Entering the government call centre market

Governments across the globe are moving towards providing the same level of service as their private-sector counterparts

July 6, 2010

By Fiona Mclean-Banks, Polycom Business Development Manager at distributor Zycko

Governments across the globe are moving towards providing the same level of service as their private-sector counterparts. Unfortunately, government agencies are faced with legacy issues and technologies, making the transition to newer technologies and processes difficult.  However, deploying new technology will greatly assist governments to provide the customer service that citizens have come to expect. This is often particularly evident at the first point of contact with government agencies – the contact centre.

This is a challenge highlighted in a recent article in US-based CRM Magazine. According to the US’ Contact Center Satisfaction Index, government agencies scored lower than commercial industries in terms of customer satisfaction, with state and local agencies and Medicare/Medicaid contact centres ranking lowest.

Locally, our government departments are also dealing with technology challenges and looking to improve the performance of their contact centres.

SA government’s contact centre challenges For one, single-vendor lock-in remains a hurdle as it means that technology can become prohibitively expensive, particularly when it comes to license renewals and upgrades. Furthermore, the proprietary nature of these call centre backbones means that technology integration is a major challenge.

What’s more, these centres can’t make use of the many benefits that come from open platforms such as open SIP driven by IP Telephony, which greatly improves application and device flexibility while driving down costs.

In a country that has 11 official languages it is important that conversation is clear and precise when dealing with customers – i.e., the public. HD Voice enabled by VoIP (Voice over IP) improves the communication and efficiency of call centres around the world and can do the same for our country’s government departments.

HD Voice, also known as wideband voice, will for example enable IP phones to send a far broader range of sounds over VoIP connections than traditional phones can over PSTN (public switched telephone network) circuits. This vastly increases the clarity of voice calls and reduces the frustration caused by muffled conversations, language barriers and unfamiliar accents.

We have already seen some government departments starting to make the transition towards improved call centre environments. There is, however, no doubt that it still requires a lot of growth in order to catch up to the private sector.

Technology to enable improved service delivery

This said, what should government expect from their call centre solutions when they make the transition to an integrated, efficient and technologically advanced solution?  Here are eight important characteristics:

1.     CRM. At the heart of a call centre solution is a Citizen Request Management system for effective request tracking and case management.

2.     Multi-channel Access. It is important to provide citizens with the ability to communicate using their preferred method, whether by Web, email or phone.

3.     Customer Service POS Capabilities. To deliver the most convenient services to citizens, call centres must consider the ability to accept payments for bills, fees, facility reservations, and more.

4.     Knowledge base. A knowledge base empowers agents to provide consistent and accurate responses, regardless of training. Additionally, providing an online self-service option via an online knowledge base empowers citizens to quickly find their own answers.

5.     Computer Telephony Integration. Put a wealth of caller information at the fingertips of customer service agents.

6.     Reporting. Access to custom and standard reporting, metrics and performance analysis translates to better, more informed decisions.

7.     Geographic Information System Integration. Locate issues and dispatch staff accurately.

8.     Interactive Voice Response Technology. Permit citizen self-service with IVR and touch-tone phone integration.

A solution that offers these characteristics will ensure improved service delivery to citizens enabled by technology.

In the meantime, we as an industry can demonstrate tangibly to government what the benefits of a next generation call centre are, driving the development of an already burgeoning industry.