It’s an extraordinarily busy time for call centres at the moment. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have required a huge wave of outbound telephone calls in support of the Test, Trace and Protect initiative (TT&P).
To keep up with such demand, Cardiff City Council agreed to host the TT&P service for the whole of Cardiff and Vale – which included setting up a large-scale outbound call centre function. However, scaling-up a contact centre and provide surge support for the rest of Wales, in the middle of a pandemic, where all staff need to work remotely, is no easy task.
In order to manage the call centre to effectively keep up with surging outbound call volumes, Cardiff City Council needed a solution that would provide agility, whilst enabling the local authority to get up and running fast. To meet this need, the council used Netcall, a leading provider of low-code and customer engagement solutions, to help streamline call centre processes, and improve day-to-day agent management.
The TT&P services in Wales are run on a regional basis. In Cardiff and Vale, the service is provided through a partnership made up of the local health board and Cardiff and Vale Councils. This means that all resources for call centres must be sourced locally. As the pandemic has escalated, the call centres covering Cardiff and the Vale (which cover a combined population of over 500,000) have seen a huge increase in staff numbers – as many as 355 members as of the 6th November – all of which need to be added to the existing shift rotas. To help make day-to-day organisation possible, Cardiff City Council needed to extend the capacity of a system that it was already familiar with, to not only automate internal processes, but also produce obtainable call demand data that could be extracted and analysed at any given moment – and fast.
Prior to Netcall’s involvement, the TT&P call centre’s rotas were going to be managed using Excel spreadsheets; however, resource planning at such a scale was simply not possible. Due to the sheer amount of staff being added, managing rotas using spreadsheets would have been labour-intensive and prone to error.
Recent backlash surrounding the COVID app initiative, which saw underreported COVID-19 figures, have shown that Excel is an impractical tool for such large-scale deployments. And for the call centre, one simple mistake, such as overlooking a column, could result in an entire shift being left without staff to cover it. When the calls being made are those of such a critical and sensitive nature, the Council simply could not afford to experience such errors. On top of this, the team members faced an increase in the number of days and hours they needed to work to cover call demand. The team needed to move from five to seven days a week and operate from 8am to 8pm every day – increasing shift management and rota complexity. And all of this needed to be done on a remote basis.
Now in full swing, the new system, using Netcall’s workforce management solution for the contact centre, enables team leaders to rota staff with ease. This has allowed Cardiff City Council to host the national surge team, providing overflow capacity for the entire country and support the residents of Wales through a particularly challenging time. The automated system enables the council to rotate the different schedules, which could not have been conducted manually, for each week. Training is also taken into consideration within these rotas – an important factor when onboarding so many new employees.
By providing a well-structured, easily accessible rota planning system, the council has seen vast improvements to its employee engagement. Due to the transparency of the system, agents have easy access to their daily schedule and can apply for leave directly. For these new members of staff, the simple task of taking breaks, for example, can be daunting without input from team leaders – especially when working from home full-time. The system is able to allocate regular breaks for each individual so that each shift still has sufficient numbers of staff to cover it without overwhelming agents.
With the current pandemic landscape changing at such a fast pace, call centres need both the right people and the right technology to survive. Moving forward, with the addition of an automated feed, the workforce management system has the potential to provide the council with the intelligence needed to effectively forecast spikes in demand – and enable staff to be resourced effectively.
“Never has there been a more critical time for our call centres. Now is the time for us to pull together in order to support our Welsh citizens, and the right people with the right technology will be pivotal to achieving that. Netcall’s workforce management solution has meant that we’re able to extract the necessary data at any given time so we’re able to see what shifts are being covered by which staff, and who may be on leave or in training throughout the day. Complete visibility is crucial in our line of work, particularly in such unsteady times. Netcall has provided us with the processes to be able to remain steady, and the power to weather the current storm,” comments Malcom Perry, Stats and Support Manager at Cardiff City Council.
Isabelle Bignall, CDO, Cardiff City Council added, “We are really grateful for the support that Netcall has provided us with over this critical period of time. Our call centres are there to help people receive the support they need and ultimately save lives, so it’s imperative that we’re able to focus purely on our callers and not waste precious resources on internal processes.”
“We are proud to have been able to add value to such a vital service, in such a challenging time for society. Cardiff is making a real difference in the Test, Trace and Protect initiative and we are delighted that our technology has played a key role in making that possible,” commented Paul Hewitt, Account Director at Netcall.