Connecting Wales Launch Event Q&As
In addition to the Contact Centre for Teams within the Connecting Wales portfolio, our technology partner FourNet also have the consultancy skills and resources to support the full deployment of Teams, from scoping the technical and user requirements, through to provisioning Direct Routing. Direct Routing enables your employees to communicate seamlessly with contacts outside your Teams environment: customers, partners, suppliers and beyond. Using the same Teams interface on either mobile or desktop, your employees can make or receive calls with people outside your Teams environment. Teams Direct Routing through FourNet means no need for costly Microsoft call plans. The Connecting Wales framework costs are an order of magnitude cheaper than Microsoft calling plans or other carrier direct routing solutions on the market.
The costs and implementation implications of Teams PBX depend on which Microsoft licence you are currently using. Whatever your current licencing, our solutions are deployed in short sprint periods giving you voice functionality within 10 -20 working days. Please read about our Connecting Wales Teams solution here or get in touch and we can talk you through the costs and implementation of an integrated Teams solution.
Connecting Wales was designed to provide simple voice integration into any capable PBX’s. This will minimise costs where there is already an enterprise-wide telephony solution in place that still has some time and investment left in it. This can be achieved with IP/SIP trunks to create call paths between the 2 platforms allowing calls into the contact centre to be routed into other parts of the organisation, and vice versa. Can also allow other investments to be retained such as bespoke IVR solutions.
Microsoft Teams has indeed taken great strides over the last few months, not least in public sector. As this became apparent in Welsh Public sector, we were able to demonstrate the adaptability of the framework and quickly incorporate our Contact Centre for Teams offering into Connecting Wales, to allow public bodies whose strategy is to deploy Teams to take advantage of all the features and functionality of the Connecting Wales Framework, delivered alongside their own Microsoft Teams deployments. Find out more about Teams direct routing for integrated voice communication and integrating Teams into the contact centre here.
Public Services in Wales have recognised that working collaboratively can help deliver services that are cost-effective, sustainable and that better help meet the needs of our citizens. Connecting Wales helps to break down barriers between organisations to allow for greater cooperation and collaboration. The ability to seamlessly route enquiries across a range of channels opens up opportunities to transform existing services and create new services. Collaborative services are being developed across Wales, particularly in the field of Health, Social care and Wellbeing. Shared Regulatory Services, which delivers huge range of public protection services for Bridgend, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan councils, is a great example of where historical differences in service administration and processes have been overcome to deliver high quality services. Citizens across all three council areas experience consistent and reliable services while the councils have achieved reductions in operating costs.
Connecting Wales is one element in the transformational changes underway for how Welsh public services will be delivered.
Connecting Wales enables councils sharing the platform to securely pass calls between their operations. So, for example, a council which has a high bilingual population could offer Welsh language services to fellow councils, which struggle to recruit and retain bilingual staff.
Councils can now recruit anywhere in the country. By using home working to access bilingual staff, a council in the very south of Wales could recruit a staff member in the very north of the country and deliver calls, webchat and emails to them as if they were sitting in its contact centre facility. This not only offers the council the opportunity to improve its Welsh language services but means that the bilingual staff can continue to live in work in their local community and support their local economy. This approach is applicable across numerous services, not only Welsh language.
The answer above hopefully answers this question for non-Teams users/ on-premise PBX but for those organisations using Teams, FourNet takes Teams beyond internal employee collaboration by integrating Teams into the contact centre. Our multi-channel contact centre capabilities provide your customers access to your contact centre agents via their channel of choice; the Microsoft Teams shared workspace then enables your agent to effortlessly engage back-office experts to provide the best resolution available for each customer contact.
Our Team’s contact centre integrations intelligently manage all contact interaction types – phone calls, voice messages, email, SMS, web chat, social media – in a single, fully integrated solution. For your customers it means quicker response times, and for your organisation the results are lower operational costs and exceptional efficiency gains.
The solution is monitored end to end for quality of voice calls. Our various platforms pro-actively monitor the applications, network, any appliances such as routers or IP handsets and any element that falls out of the tolerances that are set is flagged up as an alarm.
Where services are consumed over public internet, for example Microsoft Teams, the service cannot be assured, however the architecture of Teams is such that a great experience of the voice call is pretty much guaranteed, and if this falls below an acceptable level we can leverage various call routing options.
Calls are recorded within the UK based FourNet data centres. The calls are encrypted to ensure the integrity of the – potentially sensitive – recordings are assured. Calls are archived to secondary media for DR purposes, where the councils may access them as normal. Retention periods for all recordings can be negotiated with the councils.
Supporting Welsh Language Standards was a key stipulation during the development of the platforms. It is considered standard. Any public facing communications, either written or recorded, will be offered in both English and Welsh. This includes IVR’s, queue message, web chat and chatbot.
Deployment timescales will of course differ for each organisation. Whilst the license/feature models defined in the framework are fixed, the professional services involved to deploy and train etc, are bespoke and will vary. Part of the engagement process is to work with the customers stakeholders or project team to clarify and document all requirements so accurate costs can be provided.
If staff wish to work from home it is usually a simple matter of ensuring that the user has a Windows 10 laptop (which ensures that all UC and contact centre apps are supported), a good quality broadband connection, and decent wi-fi coverage at the place where the user is going to work from in their home. Typically, the staff member would be using some sort of soft phone to communicate, therefore a good quality USB or wireless headset is essential.
The death of the contact centre in favour of online access to services has been predicted for some time, however, worldwide voice interactions remain high. UK based contacts centres have seen a huge increase in telephone call volumes during the Covid19 pandemic as customers seek to make deferred payments arrangements, request refunds and get delivery advice on items purchased online (thisismoney.co.uk 02/07/20). This demonstrates two things, firstly you better get the end to end service delivery right for the customer if you want to reduce telephone interactions and secondly the channel that customers use depends on their situation and circumstances. The customers perception of the urgency or risk involved in their situation will influence their channel choice to interact with your organisation.
For the Welsh public sector this means making available the right resource for the level of risk involved in the customers enquiry. Online self-service work really well for low risk, low complexity and less urgent enquiries. Where enquiries are complex or carry a high level of risk, human traits of empathy, innovation and creativity can be applied to deliver better outcomes for the citizen, reduce risk for the organisation and a positive impact on the cost of service delivery.
It isn’t a choice between phone and self-service channels, it’s about using the right resource for the right enquiry.
The Connecting Wales platform provides a range of multi-channel opportunities to transform services and create channel shift. Webchat can play an important role in supporting citizens find the information they need and access services online. In doing so it helps keep citizens on that channel and helps prevent unnecessary telephone demand. Equally chatbots and other AI capability available through Connecting Wales can help deliver online self-service opportunities and create a great citizen experience.
Data is stored and encrypted within our data centres in the UK. In addition, we can provide various options for retention time and archiving of the information either to separate FourNet storage or onto the customer’s own solution.
Connecting Wales is available to all Local Authorities today. Please visit our website, or contact Tony Curliss or Andy Patrick for more information and to arrange a demonstration.
Although originally focused on Welsh Local Government the Framework and the platform is open to any public sector organisation is Wales.
There are a number of components that can be used to ensure remote workers are fully included and supported. Features such as Quality Management help home agents to be fully engaged, productive and focussed. Quality evaluations help remote contact centre agents feel connected to the process and see the value they bring to the business. Workforce Management empowers remote workers, by allowing them to participate in the scheduling and time management process using the holiday and schedule bidding functions.
These technologies can be used to support staff to feel confident and aid performance while face to face, on the floor communication and coaching is not available.
Health Boards will need to ensure that they can offer vaccine at a time and place that is convenient to patients. The initial target is our older population who are more likely to be vulnerable and much more likely to access services by telephone. This means that a contact centre environment becomes a key tool in making access to booking an appointment, quick, easy and convenient. Connecting Wales can offer the appropriate contact centre functionality, quickly. As a Cloud hosted service, Connecting Wales is able to deliver customer calls to home workers or across multiple sites. The platform offers opportunity to create regional or a national contact centre service – increasing operational capacity and value for money.
Connecting Wales is a shared platform, and it is correct to say that a catastrophic failure of all services within the platform would affect all councils. This is why Connecting Wales is built on FourNet’s award winning Agile Cloud platform, which has many Enterprise customers already using its services. Agile Cloud is designed with resilience present in every aspect of the platform, including data centres, SIP, applications, and network connectivity.
FourNet closely monitor the performance of the underlying infrastructure of our cloud service, and we constantly evolve and upgrade our data centres, network connections, virtualisation technologies and DR/BC plans to keep ahead of the curve.
There are no restrictions on how and where Connecting Wales technology can be applied. The functionality is available for use with internal support desks, ICT service desks, Human Resource and Employee Services support functions.
The financial business case lies in:
- Improving the operational efficiency of resources.
- Maximising economies of scale through collaborative working and sharing resources.
- The ability to quickly scale up and reduce licences for resources and functionality as and when required so you only pay for the resources when you use them.
- Reduces risks involved in trialling new technologies.
The platform offers technology that helps residents and support the transformation of services, delivering budget savings, and the Framework ensures the cost of licencing is competitive. It also allows the ability to access and test emerging customer facing technologies in a low risk way.
Absolutely. Although part of the Connecting Wales portfolio of products and services includes chat bot and AI capability, the platform is not limited to integrating other third-party solutions if preferred. Connecting Wales has been built to be flexible and integrate with existing solutions e.g. current CRM solutions, Workforce Management solutions etc.
We work with organisations who are considering joining the platform to build a roadmap that enables the transition of legacy technology enabling you to capitalise on existing investments while taking advantage of latest technical developments and functionality.
Connecting Wales is about access to functionality, and not a specific product, and as such, the Framework Agreement has been devised to allow the addition of emerging technologies, ensuring the platform evolves to meet changing market demands and citizen expectations.
The technology helps overcome a range of barriers and sits within a range of other digital initiatives, culture and change management with the aim of transforming services for the public good. Working closely with the Centre for Digital Public Services, our new Chief Digital Officer for Local Government, and others, will ensure that Connecting Wales contributes to this work.
The platform allows public sector organisations to work collaboratively, develop new service propositions, to access emerging technologies and scarce skills and resources so that we can quickly design and deploy services around the needs and preferences of our citizens in a cost effective and efficient way.
Connecting Wales does not at present have any bilingual translation technologies in place, but this is something we are looking into. We used the Microsoft inbuilt translation which was part of the Teams Live Events webinar platform for the launch event.
English and Welsh languages are offered across all external forms of communication, such as auto-attendant messages, and webchat etc, simply by duplicating all stored messages or texts in both languages and ensuring that once a preferred option is selected, all remaining comms will be provided in that language.
Next phase of Welsh Language Standards is to provide bilingual staff with the option to use Welsh in the workplace. Our Work Force Management offering is already available in Welsh for bilingual staff.
Connecting Wales platform would typically connect to existing CRM systems rather than replace them. There are many platforms our technologies have integrated with in the past, and these types of solutions usually are extremely simple and quick to establish a good, feature-rich, level of integration.
Where the integration hasn’t been done to a particular CRM before, or if the CRM is bespoke, then integration is still possible, but it’s a little longer to implemented and in some cases might involve the dedicated FourNet app development team, or even pro services from our suppliers.
The platforms are located in FourNet’s data centres situated in Manchester and London, and it has several layers of resilience built in. In the unlikely event of one data centre being affected by a major incident services will failover to the second data centre.
The applications themselves are built within a virtual environment where there are no single points of failure. The data network is connected into both of our data centres, which includes dual links to the internet, our SIP providers, the FourNet NOC and 1GbE connections to PSBA.
At the voice network layer, we can initiate permanent or temporary call routing plans, so for example, if a council experiences technical outages onsite, they are able to leverage pre-arranged agreements with partner councils to divert their calls. This can also assist the ability to respond to regional and national events, allowing resources across multiple organisations to deliver responses in a crisis. These processes and procedures can be automated, ensuring critical services experience minimal disruption.
There are various options for home working, depending on the services that the user wishes to consume. The user may leverage existing VPN solutions back to a council, which in turn connects to the cloud platform via PSBA, or a FourNet provisioned WAN circuits. Alternatively, the user can access some services of the cloud platform directly over the internet in a completely secure manner.