages via e-mail, as well as working as one cohesive unit despite being geographically dispersed. This means the company can offer better customer service and improved customer response time, something that has paid off for the company.

Gelst also uses Skype, in parallel with the Vonage services, particularly for internal meetings. “I prefer it on these occasions because the video call is all done through one machine, the laptop,” explains Mr van Der Elst. However, he also points out that Skype can be unstable, in which case the Vonage system is always available as a backup.

“We have become a big advocate of VoIP for distributed companies,” concludes Mr van Der Elst. “It is not only large organisations that gain because of the volume of calls they make that are cheaper. Even a small company can gain because VoIP features suggest all sorts of new ways for supporting the business.”

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