For years, Greenhill School (preK-12, enr. 1,200)—a coeducational private school located in Addison, Texas—had used a traditional voice-mail system, in which the school had a main number and each faculty member had his or her own extension. This system ably served the school’s administrative staff, whose phones and voice mail easily were accessible in their offices. However, because the teachers had no phones in their classrooms, they did not benefit from the convenience of voice mail.

Three years ago, Greenhill began a school-wide technology effort intended to enhance the quality of time spent in the classroom. PCs were installed in every classroom and administrative office. Each PC was networked in a Windows NT environment, and with the school’s own T1 connection to the internet, teachers and administrators alike benefited from—and learned to rely on—the convenience of communicating through Microsoft’s Outlook eMail system.

“The new network was significantly improving communications in the entire school—especially giving the teachers a way to receive and send messages at any time of day from their classrooms via their PCs,” said Michael Kesner, the school’s director of computing resources. “But the system was still inadequate.”

Teachers still had to go to a phone in a central location and wait in line with other teachers to check their voice mail, he explained. “Some teachers would check their phone messages every chance they had, especially if they were expecting an important call—possibly adding an element of stress and distraction to their day. Other teachers preferred checking messages at the start and close of each day, possibly keeping them from receiving important messages from parents or others during the day.”

Consequently, the school decided to look into the possibility of not only upgrading its phone system, but also tying the system into its computer network and eMail system through a “unified messaging” product.

Kesner and his team did their homework and thoroughly screened several unified messaging vendors and their products. “As we conducted our research, our first objective was to find a solution that would leverage the Microsoft Outlook interface already widely accepted and used by the faculty,” said Kesner.

After evaluating all their options, Greenhill officials settled on CallXpress unified messaging from AVST Corp. “AVST has been perfecting CallXpress’s relationship with Microsoft Outlook for some time. The products work well together, and we feel it is an advantage that we are able to benefit from the upgrades and advances of both programs simultaneously,” Kesner said.

While the process of selecting their unified messaging solution was lengthy and time-consuming, the actual installation of CallXpress literally occurred overnight—with virtually no prior user training and no complications.

“CallXpress was installed during one of the first weeks of December, while school was still in session,” said Kesner. “There wasn’t any time for training sessions due to the busy time of year, and we didn’t want to ask the teachers to stay another night after school for training.

Consequently, teachers and faculty left the school on a Friday having used one system and returned on Monday to a new system and a new phone number all their own. Even without training, because people were used to Exchange already and comfortable with eMail, there was very little learning curve. It was an extremely successful, smooth transition.”

In the months since CallXpress was implemented, Greenhill has found that the unified messaging system has benefited its entire organization, from administrators, to teachers, to parents and students. “With the ability to access voice, fax, and eMail messages from their PCs, our faculty has saved an incredible amount of time,” Kesner said.

According to Kesner, members of the administrative staff, who typically receive more messages than teachers, are now able to manage their messages with much more ease and efficiency. CallXpress enables voice and fax messages to be filed and organized exactly like eMail messages. This allows Greenhill’s faculty and staff to organize and save all their messages easily so they can be accessed later.

Teachers, who don’t have a phone in the classroom and never receive their phone calls directly, also benefit from CallXpress. “Teachers can now receive all their messages at their convenience through the PCs in the classrooms,” said Kesner. “As a result, they are able to receive important messages, such as a call from a parent regarding a sick child, in a more timely manner and also have more time and energy to focus on the kids.”

CallXpress also has increased the convenience of sending and receiving faxes significantly for the Greenhill staff. “Before CallXpress, we only had one fax machine on campus,” said Kesner. “A person expecting an important or private fax had to go stand by the machine and wait for it to come. Otherwise, the fax would appear in the person’s mailbox in a couple days—or maybe a week—if someone else had accidentally picked up extra pages with their fax. Now, our staff is realizing the convenience of being able to send and receive faxes electronically at their PCs.”

With CallXpress, Greenhill’s teachers and administrators can receive and manage their messages conveniently and remotely from wherever they are, either by dialing in to the school network via telephone or by accessing Outlook via the web.

“Our staff no longer has to go in to the school after hours to retrieve information they might need from a message in their inbox,” said Kesner. “They can access that information from their own homes. Additionally, when administrators travel off-site, or when teachers go to conferences, they don’t have to make two phone calls to get their messages—one to get eMail via the PC and another to check voice mail via the phone—since the information is all in one place.”

By taking advantage of Automated Agent, the interactive voice response (IVR) component of CallXpress, Greenhill students and parents now have access to school information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via fax or phone. “By dialing the school’s main number and following the prompts, parents and students have access to school event schedules [and] a directory of our entire staff,” said Terry Jones, who works in Greenhill’s business office and administers the phone system. “Callers can also request admissions packets without ever talking to an operator. If they wish to speak to someone in person, that option is also included in the menu.”

According to Kesner, while it’s hard to pinpoint Greenhill’s return on its investment in a unified messaging system, the return is no doubt there. “In addition to making our staff more productive, CallXpress is an investment in our product—which is the quality of the classroom time teachers spend with their students,” he said.

Links:

Greenhill School
http://www.greenhill.org

AVST Corp.
http://www.avst.com