Coca-Cola drops voicemail

No Jitter, one of my favorite telecom blogs, reported that Coca-Cola recently deleted 94% of their corporate voicemail accounts. What is missing from the article is the fact that Coca-Cola is on a Microsoft Lync system, where voicemails are stored on the Exchange Server (making it into a Microsoft case study.) I am certain that Coke’s IT team was thrilled that they didn’t have to deal with tens of thousands of voicemails every day getting stored on their servers.

That quibble doesn’t change the core issue that voicemail is potentially on the outs in the US. Vonage reports year over year declines in voicemails being left even as usage increases – not only do we all hate checking voicemail, we hate leaving voicemail too. Overseas, we do not see the same rate of voicemail implementation as we use here in North America. For example, Chinese cell phones rarely have voicemail included and users prefer texting in any event.

For customers, we can offer a variety of choices. For Mitel MiVoice Office 250 (former Mitel / Inter-Tel 5000) customers, the voicemail is baked right in, so whether you turn the voicemail on or off is just a matter of preference. Same goes for the Zultys MX systems – both it and the MiVoice Office have not just built in voicemail, but built-in Unified Messaging, where voicemail messages are sent to email accounts. Same goes for our cloud offerings, where voicemail is included.

For the Mitel MiVoice Business and our NEC systems, voicemail is entirely optional. Now, keep in mind that with the MiVoice Business, we would still want to add some voicemail capabilities in order to provide automated attendant functionality. In most phone systems (our NEC DSX and NEC SL1100 systems are exceptions) the automated attendant uses the voicemail to store and play messages to callers.

If you do forgo individual voicemail, I would suggest the following tips so that customers know you have not gone out of business.

  1. Forward calls after hours to an automated attendant greeting that states your hours of operation and directs callers to your website or an email address
  2. Use Google Voice and forward calls from your main number to back up cell phones after, say, 4 rings (24 seconds).
  3. Barring using the Mitel voicemail transcription service available for the NuPoint Messenger, consider using Google Voice’s excellent transcription service to copy voicemail to email as text via a company-wide, shared voicemail.
  4. Consider using ACD (Automatic Call Distribution) to play custom messages and hold music to callers instead of ringing when they call a main line. Then, after a preset amount of time, play a custom message directing callers to your website or email. This provides a far more professional image to callers, and can be accomplished pretty inexpensively with all of the systems we sell.

Going Cordless with a Mitel or Zultys Telephone System

Yealink W52P Cordless

Yealink-W52P-cordless

Affordable, easy-to-use cordless phone for Mitel and Zultys telephone systems.

Yealink W52P is both SIP and DECT, providing you with a great combination of acronyms. The base stations connect to your IP network and register phones as SIP devices. This allows us to use them with the Zultys MX-250, MX-SE, MX-30, MXvirtual and Zultys hosted systems, as well as the Mitel MiVoice Business (3300 / MCD) and Mitel MiVoice Office (5000 HX/ 5000 CP/ 5200). You could also just register them with a SIP carrier if you just need a very small office or home office solution.

The wireless communications are using the DECT range, which is better than standard 5.8GHz cordless phones. DECT offers superior range (as much as 300′), lower power consumption for longer battery life, encrypted communications, and uses spectrum not occupied by other devices for clearer conversations.

Funny aside: DECT in the USA is called ‘DECT 6.0’ for the sole reason that American consumers had seen a steady progression of cordless products of higher and higher range – from 900MHz to 1.8GHz, 2.4GHz, and later 5.8GHz. While DECT operates at 1.9GHz frequency, there was concern that it would appear inferior to other, higher spectrum cordless devices. (Hat tip to Wise Geek).

Each telephone can connect to 4 base stations, and each base station can support 5 telephones. This allows you to put base stations around your office to expand the range of the telephone across multiple base stations, so you can wander around your office on the phone, looking very busy and important.

yealink-W52-Color-Screen

Lovely screen to interact with

The handset has a color display and can do all your basic office phone functions like transfer, hold, conference and indicate if you have voicemails via the color display and interactive keys.

The unit takes a standard 3.5mm corded headset. This allows you to use those iPhone 3G ear buds you have lying around, connect to your wireless Yealink office phone, and get a wireless headset that can finally transfer calls and put calls on hold while you wander around. Because the Zultys system allows users to associate 4 phones with each user, you can assign a desk and cordless phone to VIPs and operators that have a need to get up and move throughout the day. Zultys eliminates the confusion of having multiple extension numbers for the same user by assigning multiple phones to users.

yealink-w52p-Conference-call

Conference calling is very easy on the Yealink cordless telephone

Mitel On a Roll

Mitel new 2014 corporate logo

Mitel new 2014 corporate logo

Mitel’s new logo reflecting a role as a communications software developer, versus a telephone system manufacturer

As both of my regular readers know, once upon a time I worked as a stock analyst. While I no longer pick individual stocks, I still read the financial news religiously. Our very own Mitel Networks (MITL) has been prominent in the news, and not just for being one of the best VoIP telephone system manufacturers available to businesses throughout greater Los Angeles. It appears that abandoned bids for competitors aside, (which we commented on as well), Mitel is also doing pretty well financially of late.

Seeking Alpha’s Jarrod W. Jacinth wrote in Feb of 2013 that he was buying Mitel. His argument was that the company was a bargain at a price-to-earnings ratio of 4.42 at the time, given even fairly modest annual growth of 15% coming out of a restructuring. He used the Graham Number and found that even that very conservative measure determined that Mitel was undervalued. So from a value perspective, this is a fantastic stock. To give non-finance people some perspective, a P/E of 10 means that, with the profits generated today, you could buy the stock at today’s price in 10 years (assuming you are looking at annual earnings). The average P/E of the S&P 500 stocks as of Jan. 1, 2013 was 17 – Mitel looks pretty cheap at first glance.

Jacinth hypothesized that Mitel’s low stock price came from their debt load. In 2013, Mitel owed $313M with operating cash flow just shy of $39M. If we look at coverage ratios of operating income-to-total-debt, we get 0.12 ($39/$313). In the industry, Avaya in 2014 earned $197M in operating income on $6,023 of debt, for a ratio of 0.03. Shoretel for the year ending June 2014 earned $36M in operating cash flows on $47M in debt in 2013, for a ratio of 0.76. To their credit, they paid down 30M in debt through a combination of stock sales and operating cash flows, though like Avaya, the company continues to lose money on a net income basis. Cisco earned $12.3B in operating income for the year ending 6/30/2014, on $35.8B in liabilities, for a ratio of 0.34.

More recently (last week), David Zanoni wrote that the turnaround at Mitel is under way. He notes that cloud services are growing by double digits, driving recurring revenue ever higher. A year after the Jacinth article, the debt picture is looking even better. For the most recent quarter ending 10/31/2013, operating income was $54.6M, up 40%, and debt is down to $288M, putting the coverage ratio now at 18%. Most importantly, Mitel has had some time to integrate the large purchase of Aastra further into its operations and can start to reap the benefits.

Mitel and Aastra have merged

Mitel and Aastra, combining like Voltron

As an investor, despite the recent run-up in Mitel’s stock price, I would think that Mitel’s stock has room to keep going up, assuming it can keep up the pace it has established. As the revenue mix shifts to recurring revenue from the cloud business, the company will throw off more cash which can be used to get the debt burden down further and continue investing in new technology. Mitel has a strong position and can continue to reap the benefits and scale of the Aastra merger, such as cheaper unit handset manufacturing costs and sales of Mitel software into Aastra customers. Of course, this is all just guessing – past performance is no guarantee of future results, and you should do your own homework before buying a stock.

For companies considering Mitel, the recent financial results should make you feel at ease. Mitel is on a roll, and every indication is that the company has a lot of momentum heading into the US economic recovery. Unlike competitors such as Shoretel and Avaya, it is able to maintain profitable growth while investing in the future and paying down debt, no easy trick. Unlike the Cisco behemoth, Mitel will return your call if you have under 200 seats.