Cut costs not jobs – three ways to boost your frontline services
James Passingham, chief technical officer at Foehn, explains how the public sector can protect jobs and deliver better for less through the transformation of services.
Public sector cuts delivered by the last government show every sign of continuing. But despite the years of austerity and digital transformation, public bodies are still adjusting to changes such as repeated headcount reductions and refocusing of teams. Surprisingly perhaps, there are still practical ways in which the public sector can develop more cost-effective and productive services, while helping to make the case for protecting front line staffing.
In particular, one solution offers real scope to enhance those essential, but sometimes neglected, building blocks of public services: cloud-based phone systems and call centres. So many government bodies have invested in these digital channels that, although many potential improvements are not in themselves headline-grabbing, provide cumulative efficiency gains, including:
- Delivery of transformative ‘next stage’ cashable savings
- Low-level alterations to call centre set-ups to better focus resources
- Use of data to show service teams’ role in delivering cost-effective services
Next stage telephony savings
Every government department or council is wrestling with rising workload, budget constraints and ways to share scarce assets with partners in the future as existing service models are rethought. But because there have been so many reorganisations – seeing customer care staff moved to new teams with different voice and data communication tools – there are, paradoxically, new opportunities emerging to refresh staff know-how and gain greater efficiency from front line telephony.
Part of this team refresh or upskilling involves public organisations working anew with expert cloud telephony providers to transform their service options and cost base.
Many service managers are underwhelmed by their first-generation IP phone systems’ long-term performance and flexibility, a trend compounded by ICT and customer service departments needing to quickly scale up lines for new services, or rethink telephony when existing offices and buildings are consolidated. Knowing that radical change is needed, some public bodies have switched to more agile, cloud-based IP telephony, reducing costs over existing supplier deals by as much as 40%. These transformative savings enable extra funding to be made available for staffing.
Second, some public bodies are making tactical, but still vital, alterations to better focus frontline resources on customers. Many service teams may be too busy dealing with constant calls to see the wood for the trees. By contrast, those ICT and supervisors that carve out some time to carry out a review of call centre traffic, with an expert telephony and call centre provider, can start to better understand incoming call trends or track different channels.
This smarter management of rising workloads can be extended. Many public sector organisations, like their private sector counterparts, have been almost dazzled by the ability of their IP telephony and contact centres to manage voice calls, email and accept social media. However, many service managers have under-valued or simply lacked time to refresh their ICT and supervisory teams’ ability to administer system tools and interfaces to best manage team workloads.
A telephony specialist recently provided hands-on training for supervisors on changing call schedules and smarter routing through the system interface. Teams can now respond to fluctuating demand, providing extra lines or direct specific calls to their best-qualified teams. Such changes will help achieve more cost effective delivery of voice, that Cinderella of customer service that still accounts for 60-70% of incoming contact.
Data reveals the workforce contribution
Thirdly, teams that make small-scale but clever refinements to their call and contact centres can capture usage data that both streamlines workloads and gives a more accurate picture of contact teams’ vital role in maintaining our public services.
Working with trusted telephony providers and using phone systems based on cloud and open source, public bodies can mix existing telephony applications with CRM tools and case management systems. Multiple and previously difficult-to-assemble data sets can be aggregated and distributed for customer service agents to improve interactions with residents and customers. In addition, service teams can more easily display workload priorities data and workload targets on wall boards, or route calls, based on aggregated customer information.
Joining-up crucial voice and data applications will bring a halt to service agents repeatedly having to look up customer details, held in different locations and databases, and improve the whole team’s efficiency.
Using data more dynamically also brings about faster and more accurate departmental reporting and performance evaluations. This clearer picture of frontline voice operations that emerges will show senior public executives the real contribution that hard-working service teams are making; teams that can be helped to become more efficient, engaged and productive.
Cut costs not staff
Public sector bodies face more tough years but reduced costs, higher-performing, and better-valued customer service operations will help ensure effective local service delivery.
Read the case studies and get more information on delivering better for less with modern cloud based phone systems.