Hosted Contact Center Featured Article

The Benefits and Uses of Hosted Contact Center Solutions for Municipal Government

April 12, 2007

By Stefania Viscusi,
Assignment Desk Editor

Municipal governments play an important role in the fulfillment and upkeep of their town’s and citizens’ needs. To maintain and ensure successful governing, it is essential that all interactions be as effective as possible.
 
Just like any contact center, they must handle complaints, requests, and inquiries as well as perform call backs, and keep an accurate account of call histories. Likewise, they are tasked with the need to provide quality and efficient service to all callers.



 
Interestingly however, some of these governing bodies powered to rule and represent citizens sometimes have the most out-of-date and under-advanced systems managing their needs.
 
This is where the hosted contact center solution comes in to replace legacy, on-premise systems and offer municipal governments a number of innovative benefits to enhance productivity and improve operations.
 
To find out more about how hosted contact center solutions are a perfect fit for municipal government needs, I spoke with Randy Saunders, Marketing Director, Cincom Systems Customer Experience Management products.
 
 
 
Why would city and town governments prefer hosted call center solutions to licensed, premise-based solutions?
 
 
It’s several things. One is the budget. It is easier to have the hosted solution as a monthly expense rather than as a large capital expenditure.
 
The success record and speed of implementation is also key. With a hosted solution, it's already in a production environment at the hosting center. All they're doing is setting your tenant up and configuring your specific installation, but it's already running. I think city governments get frustrated with the time it takes to implement a lot of systems and so with a hosted solution it's a faster, safer, surer implementation.
 
There is also more flexibility with a hosted system. What I mean by that is the reps can be anywhere — if you have an office, if they need to work remote or at home, either permanently or for a special situation, that can be done with a hosted solution. That also falls in line with the whole compliance around the teleworker legislation and it comes automatic with the hosted solution.  The hosted contact center also gives you more flexibility to grow – to add departments, to add individuals within a department. Normally when purchasing an on-premise solution, you have to kind of size it up for what your eventual capacity might need, or otherwise you'll have to go back and do upgrades and sometimes throw away complete servers and put bigger ones in. With the hosted solution, everything scales very well.
 
 
How will choosing a hosted solution help municipal governments increase the effectiveness of their contact centers?
 
We have found that a lot of municipal governments have very inadequate and outdated systems. With a hosted contact center, they're given a chance to update their call center to the most advanced call center functionality out there which gives them additional functionality including multi-channel capabilities. In fact, we're seeing more and more citizens who want to interact by email or fax or other methods. So a consolidated system that can handle every kind of interaction with citizens as well as provide a lot of proactive outreach capabilities like follow up calls or call backs -- that often fall through the crack with city governments -- are guaranteed with a hosted solution. As well, citizen history tracking is possible. What they called about? Did we solve their problem? It’s all in there. From what we've seen, a lot of them just don’t have those capabilities today with the very manual systems in place.
 
 
Do cost factors and manpower play a big part in choosing to not administer a premise-based solution?
 
Yes, absolutely. It’s less expensive up front and the hosted solution also has a better Total Cost of Ownership over a 3-5 year time period. So it's still less money over time. Part of the reason for the cost savings is that your hosting center can share its costs with multiple organizations so you’re getting to leverage those economies of scale. And on the IT staffing side, a hosted solution requires considerably less staffing and costs than having IT staff support an on-premise solution.
 
What about security? Is there a threat of decreased security of sensitive data that concerns local governments who keep track of personal or classified data?
 
No. Most hosting centers have extremely secure environments. In fact, they're often more secure than a city’s own system where people can have access to, or can download data. With a hosted solution, data will be protected and secure since hosting centers have to comply with a lot of security regulations. This means they have all the banking rules of confidentiality and security of their customer data. If they have healthcare client, they've got all the HIPPA compliance. So besides the typical confidentiality and protection of data, you’ve actually gone beyond because you're getting those for other industries as well.
 
 
Do hosted solutions allow local governments to share data and even integrate some systems with other government entities (the state, for instance)? Is this a feature that's often called on? Do any of your clients allow for this kind of collaboration?
 
Yes it's a definite possibility if they're running the same hosted solution because it's very easy to share data should they want too. Even if they're not on the same solution, it's now become easy because of the whole 'mashup' concept —which is systems on the internet working together. With this, it is very easy to have one system that’s even entirely different communicate with and pass data with another different system. It's a lot easier to do that with an internet-based application than it is do with on-premise application.
 
We do have clients who access other systems they're sharing data with including collaboration with other non-government systems.
 
 
With your municipal government clients for your hosted contact center product, what kinds of solutions do you find you're replacing?
 
Usually very old systems. It seems like the city governments have not spent a lot of money or invested or kept up with a lot of technologies, so we often find they're a few generations behind. With a hosted solution they can 'leap frog' and be on a state-of-the-art system almost overnight.
 
We also often find that there is no CTI capability whatsoever, and what we’re replacing is usually just an old PBX. So they have a switch but they don’t have any kind of CTI of a true contact center application. They just have their billing systems and other systems to get into but nothing specifically designed for the customer service area.  
 
 
How resistant to change are government workers? Do you, as the vendor, find resistance to change with this kind of customer more than a commercial client?
 
It varies. We find a lot of governments that really do want to put the citizen first and do want to provide better service. This whole idea of 'government transparency' is really big for a lot of towns—allowing them to see and promote what they’ve done for their citizens. So we find a lot of them do want the information so they can be able to tell people and share with anyone what they have done.
 
But at the same time we sometimes find individuals that like the old world way better but I would say that’s the minority.
 
We're also seeing a lot of similarities with the way that banks and other industries want to provide outstanding customer service, and offer service as the differentiator.
 
Can you discuss some of your municipal government clients by name and explain a little bit about how they are using your hosted solution?
 
The city of Tampa is an example of a town that was on one of these outdated systems to a the point where they weredropping calls,  loosing calls and could only handle 150 calls per day on their outdated switch. And because the city is one of the fastest growing in the country, it just couldn’t handle their growth rate.
 
Now they're taking up to 500 calls a day with Cincom Synchrony and have been able to recognize benefit. They knew they were dropping calls, but didn’t realize how many until they put our system live.
 
Now they have a system that can handle the volume and they're able to track every incident that comes in. If it needs a customer call back that’s automatic in the system so they're really providing a lot better customer service than they were before.
 
And what really drove this to start with was the number of hurricanes that have been hitting Florida over the last few years. What they really were looking for was to provide better customer service but they also needed a system that would work during emergencies, one that would allow their agents to leave the building and easily work from a remote location whether that be a remote town or anyplace else. And since call volumes can go up in emergencies because citizens have more problems and issues to report, that’s not a time that you want to have your call center down.
 
 
 
 
Cincom Systems' Synchrony Hosted Contact Center Solution provides agents with intelligent desktop capabilities that allow for improved customer interactions and enhanced agent productivity. For more information, visit www.cincom.com/synchrony
 
 
 
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Stefania Viscusi is an established writer and avid reader. To see more of her articles, please visit Stefania Viscusi’s columnist page.