Delivering More with Lync

scottish-borders-council

Comms Business Magazine reports how Enghouse Interactive reseller Exchange Communications is helping Scottish Borders Council answer the public’s questions through a deployment of Microsoft Lync and the Enghouse communications centre application.

Like most public sector organisations, the Scottish Borders Council is focused on driving operational efficiencies and in delivering higher-quality services while spending less. It’s an operational imperative that has recently been brought into sharper focus by the increased workload that Government driven reform of the social service, benefits and welfare systems is bringing.

This made it imperative that the IT systems the council deployed were effective in keeping costs down and were also able to support the council’s need to respond quickly and effectively to resolve concerns the public have with the changes. In addition, the solution will help address questions people have concerning the council’s complete portfolio of services – from council tax and housing benefit to planning applications and rubbish collection.

Making the Move

To ensure it was delivering the best possible service, the council needed to upgrade its existing customer service platform for a more flexible, adaptable solution. After reviewing several options, the council elected to deploy Enghouse Interactive Communications Center (EICC), in a Microsoft Lync environment, a modular, feature-rich solution for contact centre communications, enabling users to add functionality as requirements and budget allow.

According to Stephen Roy, project manager, Scottish Borders Council: “We chose Communications Center and Lync based on two key factors: cost and flexibility. We were able to reduce data and telephony network requirements and implement a single unified communications network across our offices significantly reducing costs.

“It was also key for us to be able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. We were frustrated that our old systems architecture could not be easily customised,” adds Roy. “The combined Enghouse Interactive and Lync solution means that we can now route calls to whatever endpoint we want. And we can be creative in the way we structure the organisation, safe in the knowledge that our technology will be acting as an enabler of choice rather than a barrier to it.”

The Right Solution

The Scottish Borders Council originally put out a tender and this was won by telecoms solutions reseller Exchange Communications who had chosen to partner with Enghouse Interactive. The council already had Lync in place and Exchange knew that EICC was capable of running on the Lync platform.

Exchange Communications project manager, Barbara Wilson, said: “We proposed the EICC solution because we knew it would be the ideal choice for the Borders Council. It gives them all the functionality they require with the opportunity to add more as and when they need it. Coupled with this, we knew Enghouse Interactive would give us outstanding support in delivering the high-quality service the Borders Council was looking for.”

As Roy explains: “Many communications systems claim to integrate with Lync. When you start to investigate, however, you realise that there are degrees of integration and the Enghouse system was one of the few that was truly integrated. It was the smoothest implementation we have ever seen!

“We were also impressed with the ‘presence’ information about the availability of internal staff that it was able to give us,” continued Roy. “It was also extremely cost-effective and a really good fit for our size of organisation.”

With the decision taken to implement the EICC, Scottish Borders Council began the implementation process with the help of Exchange Communications. A key challenge was to ensure that the call flows that were in place on the legacy solution were effectively captured and transferred over to the new one. Once this was completed, the installation took place and was rapidly concluded. 29 Scottish Border Council agents across three sites, Hawick, Galashiels and Newtown St Boswells, are now live on the system, handling calls from the public.

A Raft of Benefits

The EICC system is currently handling calls both to the council’s contact centre and also to its main switchboard. Every week, it manages approximately 2,200 calls from the public to the contact centre and a further 1,800 calls to the switchboard, some of which are from council staff, partners and suppliers. Currently, the system is being used for voice only but the Council will look in the future at extending this in order to deliver a broader multimedia service. Similarly, although it does not yet use the EICC’s call-back functionality, it does not rule out moving to this further down the line.

Call recording is being tested at the moment. The EICC solution is PCI compliant, and there are plans to integrate with the council’s CRM system. Work is currently in progress to enable it to stop and resume recording as required (while agents take credit card details, for example). Scottish Borders Council has also deployed skills-based routing which it uses in conjunction with the presence capability of Lync to help ensure that, calls are managed by the customer service representative best placed to deal with them.

The council is planning to use the system to support remote working. Soon staff will be able to connect with the EICC system even when they are away from the office. It is also looking at home working, getting operators to use the solution across the broadband connection in their own homes. This could potentially be a major benefit if seasonal weather this winter stops staff getting into to work.

Stephen Roy concludes, “Today, we can be much more flexible in terms of routing calls, bringing in additional resource as and when required and dealing with peaks in calls. With the new system, we also feel that we have a much stronger core platform in place, which in turn means we can bring in new functionality as and when we need it and we are therefore much better prepared to face whatever the future may bring.”