Cork claims a first with multimedia contact centre


7 Mar 2006

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Cork County Council has completed the first phase of a project to establish a multimedia contact centre which it claims will improve services to the public. The center will enable citizens in the county to contact the council through a range of channels including phone, fax, email, SMS, web chat and internet self service.

This is the first public service of its kind in Ireland. In the first phase of the project the centre will handle the council’s motor tax services and the new pay-by-weight refuse collection scheme.

Cork County Council administers local government services to more than 324,000 citizens. The project will allow the authority to provide the right information to members of the public quickly and efficiently, giving them a single point of contact for services.

Later this year two additional elements will be added: higher educational grants and non-domestic water metering. The latter is a major project as there are more than 40,000 meters in the county and the centre will be set up to handle all queries around billing and receipts.

The contact centre is based in Ballincollig and has a fully integrated direct link to the council’s back-office systems, enabling the agents to view and handle customer account queries.

According to James Fogarty, head of ICT with Cork County Council, the phased approach to the project will ensure that agents are able to resolve customer queries and that any action arising from them will be followed through. “We need to ensure that service level agreements are met; for example if an agent in the contact centre says that a bin will be delivered in five days, then it will be. [The system] has to tie in to everything the council does,” he told siliconrepublic.com.

Cork County Council awarded the contract for the centre to BT Ireland. As part of the agreement, the operator will also provide an internet protocol (IP) telephony solution across 91 sites around the county. This infrastructure will carry voice and data traffic across a single network.

Fogarty explained that running voice over IP will generate significant cost savings for the council. It is also easier to manage and it allows calls to be transferred more easily between branches, like a single virtual office.

BT partnered with the Abtran to win the customer relationship management (CRM) contract. BT Contact Central, an integrated automatic call distribution and customer relationship management solution based on Siebel technology, will be linked to the contact centre.

The system was delivered to a tight deadline: 12 weeks from the time of signing the contract. It is connected to the council’s back office, removing paper from the process and creating orders electronically. “No matter what channel the customer comes through we have one single view of the customer. That wasn’t possible before,” said Fogarty.

Abtran, an Irish firm specialising in business process outsourcing services, will provide contact centre expertise and advice on best practice to the council, including a manager. The rest of the 10 staff are all internal county council employees.

By Gordon Smith