With the widespread uptake of collaboration software to enable remote working, it has never been easier for councils to manage their internal communications estates. At the same time, this has opened the door to conversations about their public access strategies and how effectively their external communication channels are serving their citizens.
Faced with legacy systems and traditional communication estates deeply embedded into their processes, councils are increasingly turning to solution providers such as Opus for support with identifying the right contact centre solutions for their requirements and integrating these with their existing systems to drive the implementation of omnichannel public access strategies.
Read on to learn more about the state of public sector communications across the UK and how Opus helps local councils to define and implement winning communication strategies.
Choosing the right contact centre solutions
Technology that was previously cost-prohibitive to the public sector is becoming ever more affordable, meaning that for the first time, local councils are finding that they are able to access a wealth of contact centre systems and features to boost citizen experience (CX), increase contact centre engagement and reduce costs through automation.
“A system’s capabilities are key to successfully delivering an engaging communication strategy”, explains Paul Allen, public sector expert at Opus. “With the right contact centre solution, a local council could incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and webchat, for example, into their systems. When a member of the public interacts with them, the agent can then direct them quickly and easily to a relevant page on the website or move them to a self-service functionality to find the information they need, if that is more appropriate.”
As contact centre solutions become more accessible, where does Opus fit into the equation and what value do we deliver to local councils seeking to improve their public engagement?
Helping local councils to define their communication strategies
Technology platforms are not solutions on their own. Before any software can be deployed and integrated into a local council’s existing infrastructure in a way that will deliver the functionality required of it, a great deal of complexity is first involved at the strategy phase.
“Our approach is always consultative”, reveals Pete Whitehouse, another public sector expert at Opus. “We begin by sitting down with the council’s team and assessing their current systems and infrastructure and finding out about what pain points they are experiencing. We can then come up with some recommendations based on other successful customer deployments and also the technology options that might be available. It’s about combining our sector experience with best-of-breed technology to help the council understand what might be possible for them so that we can then build a detailed roadmap and deployment plan that will deliver the outcomes they need.”
Many councils are receiving an unprecedented volume of citizen outreach as a result of the global pandemic and its impact on our daily lives. “What steps can they take to ease the pressure on their agents and help their contact centres to focus on the citizens who genuinely need to interact with a human, without delivering a sub-par experience for the remaining enquiries?” Pete asks. “These are the kinds of questions we are helping councils to solve through citizen-centric communication strategies offering omnichannel experiences.”
The technical implementation of the solutions comes next, followed by ongoing support and account management if the customer chooses to engage Opus in that capacity going forward.
How could you benefit from partnering with Opus?
“Often, a council will approach us with an existing legacy system made up of a telephony platform and a contact centre that they might have had for upwards of 10-15 years”, Paul explains. “We start by assessing the current infrastructure to establish whether it can be upgraded or augmented with cloud-based services, in order to meet the operational needs of the organisation. Depending on what the underlying platform is, it can be possible to update software levels and programming or integrate over the top services to achieve more from their existing investment. If this is not viable, our role is to recommend a suitable fit-for-purpose replacement which provides them with the technology foundations to meet their needs right now and future-proof the organisation for further growth and anticipated changes in demand.”
The applications for a citizen-centric communication strategy are many, opening many doors for councils to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and transform the citizen experience.
- Could rent payment be automated, for example, removing the need for a human agent to handle the transaction?
- Does the option exist for citizens to make the transaction online in a way that is secure, compliant, and easy for the citizen to self-serve?
- Is there profiling in place to enable agents to identify and respond to elderly citizens who may have issues with self-service, or younger generations who would actually prefer to serve themselves via their smartphone?
- Does the strategy support mobile devices and other digital channels to facilitate that?
“It’s about changing technology and also understanding each demographic”, Paul highlights. “Different people want to engage in different ways. That’s how we support them. Before we can recommend and create the best-fit solution, we need to understand the public’s needs.”
In the last 12 months alone, our success in the public sector has seen Opus awarded International Cloud Partner of the Year for cloud solutions with one of our vendors. We continue to work with local councils throughout the UK to understand their citizens’ needs, re-evaluate their communication strategies and select best-fit contact centre solutions that join the dots between those two things to deliver a winning experience.
“Gone are the days when a technology upgrade was synonymous with disruption”, Paul adds. “By taking an iterative approach, we are able to migrate users from even large legacy systems to a new platform gradually, over a period of time. We can enable local councils to oversee that transition themselves, or we are able to come in and manage the service completely, dependent entirely on each council’s preferences and unique requirements.”
While the process is no longer disruptive, the same cannot be said for the marketplace. Emerging contact centre technology is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible, unlocking new functionalities and delivering new ways for local councils to interact with the public. The global pandemic has only accelerated this. Staying abreast of these changes is an ongoing challenge for local councils, but Opus can help.
“Today’s organisations have so much choice at their fingertips”, Pete explains. “For a local council running a project to upgrade the legacy system that they have had in place for 5-10 years, the questions are many. What are the pitfalls they should watch out for? Will they be paying OPEX or CAPEX? Is it a cost-per-month, per-user contract? All these details have to be discussed. As a truly independent provider, Opus can help you to answer them in a way that will deliver the best results for your council and for the public who depend on you.”
For more information about how your organisation could benefit, click the image below to download our free guide for Local Government Customer Experience Departments.