‘Ask the Expert’ is a series of interviews RingCentral runs with influential thought leaders from around the world, including UC and CX consultants and analysts to find out what is at the cutting edge of UCaaS and CCaaS.
The public sector spotlight
For this month’s instalment, RingCentral’s Ian Nevin, Director of International Consultant Relations, spoke with Paul Ridge, Director at 4C Strategies, about what public sector organisations should look for when moving to a new cloud-based system.
Ian kicks off the conversation….
Hi Paul, nice to meet you. So, for this Ask the Expert session, we are talking about UCaaS and CCaaS in the public sector. You and 4C Strategies have a long history of working in this area, and we thought we could capture some of the things to look out for, how to do it right and some of the pitfalls you have encountered. Let’s get started…
What do you think have been the most significant changes driving UCaaS and CCaaS in the UK public sector?
Thanks Ian, great to be here. In my opinion, the thing that impacted this sector the most over the last three years is hybrid and flexible working.
Interesting, can you expand on this, Paul?
Absolutely. We saw a lot of employees in the public sector forced into working from home because of the pandemic, so they had to adopt all sorts of new technologies. The NHS, for example, adapted to remote and flexible work arrangements.
There has been a big shift in the key drivers for improved customer service and the user (agent and supervisor) experience. Organisations have to future-proof their systems by establishing how they want to work in the future rather than how they’ve been forced to work due to the pandemic.
Likewise, with consumers now expecting to be able to contact organisations 24/7 via their channel of choice, public sector organisations have to be proactive and ensure they offer the right means of communication for every age group and every demographic across channels. Implementing the right solutions can make the lives of their internal teams easier as well as improve the experience for citizens and patients.
‘Channel of choice’ is an interesting one. Can you give examples of public sector organisations that turned their strategies around using omnichannel?
Of course, Ian. Consumer demand for different communication channels has changed the landscape of the public sector.
This council also used AI in the contact centre to benefit from in-depth and invaluable analytics, which helps reduce the number of missed calls and hugely improve citizen impact. The technology could even identify frequent callers or vulnerable citizens so that these calls could be addressed and handled differently from the more general queries.
Can you give us some examples of how CCaaS projects can help the public sector?
Sure. One of the best examples of this is University Clearing. Clearing happens when students receive their A-level results. If a student doesn’t get a place at their first choice uni, they call to try to secure a place elsewhere.
That means universities are inundated with calls, and each missed call could cost up to £38,000 depending on the length of the course (based on tuition fees at an average of £9,250 per year). That’s a significant loss of business if you’re running a legacy system that falls over or can’t handle the call volumes.
Then again, universities don’t want a 300-seat contact centre that they have to pay for all year round. Clearing happens for two weeks in August, so the average university likely only needs about 50 seats under normal working conditions. They should be able to burst up to 3-400 seats during that peak period, so a contact centre solution allows them to scale cost-effectively when they need it.
Valuable data and insight
As well as cost efficiencies and service delivery, it’s also worth mentioning another key success factor of CCaaS adoption: the infinite value of data.
One of our local government customers experienced this first-hand.
Contact centre AI also increasingly offers capabilities such as “sentiment analysis”. If a customer becomes frustrated or angry, AI can pinpoint when the call starts to go south and identify what tends to fix it again. Managers can use this data to train agents to turn things around.
What challenges do you anticipate for public sector organisations in the next 24 months, Paul?
PSTN and ISDN switch-off
One of the biggest things happening in the next two years is the PSTN and ISDN switch-off. This is essentially where copper PSTN lines are being switched off and replaced with faster infrastructure.
The switch-off in 2025 will present a major challenge as there are still high quantities of analogue phones in use within the public sector. Organisations need to upgrade to IP-based services like SIP and VoIP to ensure uninterrupted telephone services.
But it isn’t just about your telephones. It would help if you also considered other devices or legacy equipment such as alarm lines, lifts and lone worker devices. The local exchange still powers many of these devices, so it’s about finding an appropriate alternative. Organisations need to ask themselves whether they can find a suitable solution for what they have connected or if it makes more sense to change that technology altogether to something more reliant on IP.
This is not a challenge that will go away, and the change needs to be more centrally funded by the government. All organisations, not just the public sector, should have a strategy to plan for the switch-off. We offer a lot of advice to our customers on what to consider and how they can best prepare.
For more information on this, check out 4C Strategies’ recent white paper: The Big PSTN & ISDN Switch Off: What to Know and How You Can Prepare – 4C
Compliance and governance
Another challenge impacting the public sector, particularly healthcare, is the push for compliance and governance. Maintaining information governance poses a real challenge, particularly regarding staff and patients using non-approved communication methods.
MS Teams is a hot topic in the public sector at the moment…why do you think Teams adoption has soared, and what do organisations need to be mindful of when implementing?
This is an interesting one. Microsoft Teams was effectively given to the public sector as part of the response during the pandemic, which is one of the reasons why we’ve seen such wide-scale adoption of Teams in the public sector. During the pandemic, it served its purpose well, and many organisations have continued using Teams as it gives them a single-platform solution for their communications.
Post-pandemic, many organisations are reviewing their telephony services strategy, considering areas such as availability, resilience and how Microsoft Teams fits into their future environment.
Specifically, we are seeing clients carrying out work in the following areas:
- Identifying where improved resilience is required for key areas and where the cost is justified (not necessarily the whole business)
- Adding on supplementary contact centres and CCaaS that integrate with the back office or Microsoft Teams environment
- Integration with the Teams environment as a whole to keep the user interface simple
- Reviewing licensing to understand what voice capability\entitlement is or isn’t included
- Looking at how they can implement rich analytics and reporting
Ian: Yes, we have seen this a lot, too, Paul. Resilience is a hot topic, and we have been spending a lot of time with our customers on this. As you know, RingCentral integrates heavily with Teams and brings 99.999 reliability on the voice side. In fact, we have just announced our Microsoft Teams integration 2.0, which shows the functionality and how we integrate seamlessly. We also have some interesting guidance from the Cavell Group on how this should work in practice.
Ok, Paul, so far we have talked about all the positive things associated with CCaaS and UCaaS implementation. But, to be honest, where have you seen it going wrong?
Wow, that’s one from the bottom of the deck. Well, from experience, these are the things NOT TO DO.
- Let your legacy contracts run until the end. It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive and having a plan in place before you are forced to change.
- Rush the project. Take some time to understand what you currently have as legacy systems.
- Make the assumption that CCaaS just means call centre. These days it encompasses a whole range of means of contact, including email, web chat, social media, WhatsApp and so on.
- Complete the project in isolation. Ensure that all stakeholders are involved, and their needs are understood.
- Underestimate the scale of the project. Many times we have seen organisations completely underestimate how hard and involved this transition can be and how It affects everyone.
- Assume you have the budget!!
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty: what key areas SHOULD an IT director ask themselves about when procuring a new UCaaS/CCaaS solution?
Ok, there are plenty of areas that come to mind, and I wish we had more time but a couple of ideas spring to mind.
Having said that, here are four questions that IT directors and managers should always ask themselves before starting on any kind of project:
What is the most appropriate financial model?
Determine whether a capital expenditure (CapEx) or operational expenditure (OpEx) model is more suitable for the organisation. CapEx involves upfront costs for purchasing and deploying the solution, while OpEx involves ongoing subscription-based payments. Understanding the financial model will help align the procurement strategy with your budget and long-term financial goals.
How easy will it be to deploy the solution?
Assess how easy it will be to deploy the UCaaS/CCaaS solution. Evaluate the vendor’s implementation process, the level of technical expertise required, and the potential disruption to existing systems and workflows. A smooth and streamlined deployment process will minimise downtime and ensure a smooth transition for end-users.
Does the solution offer combined UCaaS and CCaaS?
Choosing an integrated UCaaS and CCaaS solution means you ensure seamless communication and collaboration across the organisation. It also means you’re better equipped to provide powerful contact centre functionalities to enhance customer support and engagement.
How flexible and scalable is the solution?
Assess whether the solution can easily accommodate fluctuations in demand, such as bursts of high call volumes during events or major incidents. It’s also important to check whether there’s the capability to scale down during quieter periods.
Thanks for your thoughts, Paul. So, in summary, how could public sector organisations benefit from adopting UCaaS and CCaaS solutions?
We talk in more depth about this in our FREE workshop but overall you can see immediate benefits in the following areas:
1. Improved customer experience
Automation and self-service capabilities provided by integrated solutions reduce the average customer handling time. This improves agent productivity, as well as the customer experience – and it requires fewer resources.
2. Simplified licensing
An integrated solution eliminates the need for multiple licences by consolidating communication functionalities into a single licence. This simplifies the licensing structure and reduces admin overheads.
3. Cloud-based and operational efficiencies
Moving to a cloud-based UCaaS/CCaaS solution reduces hardware costs, maintenance expenses and associated overheads. With scalable cloud services, organisations pay only for the resources they need. This improves productivity and drives operational efficiency.
4. Power and energy savings
UCaaS and CCaaS can help companies cut down on energy and power usage. It helps with this for many reasons, including enabling remote work and consolidating infrastructure. Mission Cloud found that customers consume 77% fewer servers, use 84% less power and reduce carbon emissions by 88% just by using the cloud.
So, we are coming to the end of the interview now. In summary, what advice would you give to an IT Leader looking at implementing a UCaaS/CCaaS solution?
I think if I had to sum everything up in two sentences, Ian it would be this:
Thanks for all your valuable insight, Paul, but it seems like we have only just scratched the surface. Where can IT leaders in the public sector go for help?
You are absolutely right, Ian. There are lots and lots of other things to think about. We will be at UCX DTX at the ExCel London on 4-5 October and will be offering a workshop that RingCentral has kindly offered to sponsor. This will be a 45-minute lunch and learn at a local hotel to run through and expand on some of the ideas mentioned here.
A special thanks to Paul for his words of wisdom on all things UCaaS and CCaaS in the public sector; plenty of valuable takeaways for IT directors and managers to dig into.
Originally published Jul 04, 2023, updated Sep 13, 2023