Call Centre System

Delivered by Foehn

The Customer

Boston Borough Council is making significant cost savings as a result of switching to a modern IP (Internet Protocol) telephony system

Boston Borough Council Serving the borough of Boston in southeast Lincolnshire, Boston Borough Council provides local citizens with a broad range of public services. Reductions in funding have seen the Council’s total budget reduce to £8.5 million a year. Its workforce of 283 (218 full-time equivalent) meets the needs of residents in the central urban area of Boston town and the very rural areas of the remainder of the borough, mostly made up of villages and hamlets. The 2011 Census showed that Boston had one of the largest population increases in the country since the previous Census – up by 15.8 per cent. Its non-UK population has increased by 46%. The Council has argued that the actual population may be 10,000 more than that officially recorded, and 10,000 more than that for which it received funding from central government.

The Challenge

The Council began undertaking a major transformation of ICT in 2013, exploiting the benefits of virtualisation, partnership working and the high-speed network provided by the East Midlands Public Sector Network. A later phase of this transformation saw the Council adopt ‘the cloud’ for its desktop telephony services to replace an aging and expensive onsite legacy system. The new hosted IP system has been designed and delivered by Foehn. “The move to hosted IP telephony became an important part of the transformation, especially when the Council realised that significant cost savings could be made but not to the detriment of service delivery,” explains Matthew Clarke, Strategic ICT Advisor to Boston Borough Council. “We knew that we had to change the existing system but at that stage our research was little more than a kite flying exercise to see what was out there.”

In November 2013 Matthew contacted Foehn. “It was useful to see the information on the Foehn website, specifically the company’s Resource Hub that contains white papers, videos and various case study references,” says Matthew. “I had a feeling that hosted telephony would offer a pretty compelling business case for the size of Boston County Council. We traded emails for a few months so that I could get a feel for what the pricing and technical solution would be like.” During this period, the Council had a small depot to relocate and this represented an opportunity to run a hosted telephony pilot. The depot contained a couple of active telephone lines and Foehn replaced them with four phones and a small contact centre solution for something in the region of 70 calls a day. “From May and through the summer months we piloted the system with the Customer Services team and they were introduced to the new world of IP telephony,” says Matthew. “In terms of the features, and most importantly the virtual contact centre, it gave them the visibility of agent and call reporting they’d never experienced before. As soon as they tried it they quickly agreed that it was what was needed throughout the Council.” The financial case The pilot had given Boston Borough Council a taste of what was possible, however it still had to weigh up the pros and cons of moving to a modern IP communications set-up.

“If the Council’s existing onsite system was supportable beyond 2017, then there would have been a strong case to have continued to fund the £9,000 annual support costs for the foreseeable future,” says Matthew. “The decision was made to look for an alternative solution and in the first instance a scaling up of another authority’s IP system was put on the table. The business case depended on human cost savings in the form of reduced switchboard staff for a shared onsite system. That simply wasn’t a route that Boston Borough Council wished to go down as the human element of our customer service remained important.”

The Solution

The pilot project undertaken by Foehn had not only proven the concept but also presented to the Council a model where its system could be completely modernised and cost savings realised without the need to rely on staff reductions. “It was a very compelling financial business case compared to the initial proposal for sharing,” comments Ma hew. “You would think there would be economies of scale having a single IP system shared between authori es and covering two sites. With the cost of the proprietary handsets, survivability and additional modules, there were no savings from replacing the onsite system to move to a shared IP platform without shedding an operator at the front end of customer services. “Also, the business case to move to an IP platform as an in-house solution was not compelling enough. Because of the cost of change, in terms of the disruption to the organisation, and all of the work that would go into a project that would simply be replacing one handset with another, it didn’t light any fires of enthusiasm.”

In contrast, the solution offered by Foehn did and at a significantly lower cost. What it meant was that the Council could budget for £30,000 per year savings from April 2015 without having to worry about staffing reduction and how that might impact the Council’s delivery of services. Matthew compares this approach with the Council’s previous expenditure on telephony: “With a £50,000 capital investment upfront for an onsite system over five years, each year £10,000 is required to be written into the capital programme for the eventual replacement of that system. With the solution supplied by Foehn, we simply don’t have that requirement. We’ve paid £100 per user on a new handset, meaning an an upfront investment of £20,000 on IP handsets, but that’s it. With an annual contract based on the number of extensions required, we’ve also avoided the potential for wasted capacity as we address the changing expectations placed on local government. Now we’re in a situation where there is no chunk of money set aside waiting to buy a new system “The acquisition cost of an onsite system is a significant investment, and the numbers naturally become larger according to the size of the local authority and the number and type of features included. If you look at a more advanced district council or a county council, they often have ACD systems and customer contact centres and all sorts of enterprise-level systems. These are often only used by a relatively small number of users, and it’s the fixed cost elements that absolutely make the hosted telephony business case so attractive”

Financial benefits derived from this project and beyond With just over 200 desktop telephones, Boston Borough Council has managed to reduce its annual fixed telephony costs by more than 40%, whilst also providing users with all the benefits of IP telephony, (£57,000 annually down to £27,000). Another benefit of the new solution supplied by Foehn is that apportioning costs is now much simpler, with each extension and call costs associated with that extension invoiced monthly and directly to the relevant cost centre.

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