The Gift of a Lifeline

By Tony Stramandinoli

The mission of Julie Valentine Center, in Greenville, South Carolina, is to raise awareness and help victims of child abuse and sexual assault. Its staff of seventeen includes educators, therapists, advocates, and coordinators, which is further extended by volunteers and community partners. To say that the Julie Valentine Center relies heavily on its communications systems is an understatement. In fact, you could say that the community of Greenville and its nearly 500,000 residents rely heavily on the communication system at the Julie Valentine Center.

The Challenge: Voices Matter: Email and texting don’t cut it for crisis hotline communication, and missed connections are lost opportunities – and often lost lives. With families in need of help, hotline callers, donors, referrals, and volunteers, the Julie Valentine Center was struggling to keep their lines of communication open. “The phone system we were using was antiquated,” said Shauna Galloway-Williams, Julie Valentine Center’s executive director. “It was hard to use. There were frequent problems, none of which we could resolve on our own, so we were constantly needing to call the phone service company to reset it.”

“We were struggling with the system we had, but we weren’t shopping for a new solution; we had no budget for that,” she added. “We were fortunate to come to know Sean Robertson, who is part of the Leadership Greenville Alumni Board of Directors. He understood our needs and knew how to help.” Robertson knows telecommunications systems; he is the chief technical officer at a distributor of telecommunications solutions.

Roberston’s relationship with the Julie Valentine Center began in 2010. “I became involved while acting as a mentor for one of last year’s Leadership Greenville service project groups. This group was remodeling the exterior and entranceway to Julie Valentine Center’s building, so I was onsite with them for their meetings a couple of times a month,” explained Robertson. “During that time, Joyce Smart, their development director, asked if I could take a look at their phone system because it was failing to route calls properly some of the time and was difficult to use.”

The Solution: Round the Clock Reliability – and Usability: Crisis lines have to be available 24/7. There’s no way around that. Robertson’s company, CTD (Computer Telephony Distributing) took up the cause. They approached LG-Ericsson, USA, who agreed to provide the telecommunications system. And their Greenville reseller, Atkins Data and Telephone Services, would help with installation and setup. All three companies worked together to make things happen for the center with an installation that included the central unit, digital phones for every desktop, and IP phones for remote use.

Moving to the new technology was easy. “The transition was our smoothest technology move ever,” said Galloway-Williams. “It took just a couple of days to set up – and, with no break in service. The new phone system was easy to get used to.”

There was not a lot to worry about in making the switchover. All of the information programmed up-front. Not only was the transition smooth, but also the new system is easier for the staff to use, which makes the center more accessible to those who need of help. “For example, we can easily set greetings and other outgoing messages – whether universally or individually – and we were easily able to ensure that our hotline rings in two locations: here and in another after-hours location with no gap,” concluded Galloway-Williams.

The fact that the system “has full-function digital and full-function IP phones meant that we could use their existing infrastructure and provide them with the remote phones and other IP functions that they needed to further enhance the services that the offer to their clients,” added Robertson.

The Results: Enhanced Communications: The new system solves the Julie Valentine Center’s telecommunications problems today by providing an easy-to-use, easy-to-manage, and reliable voice communication with all of the functionality of a traditional PBX. It manages calls within the walls of the Julie Valentine Center, out to clients, and to the 24-hour crisis line’s after-hours call center. Some of the new features include unified communications for voice and video conferencing, data collaboration, remote and roaming user support, and scalability. These serve to deliver a seamless communication experience for the Julie Valentine Center now and hold the potential to enhance their communications options in the future.

The results were that the Julie Valentine Center was able to enhance their telecommunications issues so that they can continue to provide an important service to the community. All of the enhanced functionality, usability, and reliability of their new phone system comes without any increase in ongoing cost-of-use, making this a winning solution for the Julie Valentine Center and the Greenville community.

[From the August/September 2012 issue of AnswerStat magazine]