Hosted PBX Service Helps Increase Profitability for Online Learning Provider
My Learning Plan is an innovative company that offers fast and easy planning, tracking and evaluation for professional educators in one comprehensive online system. Founded in 1999, the company got a substantial boost from federal initiatives such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These initiatives include provisions requiring educators to complete ongoing learning and development courses. States and school districts often add their own requirements, making it difficult to stay on top of them all. My Learning Plan helps educators track and successfully complete these multiple sets of professional learning requirements.
Work-at-Home Model Keeps Overhead Costs Down
From the time the company was founded, its employees have worked from home. Part of the reason has to do with a company culture that put a high value on personal flexibility. But there is also a pragmatic reason: My Learning Plan primarily sells to school districts with limited budgets, so it needs to keep overhead costs down. Not having to lease and maintain office space helps the company do that.
“Our headquarters is in Long Island, New York, but we mainly use it to receive mail,” explains Tom Murphy, CEO of My Learning Plan. “All of our employees work from home. It’s become an integral part of the way we do things. We’d probably have an uprising on our hands if we told our people they have to start coming into the office!”
Premises-Based VoIP Proved Too Expensive to Maintain
My Learning Plan also keeps overhead costs down by using business VoIP technology. The company originally had a small, premises-based PBX. This VoIP solution work-at-home model, but was difficult and expensive to maintain. The company then swapped out the first PBX for a second one from another provider—and encountered the exact same problem.
“Maintaining an on-site PBX was very timeconsuming for our data center manager. He spent 20 percent of his time and energy just dealing with the phone system. We couldn’t justify the time and expense anymore.” That’s when the company’s management decided to try a hosted PBX solution. They piloted 8x8 along with a local company’s VoIP phone service. 8x8 successfully supported My Learning Plan employees all over the U.S. The local company only delivered coverage in the New York metropolitan area.
“We were initially drawn to 8x8 because CNET rated them one of the top hosted VoIP providers,” recalls Murphy. “We chose 8x8 because we needed reliable nationwide coverage, and 8x8 was the only business VoIP provider who offered that.”
“8x8 hosted VoIP helps us run our business efficiently, allowing us to support millions of users, with under 30 employees.”Tom Murphy, CEO of My Learning Plan
Self-Service Setup and System Administration Save Time and Costs
In 2006, My Learning Plan deployed 8x8 in the same low-key way that characterizes its company culture.
“Basically we held a company meeting and handed out the phones,” says Murphy. “We’d had VoIP systems before, so our employees were comfortable setting them up themselves. It was definitely a lot easier than with our two previous PBXs!” Murphy also took over the role of system administrator for the 8x8 Virtual Office system. “The web management console is fantastic!” he says. “I can add and delete employees from the system as needed using any browser. Our premises-based PBXs used proprietary software, which made it hard to implement changes remotely.”
Managing Calls Without a Receptionist is Easy
My Learning Plan uses an auto attendant with customized prompts to provide a company directory and enable callers to route themselves to different departments. “Auto attendant is great because it answers calls professionally without our having to hire a receptionist,” says Murphy. “We can also customize the prompts any way we want by using our handsets to record new ones.”
To ensure calls are answered quickly, the company organizes its departments into ring groups. All phones in the group ring simultaneously when a call comes in. “Simultaneous ring helps us maintain service levels,” explains Murphy. “Our managers can hear how many times the phone rings before a call is answered. If it’s not answered promptly on the first few rings, we know we have a service-level issue and can address it proactively. We don’t want to wait for customers to tell us there’s a problem.”
8x8’s call forwarding feature also helps ensure continuous call coverage. When employees are traveling or away from their home offices, they forward their 8x8 extensions to their cell phones.
8x8 Helps Companies Look Big
“We’re actually a small company, but customers think we’re much larger than we are,” says Murphy. “With 8x8 call forwarding, we can see the customer’s caller ID and answer the phone just as if we’re at our desks. It makes customers think we’re always in the office, even though we might be at an airport in another state.”
Working from a Boat—8x8 Style
8x8’s mobile app makes working remotely seamless for the company’s executives. During the summer months, the president spends much of her time working from her boat. She uses 8x8’s mobile app to have a fully functional “virtual office” while on the water. The vice president of sales uses the mobile app whenever he travels abroad to significantly reduce the cost of his international calls.
Conference Bridges Facilitate Phone Meetings
Because My Learning Plan’s employees are scattered across the U.S., the company frequently uses conference bridges for impromptu internal meetings. When employees in various locations need to meet with customers and partners, they use conference bridges as well.
“We use conference bridges all the time—I was on two just this morning!” laughs Murphy. “They let us hold meetings without having to travel or come into an office. We save a lot of time and money that way.”
Email Notification Expedites Voice Message Delivery
Another 8x8 feature that saves time and money is email notification of voice messages. “Email notification gives us one place to check all our messages and makes us aware of voice messages sooner. It’s especially useful when we’re traveling, because we don’t have to dial in and check our voicemail separately,” says Murphy. “Plus, it doesn’t just tell us about new voice messages—it lets us listen to them by clicking on the email attachment. It’s perfect!”
Outstanding 8x8 Support Simplifies Employee Onboarding
My Learning Plan has emerged the industry leader in the professional learning industry and now has 1.4 million users worldwide, although most customers are concentrated along the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. Over the past year, the company hired 14 new employees and expects to add 10 more this year. With previous VoIP providers, the onboarding process for new hires took hours. Today, thanks to 8x8, it takes just a few minutes.
“Our 8x8 account manager is wonderful and makes onboarding very easy for us, which is a big deal,” says Murphy. “I’m busy working with customers during the day—and sometimes late at night—and don’t have a lot of time to spare. With 8x8, all I have to do is send our account manager an email with the new employee’s phone setup information, and within minutes I get an email confirmation back. It’s much faster and easier than doing it by phone.”
Leveraging 8x8 Technology to Stay Competitive
Yet despite My Learning Plan’s growth and industry leadership, Murphy plans to keep employee headcount low.
“Our primary customers are school districts that are value-conscious,” he says. “We have to keep prices low to remain competitive in our industry, so we leverage technology heavily. 8x8 hosted VoIP helps us run our business efficiently, allowing us to support millions of users, with under 30 employees. By staying lean, we can meet our customers’ needs for low-cost solutions and enhance our own profitability.