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Northampton, MA 01060

Newsletter

4Mar. 2014

With Technology, Get More With Less

While car rental insurance can save you headaches if you have an accident when you travel, there is no insurance that can insulate you from the frustrations that come with changing technology.

Over the last few years, our agency has invested in several expensive and patience-testing technology upgrades in the pursuit of better service for our clients.

The first initiative was an upgrade to our phone system. Our old phone system had served us well for 20+ years. It had easy-to-use voice mail, remote access, and a nice conference calling feature. It rarely needed service. But times had changed and the internet had evolved. Our phone vendor convinced us it was time for an upgrade.

The new system allowed our receptionist to check the "status" of every person in the office from her computer screen. Calls could be transferred with a simple drag and drop of the mouse. I could now view and forward my office messages from my cell phone. The phone system was also integrated with our Outlook calendars and was programmed to tell a caller when I was expected back from an appointment. Could a phone system get any slicker than that?

We were sold on this new high tech gadgetry.

Our excitement was short-lived though. While the phone system delivered most of the promised features, it also caused a host of unforeseen problems.

The slick syncing with Outlook caused me to miss some important incoming calls because the system thought that I was in a meeting and mistakenly directed the calls to my voice mail. Problems with Outlook put the phone system on the fritz.

Re-programming the switchboard phone required a computer science degree and a "quick call" for help from the phone vendor incurred a minimum $90 charge. There were too many features to keep track of. Who had the time to learn them all?

Too many days, I still long for our old simple-to-use phone system!

Next came our new agency management system that keeps track of policy information, accounting, and customer correspondence. The salespeople were friendly, dynamic and very convincing that we were operating in the dark ages. We were all excited about the new fixes that would make life easier.

Again, our experience was similar and we found out the hard way that "life in the cloud" was nearly twice as slow as having a server in your back office. Our staff experienced a myriad of problems adjusting to the new software. Did I mention it was expensive too?

Our most recent change was to move our email server out of the office and into the cloud. How hard could that be? Most email servers are in the cloud so this time I was expecting a smooth transition process.

Clearly I am a slow learner in these matters.

As of today, I cannot easily share my calendar with my co-workers. I lost all my "pre-filled" email addresses. And once again, things don't seem to working quite right with my phone.

Alas not all is lost. Rest assured that we have grappled with these changes and that our agency is functioning well.

I share this story with you in the hopes of saving you some of the time, money and anguish that we’ve spent learning the hard way. Here’s what I’ve learned about upgrading technology:

• Upgrade only if you can see a clear benefit to it in time saved or increased productivity.

• Choose a vendor who is responsive.

• Keep it simple: buy only those features you think you will use.

• Ask questions about possible tradeoffs, back-up systems, and running time.

• If possible, talk to others who have installed the system you are considering to ask about the glitches that they have encountered.

Have you ever had a disappointing technology upgrade experience? Reply to this email if you’d like to commiserate or ask about the systems we have now.

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