UC and a Side of Fries

Article Featured Image

For the rest of the December 2009 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

Tell me about Henny Penny.

We’re a food-service-equipment manufacturer, [primarily] pressure-frying and open-frying products. We provide equipment mostly to large restaurant chains. We’re in most of the large and extremely popular fast-food restaurants, and in quite a few supermarkets. We also do a fair amount of institutional sales to colleges, universities, and government organizations. 

Describe Henny Penny’s relationship with Cisco Systems and unified communications (UC) products.

We’ve been a Cisco shop for about 10 years, [beginning] when we went through a network-infrastructure upgrade. About two and a half years ago, when we refreshed all of the hardware, we thought of our phone systems and realized we’d need to do that upgrade again soon. 

We did look at other vendors—briefly at Nortel [Networks] and Avaya. We were an Avaya shop and we’d had good luck as far as reliability goes. So we had a pretty decent contingent of people who said, “Why change? [Avaya] hasn’t done anything wrong for us in the past 10 to 15 years.” We went with Cisco for several reasons: Believe it or not, the cost; the feature set; and being able to have a completeness of features from a single vendor—one neck to choke if something breaks.   

Tell me about the implementation process and the immediate benefits you’ve seen.

About a year and a half ago we implemented a very large portion of Cisco’s UC product. We rolled out Unified Communications Manager, Unified Contact Center Express (UCCE), Unified Presence Server, and MeetingPlace Express. From a business-need perspective, we had to go through a pretty substantial justification process to sell unified communications to the rest of the business.  

Where we’ve noticed the biggest change is in our call center. Using UCCE, we’ve been able to drive average hold times down to less than one minute. We’re able to do so much more phone work now than we ever were before. The ability to tie into our phone system all of the data we have sitting in different warehouses—and to be able to present that to our technical and customer service agents who are supporting our end customer—has been a big deal for us. We integrate all of our voice, call center activity, data on the back end, video conferencing, Web conferencing, and audio conferencing. 

How has this changed the way you interact with customers?

To illustrate, there’s this large fast-food chain that we hadn’t dealt with for a very long time, but we wanted to get back in with. They gave us a chance to develop a new product. Before we had UC, development and interaction was good, but expensive—flights to Chicago and travel expenses. At some point it would require shipping equipment. The customer was asking, “Is there any way to do this better?” There really wasn’t at the time. But I said, “Give me a few months and we’ll have a solution where you’ll be able to do anything without having to leave the office.” 

We started to use MeetingPlace Express for conferencing and to have collaboration sessions. Instead of having people go out to Chicago, we’d have meetings, any time day or night. People could be at the offices or at their homes. They could go as far as getting a secondary camera and focusing in on pieces of hardware we were developing to show how the product functioned. This really helped solidify the relationship and, at the end of the day, it’s all about making it easier to do business with us. We were spending less money, they were spending less money, and the work was getting done quickly. This resulted in a new relationship with this customer that couldn’t have hit at a better time. It’s been a boon to us. 

We are relatively unaffected by the economy right now. Our sales have stayed pretty much even, almost entirely due to the new business from this customer. We developed a product before anyone else could and we felt it was because we could interact with our customer in such a way that fostered great collaboration and quick, fast communication.


  • How old is the implementation? About a year and a half. 
  • Who was involved in the decision process? Myself and basically all of senior management. 
  • Biggest surprise with the implementation? We predicted some immediate benefits out of Web conferencing, but not as many as we got. We’re already looking to purchase more licenses so we can support the demand. We’ve upgraded the connection to phone service to support more [incoming] and outgoing calls. 
  • Biggest benefit: We saved about $100,000 in meeting costs to China last year. Now, instead of 30 or 40 people flying halfway around the world, we can have meetings online. 
  • Anything you’d have done differently? Getting users to adopt new technology is [a process] that I didn’t have enough respect for going in. We combatted it mostly through training and hand-holding. It would’ve been helpful to have had more of an internal PR campaign and a lot more pretraining. 

You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top.
To contact the editors, please email 
Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit 

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues