The Abbey Centre
The Abbey Centre in Northampton is a mainstay of the local community, providing a much-valued place to meet, socialise and enjoy life alongside the Abbey Road Baptist Church.
Centre Manager, Sarah Jett, joined the team in August 2019 to help make the Centre even more successful.
She explains: “The Centre is run by the Baptist Church, which has a very strong moral direction. We needed to focus on running the Centre as a business but also to stay true to our moral foundations. To continue supporting the community the Centre needs to be competitive, professional and attractive to the people who visit and use the facilities.
Sarah had just one word for the systems that the Centre’s team had been struggling to use; “antiquated”.
She joined the Centre’s team to help make changes that would fit with their overall purpose and meet the needs of the community. With a background in the hospitality sector, Sarah knew the importance of customer service and recognised that they needed modern technology to make progress.
Sarah continues: “Everything was being done on paper in a very ‘Old School’ way. We had only one main phone, one for the Minister, and one in the main foyer that wasn’t working anymore."
“Our diary system was basic Microsoft Calendar, which didn’t meet our needs. We also needed to update how calls were handled and directed. I sit in one office and our administrator is in another part of the building but we couldn’t transfer calls. We had a standalone answerphone and a portable telephone handset that didn't cover the whole building."
The telephone system was making things hard to manage for the Centre’s team. Internet provision was very slow and the team wasn’t happy with the provider. It was clear that their limited technology was really holding things back, but the team isn’t technical so the solutions needed to be easy to use.
The first requirement was to provide a high-quality internet connection that would support a new phone system and allow them to use the whole Office 365 suite.
This would allow the Minister, Sarah, and the administration office to have dedicated direct dial telephone numbers, easy-to-access voicemail and powerful, reliable office systems.
Because running the Centre is very ‘hands-on’, cordless phones that covered the whole site were also needed.
BTT first visited the Abbey Centre at the end of 2019 to assess their requirements and to make sure our recommendations would fully meet their needs.
The priority was to solve the Centre’s immediate communication problems. Once their high-quality internet connection was in place their phone and office systems could be upgraded with voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology and Office 365.
Sarah says: “It’s now so easy to use internally. With our improved internet we can work from the Cloud reliably. The Deacons can access what they need without even coming into the Centre.”
There was also a second phase of requirements to support the needs of the lovely chapel in the grounds.
Screens in the chapel would provide a much easier and more convenient way to display the order of service, songs and readings, for example. It’s an unusual application and their biggest concern was reliability.
The chapel is too far away to access the Centre’s Wi-Fi and it wasn’t practical to fly cables across the site. Our solution was a wireless link between the Centre and the chapel.
We were confident that this approach would meet all their presentation needs simply, effectively and reliably. We use the same solution at the BTT offices for our staff meetings; we have three screens and people can sit where they want and have a good view of all the information we need to share.
With a Cloud-based solution, all the chapel’s presentation material can be downloaded or streamed live, using any android or iOS device. Different things can be displayed on each screen, delivered from different devices. The system is simple to use; you just give each screen a name. To make sure their solution was seamless and could be used with confidence, we also sourced their tablet devices and screens.
We normally visit two to three months after an installation to make sure everything is working smoothly but the coronavirus lockdown in March 2020 changed everything. The Centre and chapel were closed and were only able to start welcoming people back in September.
Sarah is happy with the results, even though they have had to wait for several months to use their new technology solution. She says: “Brilliant. It just works. It's been great."
“It brings everything up to date; there are no time delays so we can access information when we need it, which saves us time overall."
“Day to day, everything is more professional and efficient, which will change how people view us and will build our reputation."
“We had a separate accounts system but now we can seamlessly run the whole booking process for the Centre from enquiry to payment."
“Coronavirus hit the restart button for many of the Centre’s users and some of our established groups are reviewing what they do. We can easily meet their changing requirements because our new building and bookings systems are streamlined and reliable."
“We couldn't use our new technology during lockdown but we could provide Zoom services. Previously everything in the chapel was paper based, including all our hymn and prayer books. To welcome people back to small-scale services again we would have had to make everything disposable."
“Now we can easily download things from a laptop, including music and lyrics. We can provide all the information on screen so people can take part at the chapel or remotely if they can’t attend."
“I now feel confident that the system will take us forward and help us to use the Centre to capacity and make the best use of resources.
The Church and Centre have always worked together to support each other. If the Centre doesn't support itself, the Church won’t be able to provide support for the community and grow.”
The BTT team always looks for the best solution for each client. Every business is different, and their solutions need to be tailored to their requirements.
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