Following the UK Government’s instruction to work from home where possible in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, we were faced with a serious challenge. How could we keep vital services running for our 210,000 residents while protecting our contact centre staff?
Sourcing the right technology to minimise service disruption
Typically, our 55 contact centre agents handle approximately 40,000 calls a month, answering queries on everything from waste and recycling collection to council tax, planning applications, social care services and housing repairs. With residents confined to their homes throughout the quarantine period, we needed to be able to support the ongoing demand for our services.
The contact centre system we had in place simply could not handle the shift to remote working. We were equally concerned about the potential upheaval a change of technology would have on both our staff and residents.
We required a technology solution that would allow our contact centre agents to work from home quickly and easily, without impacting the service available to the local community. We also needed a solution that could be implemented rapidly to keep vital services running for our residents during this difficult time, with minimal disruption.
Moving to the cloud
In just two weeks, we had gone from selecting leading cloud communications provider 8x8 as a technology partner to transitioning our entire contact centre operation onto to the 8x8 Contact Centre platform, in the cloud.
This gave agents the ability to answer inbound calls from residents from home, using just their laptop and a headset, without the need to redirect calls or ask residents to use a different phone number.
High quality, uninterrupted support for residents
Within the first week, we had already seen noticeable improvements in service levels, despite the radical change in working practices for agents. Far from disrupting the service, we actually saw increased productivity across the new remote contact centre and continue to see improvements in efficiency.
After a successful initial first phase, designed to keep services running as usual, we plan to roll out additional features over the coming weeks to enhance the experience for residents. This will include chatbot functionality to automate responses to simple queries initiated on the council website, to ensure customer service agents can focus on the most important interactions with residents, as well as secure payment card processing.
By taking swift action and deploying the right technology, we’ve enabled our contact centre staff to work safely from home, something which would have been impossible before the lockdown.
We now know that this isn’t just possible in a crisis, but also allows our agents to deliver the same exceptional customer experience as they would in the office. We’re looking forward to exploring the further benefits that a cloud-based contact centre can offer.
Cllr Dominic Twomey is the deputy leader and cabinet member for Finance, Performance and Core Services at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.