How Technology Empowers a Local Government to Connect with Its Residents

As customer service expectations continue to rise, callers demand a fast and dependable user experience with every call. Municipal governments like the town of West Gwillimbury have the added pressure of balancing their need for cutting edge technology with the responsibility to effectively manage how they spend the public’s dollars without compromising on user experience. In addition, their nine separate office locations were using nine separate phone systems, greatly increasing inefficiency and making true service change almost impossible.

Challenges

For local municipal and government offices, there is a growing pressure of balance responsibility - effectively serve residents with public expectation to keep costs minimal. Add to that the need to adopt top of the line technology that enables the expected level of service, and these local governments are faced with a unique set of challenges. For the town of Bradford, West Gwillimbury, these common problems were magnified by their physical structure of nine separate office locations using independent and disconnected phone systems.

Solutions

A scalable, pure-IP based unified communications platform, the NS1000 is centralized but supports web-based telephone solutions across multiple sites, making it the perfect choice for the Town’s remote offices. The solution supported multiple VLANs and Power over Ethernet (PoE), utilizing the town’s existing fibre network to speed up installation time, increase operational efficiency and reduce overall cost.

Results

By combining disparate systems onto one network, Panasonic’s NS1000 Business Communications Server has saved money, made work more efficient, and connected resident more easily.

Improve service and reduce costs

The rise of e-commerce and disruption of new consumer technology has created a huge shift in expectations for customer experience. Whether for a business or a government, users expect to be connected quickly and more seamlessly than ever before. To create a satisfying customer journey, a top-notch experience from the very first moment is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s now a key performance indicator for the effectiveness and value of an organization.

Municipal and government offices face the added challenge of aiming to empower their employees to meet customer expectations with modern communications technology while also needing to be extremely mindful of transparency and the amount of public money being spent. Over the years, the demand for increasingly sophisticated and complex technology has grown while financial restrictions have stayed the same. It’s a tricky balancing act to both ensure that they’re maintaining the public trust with responsible spending while also enabling good government and excellent customer service with the latest technology.

For the municipal government of the town of Bradford, West Gwillimbury, part of the Greater Toronto Area, their unique geographic structure posed some extra challenges. Not only are they spread out across nine separate locations, prior to the new installation they also used nine separate phone systems. In essence, they were reducing their own efficiency and ability to deliver customer service nine times over.

Without an integrated communications solution across all their separate locations, Bradford West Gwillimbury’s capability to serve its residents was demonstrably hampered. The inability to properly transfer calls and duplication of efforts across systems were daily hindrances, while the lack of information and performance data to appropriately plan for the right amount of total lines relative to anticipated call volume left employees in the dark and customers on hold or pushed to voicemail.

Chris Harbour, Manager of Information Technology for the town of Bradford, West Gwillimbury explains, “Following discussions with multiple vendors and a full panel review, our RFP search for an integrated, easily-installed and cost-effective solution led us to a comprehensive hybrid solution provided by Panasonic”. An NS1000 Business Communications Server was brought online as their main system while a second redundant NS1000 system provided backup security and peace of mind.

A scalable & centralized unified communications system

A scalable, pure-IP based unified communications platform, the NS1000 is centralized and capable of supporting multiple VLANs,and Power over Ethernet (PoE). Utilizing the town’s existing fibre network effectively sped up installation time, reduced overall costs and increased operational efficiencies across nine locations. Even better, One-Look network with legacy gateway made it possible to choose from a versatile range of top-of-the-line digital phones. Deciding to install both eight-key and 24-key desktop digital models, each option instantly delivered streamlined functions, high-definition voice quality and sleek design.

Cost effectiveness was increased even further as the existing office cabling within the individual office buildings was also leveraged to connect the new phones to their new business communications server and network. This smart planning and flexible implementation boosted operational excellence even further while yet again improving on the time to install.

Full implementation across all sites took only a few months and was completely seamless to employees and residents alike. Thanks to the SIP channels, phone numbers were easily ported without needing to change. Residents weren’t even aware that improvements were underway, and no complicated updates were necessary for any of West Gwillimbury’s digital and physical customer materials.

Interruption to the staff was minimal – so much so that while employees were in an orientation session learning the highlights and benefits of their new system, their desktop phones were quickly replaced. They came back to their desks only having to clear voicemail messages from the old system and record their greetings on the new one. They were up and running again in mere minutes. Following the full system installation, each office was brought online in a phased approach and fully operational within a single day.

Empowering staff with a powerful technology solution

A fully modern solution, the new NS1000 server didn’t only enable a completely revamped telephone system, it also supercharged West Gwillimbury’s customer service function with the addition of Communication Assistant for chat, providing another tool that allowed staff to focus on customer needs and solve issues quickly. Call queues were launched for high-traffic locations to make it easy for users to talk to a live customer service specialist and reduce messages to voicemail. This improved satisfaction for the caller and reduced the effort required for staff to try to reconnect with the user at a later time. The Call Accounting feature empowers staff to make data-driven decisions and plan for adequate forecasting with the ability to review call volumes, destinations and service-standard markers for time-to-answer and time-on-hold.

In the end, outdated disparate systems were replaced with a single, centrally managed solution that empowered staff to easily and effectively route inbound calls to the right place at the right time, drastically improving customer service. An added internal bonus, employees can now easily hold conference calls internally with employees at other locations, as well as externally with other stakeholders, opening them up to quick colleague connectivity, networking, brainstorming and idea building.

Bradford West Gwillimbury’s modernization project is a model for other governments and institutions, both large and small, that are looking for reliable technology to efficiently connect their staff with the people they serve. The result is better communication for all and an enhanced and truly modern experience for everyone who connects with it.

The Panasonic NS1000 Business Communications Server was the ultimate answer to West Gwillimbury’s unique set of problems. Centrally-housed but able to integrate communications across multiple locations, this new communications core system was scalable, efficient and, thanks to leveraging the town’s existing fibre optic infrastructure, remarkably affordable. Full implementation took only a few months, including staff training where each office was brought online in less than one day. By combining disparate systems onto one network, Panasonic’s NS1000 Business Communications Server enabled the town government to become more efficient, reduce costs and, most importantly, better serve its residents.
There has been no negative feedback from the end users: the phones just work. For a feature-rich and cost-effective solution, we’re very pleased to have found this Panasonic system and would recommend it to others.
Chris Harbour, Manager of IT