Ceredigion County Council 2018-08-20T14:53:18+00:00

Project Description

Foehn provides fast track route to enhanced public services with a new Cloud Contact Centre

for Ceredigion County Council

The Need For Change

Ceredigion County Council (Welsh: Cyngor Sir Ceredigion) is the governing body for the county of Ceredigion, one of the unitary authorities of Wales. A population of some 75,000 residents demands services that are diverse, often crucial, requiring flexible but responsive customer support.

As with so many local authorities, Ceredigion faces the challenge of improving this support whilst also restraining expenditure to meet budgets. Under these circumstances, there is a natural tendency to adopt an outlook that says, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. With communications technology, though, the impact of digitisation and the proliferation of productivity enhancements means that simply maintaining the status quo is not enough. Furthermore, the impact of low cost, pay-as-you-go cloud services now makes these benefits more affordable and within reach of smaller and more cost-sensitive operations. At Ceredigion, an affordable cloud-based solution was to provide the answer to improving services to residents calling for assistance.

Ceredigion County Council (Welsh: Cyngor Sir Ceredigion) is the governing body for the county of Ceredigion, one of the unitary authorities of Wales. A population of some 75,000 residents demands services that are diverse, often crucial, requiring flexible but responsive customer support.

As with so many local authorities, Ceredigion faces the challenge of improving this support whilst also restraining expenditure to meet budgets. Under these circumstances, there is a natural tendency to adopt an outlook that says, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. With communications technology, though, the impact of digitisation and the proliferation of productivity enhancements means that simply maintaining the status quo is not enough. Furthermore, the impact of low cost, pay-as-you-go cloud services now makes these benefits more affordable and within reach of smaller and more cost-sensitive operations. At Ceredigion, an affordable cloud-based solution was to provide the answer to improving services to residents calling for assistance.

The Need For Improvement

Over the years, the Authority’s call centre capability had not kept pace with demands and was failing to deliver the responsiveness and quality of the service expected.

Existing contact centre resources comprised two agents using an aging telephone system, still supported for maintenance but nearing end of life. Above all, the system lacked the essential contact centre system features expected by the general public today, providing only simple call management functionality available from the handset hardware.

Licences for upgrades and expansion of features were no longer available from the system vendor and, with no development roadmap, the system was an obstacle to the Authority’s plans to expand the call centre team from two to twenty agents to meet targeted service levels.

This expansion also marked a change in call handling strategy. Instead of each agent dealing with a dedicated set of issues, all agents would be expected to deal with all issues, cutting down re-routing of calls and giving callers a more immediate response.

Performance reporting from the old system was very poor, requiring scheduled downloads overnight. Similarly, call recording was inflexible, offering only ‘on’ or ‘off’ modes with no flexibility to record at will. This greatly limited the ability of the team to take payments. In short, the existing system was simply unable to deliver the versatility required to manage incoming calls and customer issues.

The Need For Skills

Greg Jones, Ceredigion Customer Services Transformation Project Manager, explains the process of finding a solution. “To find the answers, we started by asking questions – examining our priorities for creating a better service. Within this, we identified some specific requirements concerning improvements to call recording, performance reporting, management of inbound email, dashboard presentation and so on.”

“With a basic specification we were able to use the government’s G-Cloud service to identify a provider with the best fit for our requirements, including cost. Importantly, G-Cloud made a big difference in reducing the timescale one would normally anticipate for acquiring technology of this type.”

G-Cloud is the procurement framework, managed by the government’s Crown Commercial Service. Designed to give public sector bodies more choice in acquiring cloud-based technology, the service identifies suppliers, from an approved list, that provide best-fit with requirements and budget. Equally, the G-Cloud platform gives suppliers a simpler process for submitting bids on an impartial basis, irrespective of provider size or market standing.

Now in its tenth year, G-Cloud has facilitated £3 billion of purchases from nearly 3000 registered suppliers. For eight years, Foehn has been a loyal participant in the framework, winning contracts from local authorities and other government bodies.

Greg explains how G-Cloud kick-started the project: “From our G-Cloud shortlist, we organised supplier demonstrations and that’s when it became clear that Foehn was offering the best, overall solution.”

“On the one hand, we immediately liked the look and feel of the Genesys Purecloud system. It offered everything we needed but, most of all, it was very simple to use. At the same time, Foehn’s experience and professional services instilled confidence. We were happy we had found a team that could deal with the complexities of deployment and integration of the system with our operations. These are the skills that we needed from  our technology partner to get us up and running and ensure that the skills are transferred for Ceredigion to further develop the service.

“Foehn has an excellent understanding of the system. We knew of Foehn’s strong reputation in delivering contact centres, but it was also the excellent references from Genesys that convinced us we had the right partner for the project.”

“We also liked Foehn’s approach to costings. Everything concerning pricing was transparent and we particularly liked the flexibility of the pay-as-you-go, per-user approach. This is valuable because of uncertainty about the final number of users to be recruited to the team and the rate of build-up.”

Rapid Implementation

The scope of the deployment by Foehn included installation of the Purecloud system, setting up hosting and data centre services, provision of SIP channels and delivery of professional services.

Within a short period of 6 weeks the system was in service and the team of new agents operational. This rapid implementation, with negligible impact on day-to-day operations and minimal demand on client resources, is typical of Foehn’s cloud communications deployments. However, this often comes as a surprise to some organisations that unnecessarily fear disruption in the workplace and delay making the move.  Needlessly, these organisations are missing out on the huge gains in productivity and customer experience that cloud services and digitisation can deliver

Immediately, the new system was configured to manage two queues and ten call flows, with skills-based routing set up to minimise queues and provide best quality advice to the caller. Thanks to a recent release of the Genesys PureCloud software, performance reports on skillsets are now available via dashboard metrics and online queries.

The new team of twenty agents, having no previous experience, received a phased introduction to the system over the early months, building experience across a diverse range of services such as refuge enquiries, refuse collection, pot-holes, revenues and benefits, council tax, etc. All found the system simple to use, making an immediate impact on customer services – testament to the simplicity and intuitive design of PureCloud. Supervisors have also been impressed with the effectiveness of the online and interactive call monitoring.

Important work undertaken by Foehn included integration of the PureCloud contact centre with the existing CRM system. Today, this is a mandatory requirement for any modern customer contact centre that seeks to optimise agent productivity and response time. The specialist CRM integration skills offered by Foehn are a critical part of the implementation process.

For Ceredigion, the integration allows calls on dedicated service numbers to be routed into the system, associating services with customers and providing a screen pop to alert the agent to the nature of the service and customer on the incoming call. Forewarned, the agent can prepare for the call as appropriate.

In Summary

Ceredigion has transformed their customer service in a short period of time, with a budget made affordable by cloud services. Central to this, the G-Cloud framework has helped accelerate the procurement process whilst identifying Foehn’s skills as aa key enabler for the successful running of the contact centre in the longer term.

“In Foehn, we have found a team of highly skilled individuals that we can trust to provide us with a contact centre solution that meets our changing requirements into the future. Foehn has that vital experience in mapping contact centre functionality to operations and processes in the workplace. With this, we know we are equipping our agents with the best tools whilst getting the best return on investment.”