Sport&Health Gets Connected

By William Atkinson

Sport&Health Gets Connected

By William Atkinson

Last year, Sport&Health, the Washington D.C. area's largest network of full-service health clubs and day spas, agreed to extend its five-year relationship with iCore Networks for another five years.

When Sport&Health first began working with iCore, it consolidated its WAN, equipment and phone services with a single local provider. This allowed the McLean, Va., company to more effectively manage these services at a lower cost. With the new contract, the iCore solution will link Sport&Health's corporate headquarters, 25 locations and 575 phone stations and provide them with four-digit dialing, allowing its employees easy access to each other, regardless of their location.

iCore's cloud-based Voice over Private Internet technology, backed by Cisco Systems, provides advanced call features and network reliability, allowing Sport&Health to better manage telecommunication and data issues, while reducing capital expenses and telecom costs.

"From the human aspect, the reason we decided to extend our contract with iCore is that, as a company, we don't spend a lot of time thinking about our WAN, our infrastructure or our switch and router configuration," explains Glenn Rappaport, vice president of IT. "We don't think about upgrades either. iCore thinks about those things. This allows us to focus on what is important to us--how we answer our phones, the messages that we play on hold, and our interaction with the customer. In other words, we don't think about our phones. We think about our business."

For the six months prior to renewing the iCore contract, Rappaport evaluated other options. However, the company decided it didn’t want to convert its 575 phone stations. "As a result, we re-signed," Rappaport says.

Sport&Health has also acquired several more clubs, which have not yet been converted to iCore technology. "Now that we have re-signed with iCore, we will convert those clubs to the iCore network," says Rappaport. "We also have more new clubs coming on board."

What Rappaport likes about the iCore technology is its simplicity. "The reason we use a managed service is so that we don't have to use internal resources to handle the technical side of the rollouts," he explains. "We install the phones, and we make sure they operate." From that point on, everything else is handled remotely by iCore. "We provide a switch and a router, and give it to iCore," Rappaport continues. "They put our image on it. My guys take the handsets, put them in the proper locations, and that is the extent of rollout. It makes it very simple for us."

The employees’ side of the rollout is easy, too. "It is fairly transparent," explains Rappaport. "In fact, I'm not even sure that the employees are that interested in the phone system. However, if someone asked me about it, it would be very easy for me to say that my internal resources are not affected at all by issues with phones or my network, because iCore manages both of those. I don't manage any switch or router configurations."

Sport&Health Gets Connected

The phone training is relatively straightforward. "We provide training on how to handle a transfer, how to park a call, how to put someone on hold, and so on," he says. "To make it simple, we have 'cheat sheets' that we hand out to people." In addition, since Sport&Health has employees who have carried over from other clubs, they already know how to use the iCore system and can train coworkers who are new to it.

One unexpected benefit of the technology is that it gives Sport&Health some workplace flexibility with its employees. "We have had some employees tell us that they would take a pay cut if they could work from home, because it reduces their commute cost and time," says Rappaport. As a result, Sport&Health now has six people in the customer service department who are working from home in exchange for taking a pay cut. "They end up making more money 'net' since their commuting costs have been eliminated," he explains. "In sum, we have happier employees, we pay them less money, and we get the same service."

This article was originally published on 02-07-2013