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Utility merges centrex and PBX.


John Forgey, communications analyst at Northern Indiana Power Service Co., headquartered in Merrillville, Ind., has helped two technologies often seen at loggerheads to coexist.

His gas and electric utility, servicing 22 districts, became a pioneering centrex user in 1972. But PBX systems are still in place. So, for that matter, aresome other centrex systems that have been installed for quite some time and are not quite as modernized as the new one being put on-line.

The last several years, consolidating has caused changes in customer call handling. Centrex will enable the utility to go efficiently from three regional call centers to one main center.

It will also help consoliate staffers within one building.

"We have 850 people in the building," he says, "of which 150 are customer service. We needed a reliable service for 370,000 square feet."

The utility uses PBX subsystems to create key systems, where needed. They are compatible with the Northern Telecom SL-1 switch--the heart of the system.

But most of the equipment are new Meridian sets that work directly with the SL-1.

"On the data side is a fiberoptic backbone," Forgey explains. "We have our own microwave system, but we haven't tied it in yet."

Employees like the way Ameritech's Integrated Information Network (IIN) has enhanced voice mail.

"It made our voice mail more compatible, provided features we needed such as message waiting lights and easier call transfer in and out of voice mail," he says.

Telco Rents Space

Northern Indiana Power Service built a special room: half for Indiana Bell Telephone, which in effect rents the space where the remote centrex service is located; and half for Indiana Bell Communications, which handles the responsibility for testing and checking up on the system.

"We take about 10,000 customer calls a day," sayd Forgey.

"Calls are distributed on an enhanced ACD system.

"We need all equipment in one place, so Indiana Bell Communications can check everything here.

"Having the switch right in our building--indeed, having the centrex service right here in our building--appealed to us. That really sold us."

New options of the Integrated Intelligence Network have tickled the fancy of many an employee of Northern Indiana Power Service Co.

Forgey likes the insurance this system gives him in deversity routing.

"We can control all customers across the northern third of Indiana by switching them in to this center if we have to at night," he says.

New consoles have been installed at Merrillville.

For these IBM PCs, staffers in three other, existing centrex systems that are operating in Hammond, Gary, and Aetna.

Ameritech sends regular software upgrades--one of the conveniences of being a centrex customer.

"We just did an upload," Forgey says. "We went from Release 27 to 29.

"If you have a PBX, you always have to pay for upgrades; a centrex user gets them as part of the package.

"As Ameritech improves the system, those improvements are passed automatically."

The telephone sets now boast the full complement of labor-saving capability, including expanded, conferencing, call park, call transfer, upgraded forwarding, and automatic dialing.

"We have a large conference bridge that enables us to conference up to six people," Forgey says. "Before, we could only do three."

Savings Comparison

The line rate on the new centrex is less than what Indiana Bell Telephone offered on the old one.

"We compared this centrex with the standard centrex that would have worked out of Merrillville," Forgey says. "We also compared it to using a PBX. It turned out the least expensive option was the new IIN. We took great care during the learning curve. We used a 'communications counselor' program. When we designed the system, we took people out of their departments and made them counselors. We gave them two days training to start out; we told them how the system worked.

"Then we brought them back. We did anothe session for a day, in which we helped them design their own internal system to suit their specific department needs.

"They function now as standard counselors. When we add new features, we get back to them to see how we can use those features to benefit their departments."
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes related article on the National Centrex Users Group; Northern Indiana Power Service Co
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Previous Article:Why users love centrex.
Next Article:F-T1: buy only what you need.

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