Bono's Bar-BQ Improves Customer Service and Business Functions with Cisco Unified Contact Center Express From SMB Select Partner NetAge
January 1, 2007
When Lou Bono fired up the pits of his first restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida back in 1949, little did he know that his food would one day be celebrated as the quintessential southern style barbecue. This was not just another barbecue joint - Lou cooked his meats the traditional way, in specially designed pits over wood, and watched carefully by a Pit Boss. Thanks to Lou's tireless efforts, Bono's became an immediate success. Lou sold the business to the Adeeb family in 1980, which has kept the family-owned and operated tradition of Bono's. Under the leadership of Joe Adeeb and his daughters, it has grown from a small, local operation to a successful enterprise of more than twenty restaurants. Bono's restaurants are now located throughout Florida as well as in Georgia and Colorado. Customers can order ahead, eat in or carry out their meals, as well as have the Bono's catering staff cater any manner of parties and get-togethers.
Kirsten Martino, Joe's daughter and Bono's head of business development, was concerned with the company missing calls both during busy lunch times and to the catering department located at company headquarters. At any given Bono's restaurant, an employee working the counter will seat walk-ins, take money from customers who have placed orders, as well as answer the phone where they would take yet more orders or give directions or answer other questions. The catering department had just six lines and was often over-loaded, so potential catering customers were often greeted with a busy signal, or left on hold and sometimes hanging up in frustration.
Long Waits Leave Customers Feeling Burned
"We were not only losing orders, we were missing a key element of our business which is excellent customer service," says Kirsten. "Our locations weren't networked and the catering phones were often overloaded. When I started looking at newer systems I realized how antiquated our phone system was."
In an effort to learn about new phone technology, Kirsten spent six weeks meeting with many different companies, and was soon overwhelmed as each company had a different recommendation.
"I looked at a few different IP phone solutions and I was impressed with some of them, but the people just never gave me a great feeling of trust," she says. "I felt like they really weren't engaged in our business needs and just wanted to sell me a phone system." She called a networking person she had worked with and trusted, and they pointed her to NetAge Inc., a Cisco Premier Certified Partner and SMB Select Partner that is also headquartered in Jacksonville. The ten-year old network consulting and systems engineering specializes in Cisco Advanced Technologies such as Security and IP Communications.
"We created our practice on the principle that the right service and the right solution, rather than a product, is what makes an integration business successful," says Steve Wilson, inside sales for NetAge. "We like to build a close relationship with our customers by learning about their business drivers and what their goals are."
SMB Select Partner NetAge Dishes Up Cisco Unified Communications
With NetAge, Kirsten felt like she finally found what she was looking for. Her research had convinced her that an IP telephony solution was what Bono's needed, and in NetAge she found the technical expertise and partner relationship she was looking for. A NetAge team met with her for a pre-deployment service phase. They carefully reviewed Bono's business processes in order to recommend exactly the right networking solution. NetAge's recommendation would provide not just new phones, but an entire networking solution for Bono's. Cisco Unified Communications would tie all of the restaurants and the corporate offices together, and Cisco Unified Contact Center Express would be deployed for catering calls. The solution will also allow Bono's, if it chooses, to eventually move to an entirely centralized call center that can integrate into a point-of-sale system.
That kind of flexibility really sold Kirsten on the business benefits Cisco Unified Communications could deliver to Bono's Bar-BQ.
"When I was looking at phone system options we were also in the middle of considering moving our corporate office to a larger location," she says. "But the Cisco Unified Communications system that NetAge recommended can support our growth without us having to acquire more office space." Kirsten realized that with Cisco Unified Communications, the catering call center staff would no longer be physically tied to the call center facility. A catering employee could easily set up a remote system at home and wouldn't need to travel to an office at all. They would simply log into the call center and a customer calling in would never know that the Bono's catering employee was not sitting in an office. Kirsten had read a report on the amount of money people spend commuting, and wanted to accommodate employees' interest in telecommuting. She was convinced that a Cisco Unified Communications system would make a huge difference to their employees and to the business.
"Working from home saves our employees the commute expense, and it saves us from investing in more office space," she says. "We could offer a lot of flexibility to our work force - for instance, offer part-time work to mothers who want to work from home. We could expand our business without expanding the office space." She is also interested in moving the company to an entirely centralized call center, so that every order for every restaurant, not just catering orders, could be processed through one center. That would free up the counter workers at the individual stores to better serve the patrons in the restaurants. And the workers taking the orders wouldn't have to be in the call center or even in the restaurant, the calls could be taken from anywhere.
The next step was convincing the company president, also known as Dad, that it was a wise investment.
"Steve and NetAge helped show my father how the system would increase revenue immediately and pave the way for company growth," says Martino. "I sold him really hard on this and he knew it was the right choice." With the dollars approved, Steve and the NetAge team developed a deployment plan featuring Cisco Unified Communications. Challenges included connectivity with the service provider and making sure the solution worked cleanly with third party applications used by Bono's food service providers. The corporate office was the biggest part of the solution, so that was the first to be deployed. NetAge trained Bono's staff on the new equipment, then over the next six weeks the deployment team moved to each restaurant deploying the new communications solution.
"The flexibility is the main benefit we're enjoying right now," says Kirsten. "We come up with ideas, and with the Cisco Unified Communications system deployed by NetAge, there is a way to accommodate them." For instance, as she soon goes on maternity leave, Kirsten plans to set up her VPN from home and can still be connected with the office when she wants to be. She's looking forward to taking the restaurant chain's Cisco Unified Communications system to the next level - centralizing all incoming calls so that counter workers at restaurants no longer have to take orders over the phone. They also plan to integrate the communications system with the company's point-of-sale system. That way she can use her VPN to instantly send out updates, such as a menu or pricing change, with the click of a button.
"We already had a sophisticated point-of-sale system in place, but now with our VPN, our Cisco Unified IP Phones, and the whole Cisco Unified Communications solution I feel like we're on top of everything," Kirsten says. "In the restaurant business you can't work just on the food, you have to work on everything."
Steve Wilson is seeing a lot of small and medium-sized businesses in the situation that Bono's Bar-BQ was in: needing updated technology to facilitate business growth.
"The number one thing we show our SMB clients is that their network must have high availability," he says. "A small business needs a network plan that includes solid backup to support the growth of the company. They can keep adding employees, but if the network isn't there to support them they're back where they started."