Vendor Profile: Axon Communications

In March 2003, Telescan, LLC acquired most of Axon Communications’ business, including the Axon 8000 product line. What prompted Telescan to make this move? To fully answer that question requires a look into Axon’s past. While there were valid business reasons for the company’s decision, the heritage that Axon created over its 20 years in business was also an important factor.

The Beginning: Axon Communications entered the telephone answering industry somewhat by chance. The company started in Irvine, Calif., when Frank D’Ascenzo and Gary Beeson, two veterans of the television broadcast industry, decided to join forces. Axon started with the merger of two small businesses, one engaged in software development, and the other involved in pioneering video teleconferencing technology.

The year was 1983, and it was apparent that although video teleconferencing was a great idea, its time had not yet arrived. This was because the available technology dictated that only the largest of corporations could afford video conferencing, and the concept of meeting virtually, on camera, was still difficult to sell. Looking for ways to generate some needed revenue, Axon entered into a cooperative engineering venture with a private mobile communications company that needed an automated interconnect terminal. This development work introduced Axon to telephone technology and interface requirements, and to the general telephone industry.

The Axon 4: In early 1984, during discussions with a Pacific Bell representative, mention was made of the telephone answering service industry. Over a period of nearly 45 days D’Ascenzo conducted a survey of telephone answering services in the greater Los Angeles area. The result of that survey was a product definition, and then in December of that year, the company installed the new product, the Axon/4, for the first time at a telephone answering service in Connecticut.

The Axon/4, although simple in concept, turned out to be the right product for the telephone answering industry at the right time. It was a small, relatively inexpensive, four-port, three-position, DID answering system.  Between 1985 and 1989 more than 600 answering services purchased more than 1,400 Axon/4 answering positions. Axon/4 systems were purchased by large, medium, and small cord-board-oriented telephone answering services in the United Stated and Canada. For these businesses the Axon/4 was a first step into what was then the newly emerging concept of DID, call-forward answering.

A simple to use system, the Axon/4 represented an easy migration for the cord-board operators of the day. This system was specifically designed to closely emulate cord-board operation, but to do it in a more modern way. The Axon/4 introduced several technical innovations including small size and true one-button call answering. The original concept for the Axon/4 was to replace a cord board position with a DID system that emulated, yet simplified, cord board answering procedures. The Axon/4, and its eventual video counterpart, the Axon/4V, packed a lot of features and performance into a small, one-piece package that was very inexpensive when compared to other alternatives.

The Axon 8000: In 1988 Axon introduced the Axon 8000 system platform. Like the Axon/4, the Axon 8000 was designed not for the largest telephone answering services, but rather for those emerging businesses that needed a feature-rich, reliable, yet reasonably priced system for their growing business. The development path for the Axon 8000 series went from paper to paperless, through integration with other vendors’ products – the Teledata FMDS, the Keyvoice voice mail systems, the Exacom voice logger, and the DB Masters billing software, to mention a few. Today, close to 200 services depend upon their Axon 8000 systems to help generate their monthly revenues.

Acquired by Telescan: Reliable equipment, plus a real dedication to customer service, helped Axon Communications build and maintain a loyal following of users over the years. Roger Young and Bobby Riggs, Telescan’s new owners, recognized these Axon qualities and saw how they mirrored those of the company they had recently acquired. Here was not only a good product fit, but also an almost perfect fit of business philosophy.

But merging two businesses is always a challenge, even if they seem a good business fit. First there is the challenge of integrating the different staffs, each with their own history of hierarchy and procedures, and then the challenge of integrating the different product lines. To help make this merger successful, Telescan has retained the services of several key Axon personnel. They are providing continuing technical service to Axon’s user base, and advice to Telescan personnel as they take over the production, repair, and upgrading of the Axon product line. The Telescan-Axon business combination not only represents a stronger industry presence, but also promises to benefit both Telescan and Axon customers.

[From Connection MagazineJul/Aug 2003]