Argyll and Bute council in the west of Scotland has created a "virtual" customer service centre using Voice over IP (VoIP) technology to allow staff to work from remote offices around the area and its islands.
The rural authority, with more than 2,700 miles of coastline, has the second largest geographical area of Scotland’s councils, but the population is spread thinly among its six towns and 25 inhabited islands.
It needed a system that would deliver services effectively despite the challenging geography.
The customer service centre, which went live last month, uses Macfarlane CallPlus contact centre technology embedded in a new Cisco IP infrastructure to connect its various offices.
The CallPlus system has been integrated with the council’s Lagan Frontline customer relationship management system, giving advisors access to customer information regardless of where they are based.
Argyll is rolling out the new customer call system across its services, with staff answering council tax enquiries from an office in Campbeltown, Scotland in the first phase of the deployment.
The Lagan Frontline software has been integrated with the existing Northgate SX3 council tax system and its Civica workflow and electronic document management software, allowing staff to change customer records through a single entry in a development that is believed to be the first such integration by a Scottish local authority.
The Macfarlane CallPlus platform provides the council with a range of contact centre applications and improved management information. Argyll’s customer services centre manager Mhairi Renton said: “We had no record of how many customer calls were being answered, how long they lasted or how many calls were being abandoned.
"With the Macfarlane system, we have all that information plus more. We can plan better for peak calling times and, if a call report throws up issues, we can rectify them," Renton said.
The council is planning to move its benefits, street lighting and roads, leisure bookings and library catalogue into the customer service centre by the end of the year, with the service centre operation running on a multi-site basis within the next few months.
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