Case Study | Powell’s Books



From humble storefront beginnings in 1971 on a derelict corner of northwest Portland, Oregon, Powell’s Books has grown into one of the world’s great bookstores. With over a million volumes on the shelves and several locations in the Portland metro region, Powell’s is beloved by millions of readers worldwide. On any given day about 3,000 people walk in and buy a book; another 3,000 just browse. Between the physical stores and their pioneering website,, access to great books is never out of reach.

The Situation and The Challenge

Hundreds of customers call and email Powell’s Books and every day. Management decided to replace their current Mitel solution and more specifically their call center product PrairieFyre, because the product was not releasing the features that they wanted to implement, specifically blended agents and reporting on those agents. In addition, they wanted the ability to incorporate chat into their new website.

With over 250 phones across the retail and corporate locations and over 500 employees, the actual installation had to be planned out to the last detail, including preinstall training, the physical rollout of the phones, and user acceptance.

The Solution

  • Use VoIP technology to leverage existing business software and improve efficiency
  • Implement intuitive options for customers, including IVR and web-based chat
  • Create focused and flexible reporting for the corporate contact center team – reporting on the metrics that matter to them
  • Ensure full training and high acceptance of advanced tools

Matrix Networks proposed a ShoreTel solution with Enterprise Contact Center to replace the Mitel. To ensure flexibility and redundancy, we deployed ShoreGear switches at each location. Like most retail environments, Powell’s is heavily reliant on their phones. ShoreTel’s distributed architecture ensures that if one site loses phones, the other switches can compensate and provide phone service within minutes.

The ECC product allows Powell’s to implement not only chat, but e-mail queuing as well. This will enable agents to log into several queues with a single sign-on and have their reporting for all activities complied into one agent report.

ShoreTel ECC reporting, with its vast categories, allows for a one-and-done approach to creating reports. Creating the reports that Powell’s management needed was simple, and with the scheduling feature, we set up for them, they get the reports they need, when they need them. As part of this technology expansion Powell’s also deployed a virtual SA-100 so they are able to give all employees access to internal chat on a secure platform rather than using disparate messaging applications.

One of the more complex aspects of managing the Mitel system was coordinating the controller upgrades. These had to be done in tandem, requiring techs at each location who had to time their movements in concert with the other techs. The ShoreTel system allows for remote upgrades of all ShoreGear switches at the same time. One tech, working remotely, can upgrade all of the Powell’s equipment in a single evening. Just one more way that technology has become smarter and simpler.