Crisis Centre Dials in on New Phone System
Business Continuity provides added security and support.
Distress Centre Calgary (DCC) was formed in 1970 as the Drug Information Centre, with the goal of providing around the clock unbiased drug information and education, crisis intervention and research. After more than 45 years, and a new look and name, their core values remain unchanged; providing 24-hour, non-judgmental, free, accessible crisis support, professional counselling and referrals for the Calgary and Southern Alberta communities. Compassion and care is exhibited throughout the agency, from their 36 full-time employees, to a front line handled by 225 active volunteers, all the way up to their executive directors.
For an organization like DCC, the difference between being available and not being available could mean life or death when dealing with crisis. Prior to 2012, DCC had a traditional PBX phone system with 5 hard lines. If all lines were busy, clients would not get through. If the phone system went down, DCC would not be able to respond to calls from community members needing their help. Add to this the fact that as the DCC service expanded, they continued to add monthly costs on a linear basis with no help to get economy of scale. With the oil and gas industry in a recession period, donor contributions were down – all these issues impacted their expense budget tremendously.
DCC desperately needed to trim costs wherever they could without compromising service to their community. They also needed to formulate a business continuity plan in the event that a disaster or other emergency occurs. Their community relied on them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so it was critical that they had a phone system they could not only afford, but rely upon around the clock. Also needed was a way to measure their volunteers call volumes and increase the time they were able to service the community.
Altitude was introduced to DCC in 2012 when they needed to upgrade their existing phone system. They were interested in moving to a solution that would give them more flexibility and bring increased value to their volunteers and clients. Their new ShoreTel IP Business Phone System and Enterprise Contact Centre immediately paid for itself in 2013 when Calgary experienced heavy rainfall that led to catastrophic flooding for the area, the worst in Alberta’s history with an estimated 100,000 people displaced from their homes. Under Altitude’s advisement, DCC had upgraded their phone system with SIP trunking and redundancy, which enabled them to handle call volume and forward lines to affiliates as needed when their own office was flooded. They were evacuated for 24 hours, but their service continued.
After the flooding incident, Altitude recommended a hosting the core of their phone system, which would allow them to manage their entire phone system from a location separate from their HQ office. In a case like a major flood emergency, their data center could be in another part of the province but would be completely transparent to their clients. At the time, DCC was reluctant to take that next step, but eventually realized the value an offsite solution provides and began working on a plan for design and implementation. During the planning phase, a personnel change occurred at DCC and Jerilyn Dresser, a DCC employee and social worker by trade, was asked to step into the Director of Operations role. “It was a challenging time, but Altitude was great during the transition,” said Jerilyn Dressler, Director of Operations. “I wasn’t familiar with the technology at all, but was able to sit down with the folks at Altitude and walk through it with them. They were wonderful to work with -- I literally didn’t have to worry about a thing,” she added.
Altitude also examined the existing carrier service, and concluded that DCC was paying an extremely high monthly service fee. With Altitude’s help, they were able to negotiate with a new carrier and reduce their monthly charges by 72%, which meant huge savings to the bottom line. In addition to the major carrier cost savings, their new phone system enables them to carefully manage and monitor productivity, call volume and trends. They are now easily able to analyze call data and work closely with volunteers to improve performance.
Today, DCC has a truly valuable phone system that gives them greater visibility, increased efficiencies and lower monthly costs. Altitude’s expertise and insight helped them create a solution that truly fits their business model. “Given the work we do here, it was critical to have a provider that could accommodate our culture,” said Dressler. “Altitude has been wonderful, and the support they gave me when I was unexpectedly transitioned into this role was incredible. As a social worker, efficiency and caring are key and Altitude is just that."
"“Given the work we do here, it was critical to have a provider that could accommodate our culture,” said Dressler. “Altitude has been wonderful, and the support they gave me when I was unexpectedly transitioned into this role was incredible. As a social worker, efficiency and caring are key and Altitude is just that. "