Internet Telephony: Carl’s Jr Streamlines Process Management with a Flexible Unified Communications Solution

Headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, CKE is the parent company of Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., Red Burrito, and Green Burrito restaurants, operating more than 3,600 franchises in the U.S. and abroad. CKE was looking for a cost-effective way to replace end-of-life phones for Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. while consolidating communications across its administrative offices in Franklin.

When CKE Restaurant Holdings, Inc., started planning a telecom update, it was clear the company needed a communications overhaul that would allow staff to take advantage of a cloud-driven, multi-device environment.

“Upgrading with our existing provider involved large upfront costs, but didn’t offer the long-term flexibility we needed to meet our expanding communication goals,” says Stephen Mitchell, Telecommunications Manager at Carl’s Jr.

CKE had a number of end-of-life phones from a leading vendor, which were no longer supported by the company’s Cisco (News – Alert) Unified Communications Manager (CUCM). Keeping the call manager server up-to-date was a top priority because, without essential upgrades, the server would be vulnerable to security threats. However, moving forward with a server upgrade would make the equipment obsolete, and replacing all the phones was the only option for CKE at the time. CKE also desired the versatility to deploy new features, such as call center capabilities and unified messaging, without complicating their existing telecom infrastructure.

Streamlining Restaurant Service from the Top Down

Customers who come to Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants expect premium food and quick service without complications. Every time customers leave unsatisfied, there’s a chance they won’t come back. That’s why slow or disjointed communications are more than a small hiccup for a large restaurant enterprise.

Franchisees need reliable administrative support for a successful launch. Quality assurance specialists have to keep managers up to date on health and safety best practices. Busy executives need conferencing tools that work consistently and provide quality audio or video. Analysts need accurate, real-time data to monitor how restaurants are performing. Call centers have to be fast and effective at responding to consumer issues. If information doesn’t get to the right people at the right time, back-end problems eventually trickle down to customers. As a result having a platform that fosters the flow of communication across the organization, with franchisees, and customers is very important to CKE.

Challenges of Updating the Communications Infrastructure

Staying with the current provider presented several challenges for CKE Restaurant Holdings. The typical starting cost to upgrade the call manager server was approximately $16,000. Each replacement phone cost an additional $200 with a shelf life of roughly five years. Using this service model, CKE could expect a limited return on investment before being forced to make expensive upgrades all over again with its current provider.

Simplifying the back-end workflow was equally important to CKE. With little or no new features offered with server upgrades made it difficult for the company to add more functionality in a cost-effective manner. To deploy new features, CKE was required to purchase additional servers.

Evergreen Solutions

By choosing an adaptable UC solution, CKE Restaurant Holdings gained a competitive advantage in the quick-service restaurant industry. Starting in 2013, CKE oversaw a gradual, seamless migration to the Deltapath UC platform among Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s offices. The company expanded with Polycom (News – Alert)/Poly phones and connected Polycom/Poly video conferencing devices to the same platform, unifying the new equipment with existing UC architecture. Numerous interactions also take place on the Deltapath built-in Dolby Voice Audio Conference bridge, hosting over 5,000 hours of conference calls a year. Not only was there huge savings on conference bills, the noise filtering technology helped to improve the conference experience significantly without having people to constantly mute and unmute themselves.

Beyond the basic enterprise telecom functions, the company is leveraging the Deltapath system to serve its hotlines.

“We have multiple hotlines serving employees, franchisees, as well as customers. Our administrative teams needed the freedom to grow beyond the boundaries of a phone system and integrate other technologies that boost productivity,” says Mitchell.

Because Deltapath uses an open API, the platform integrates well with other data aggregation tools. This gives CKE wiggle room for integrating with its business applications so call center agents have more awareness and insight about who’s calling, what to prioritize, and when to follow up. Using the Cinch Contact Center module, CKE has improved response time to all stakeholders by over 50%.

Internet Telephony: Why Background Noise Reduces Unified Communications and Customer Experience ROI

In today’s age of flexible work arrangements and mobile workforces, the ability to connect employees with colleagues, customers, and partners wherever they are physically located is more important than ever. It’s one of the reasons unified communications services continue see increased adoption.

Of course, you are all aware of the crazy time we’re in right now, with an unprecedented number of people working from home. It’s caused an immediate increase in the use of unified communications and collaboration tools and services so employees are able to remain productive.

But beyond the current health crisis, that will hopefully subside soon, the challenges businesses are facing and the ways unified communications and collaboration tools are helping overcome them highlight an important fact – working in non-traditional settings can mean having to deal with unconventional problems, like noise.

Even working from home, this can be an issue, and it can be disruptive to conversations. Just last week, I was on a conference call and had such an experience. One of the parties on our call had windows open, so when a town truck pulled up and began some street work. Because the window was open, we could hear the noise clearly, which made parts of the conversation difficult to hear. The obvious solution was to close the window, of course, which helped, though we could still hear the machinery at times. It was a bit distracting, to say the least.

Much of the UC conversation tends to focus on features and functionality to enable high levels of productivity and mobility. Call quality is part of the conversation, but other than reliable connectivity, HD-codecs, and such, it doesn’t account for background noise.

The truth is that, at some point, you’ve all probably been on a call with someone who is outdoors, at the airport, on a busy warehouse floor, convention center, or other noisy environment. It’s hard to have a productive conversation when you have to constantly ask them to repeat what they’ve said.

If you’re running a customer service team, think about how that can impact customer experience when your agents – or voice-driven AI tools – can’t clearly hear your customers. It’s a recipe for disaster, regardless of which side of a call the noise is coming from.

I recently had a great discussion about the problem of background noise and the impact it can have on business conversations. Whether it’s human conversations or AI interactions, conversation clarity is an important factor. Just think about the difference between a standard voice call and an HD quality call. The difference is not only noticeable – it’s remarkable.

During the discussion, I heard something that was even more remarkable, though. David Liu, CEO of Deltapath, which has developed a noise cancellation gateway for VoIP and UC implementations, had two of his team members place two separate phone calls. One was a standard call with the caller standing outside near a construction site, and the other was from the same location with the call running through the noise cancellation gateway. The difference was amazing – see for yourself.

In fairness, in this instance, the calls were pre-recorded due to the current coronavirus situation. But, when I first saw this demo conducted live several months ago, the experience was exactly the same. Suddenly, the background noise that can make it hard – even impossible – to hear a conversation, was gone completely. When you add this to the mobility and collaboration features of today’s UC solutions, suddenly you’re ensuring both your internal users and customers can fully enjoy the benefits and can have productive conversations that result in real, positive outcomes.

I encourage you to check out the on-demand webinar to hear more about how audio quality impacts business communications – and especially the growing trend of remote and mobile workforces. If you’re investing in the technology to enable employees to be productive, or your customer service teams to deliver great experiences, it doesn’t make sense to let controllable outside factors minimize the value of those investments.

Internet Telephony: Taking the Noise out of Your Voice Engagements to Deliver Consistent Voice Experience

In today’s age of flexible work arrangements and mobile workforces, the ability to connect employees with colleagues, customers, and partners wherever they are physically located is more important than ever. It’s one of the reasons unified communications services continue see increased adoption.

But, often, that is not in a quiet office setting, but in a public setting or job site where background noise can be a significant distraction. If you’ve ever been on a call with someone who is outdoors or on a busy warehouse floor, you know well how difficult it can be to clearly hear them.

Much of the UC conversation focuses on the ability to offer users choice of channels and other productivity features – those features that can eliminate a big portion of redundant communications and wasted time each day. Call quality is also a big part of the conversation. Businesses need to know their communications services are not only reliable, but the voice quality is superior.

What is often missing, though, is how to handle all the background noise during conversations that take place in non-traditional settings, short of using the mute feature. But, that doesn’t work when employees who are actively engaged in conversation are in those noisy settings.

The problem of background noise extends beyond the two-way conversation, though. With so much of customer service being directed towards AI-driven automated communication, which relies on voice recognition, background noise can render AI largely useless, creating a very negative customer experience. If you’ve ever had a speech-enabled experience where the voice recognition engine doesn’t accurately understand what you’re saying, you’re well aware of the frustration it can cause.

I’m moderating a webinar Thursday, March 26, that discusses the issue of background noise, featuring technology that can eliminate most background noise to bring conversation quality in noisy settings on par with a quiet office.

In addition to speaking to the need for noise cancellation for calls, the event will include a live demo of DeltaPath’s technology, which is quite impressive. The difference in audio clarity in a noisy setting between with the technology activated is remarkable.

Whether you’re running a sales team, customer service organization, developing or using voice-driven AI solutions, or simply using UC to deliver a better communications experience for your employees and customers, it’s likely background noise is a factor in many of your voice engagements.

During the event, you’ll learn:

  • How to cope with background noise while keeping up with the demands of business communication and work that takes place outside the office;
  • How to ensure background noise does not impact the integrity of the data harnessed from voice calls or voice inputs;
  • How to enhance your IVR, empower your voice assistants, decrease the amount of time call center agents spend with callers while improving customer service; and
  • What trends in the UC industry are impacting customer experience.

The highlight, though, is the live demo. But, don’t take my word for it. Join us for the webinar, Don’t Allow Background Noise to Hijack Calls or Impact Your AI Engine to see for yourself the difference noise cancellation can make in creating a consistent voice experience in any environment.