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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) introduced a new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) scheme, under which people previously entitled to incapacity benefits would be assessed on their ability for work rather than what they could not do. The aim? To get people who could work back into employment, while supporting those who can not.
A key ESA requirement was that the whole customer process had to be able to be managed over the phone. At a practical level this meant reducing handling times, while increasing the number of contacts with each customer and eliminating the need for claimants to sign any forms.
Sue Moore, Programme Manager, explains: “We wanted to make the whole process more dynamic, making sure that anybody applying would pass through the customer journey as rapidly as possible – including receiving any payments due.”
It was a tall order, as the telephony facilities used by the benefit delivery teams within Jobcentre Plus (the part of DWP that was to manage the scheme) needed upgrading. Steve Dover, ESA Integrated IT Lead, says: “In some cases even the telephones within offices were not networked together, so joining everything up was absolutely crucial.”
Networking the sites together, though, was only part of the task. The new claims management process meant that the teams also needed quick and easy access to claimant records. Sue Moore reports: “We estimated that we would take over 60,000 calls per month, not including the initial spike of contacts from existing claimants.”
BT has an established relationship with DWP and is supplying networked services through a five-year contract known as ICONS (Integrated Communications Network Services). BT had already implemented a BT Contact IP-based solution within the department’s contact centre directorate and plans were in place to roll this solution out to other teams within the organisation.
Steve Dover recalls: “By using an IP-based platform everything we needed from the communications solution could be consolidated into one. We had been discussing using BT Contact technology in benefit delivery, but to meet ESA requirements we needed to pull our plans forward by a year.”
BT had the challenging task of installing the BT Contact solution into 64 of the 81 Benefit Delivery Centres across the country, within a year. A dedicated BT programme team managed the task and to meet the schedule new processes were developed within the BT divisions involved.
In order to handle the projected volumes efficiently the telephony platform was linked seamlessly to DWP’s new Siebel CRM system. By streamlining the process in this way, claims can be properly tracked and ESA telephony staff have all the information they need at their fingertips, as soon as a call is presented. The necessary integration between the BT Contact platform and the Siebel system was particularly complex, as it was the first time BT had used Genesys CTI in this way.
The network architecture was enhanced to give a high level of resilience using duplicated installations with hot standby provisions. Extensive testing ensured that each stage of the project was implemented successfully. In addition, around 4,000 telephones were relocated ready for the service launch.
The BT Contact solution provides the basis for the benefit centres to be consolidated into one virtual contact centre comprising around 8,000 agents. A BT Auto Contact interactive voice response (IVR) system helps ensure that callers are directed to an appropriately skilled staff member. The need for a signature from claimants is replaced by recording all calls to provide the required evidence.
ESA is transforming the way incapacity benefit is managed in the UK. All initial claims to ESA can now be managed over the telephone, with incoming calls delivered to available staff regardless of location and without the need for signed paperwork. Comprehensive management information is available to monitor call volumes, assure service quality, and manage staff performance.
The BT Contact solution has also helped the department achieve some significant cost savings. The use of an IP-based platform has allowed it to make a significant reduction in the number of communications service contracts it has, while the consolidation of the teams has improved efficiency. BT’s expertise has also helped the senior management team within Jobcentre Plus to review its wider business processes.
The supporting communications solution is widely recognised as a key enabler to the success of the ESA implementation. Steve Dover says: “BT was a key part of the team. It was an extremely challenging plan and the collaboration they have shown has been central to our success. Everything was ready on time and within budget.”
The success of the BT Contact solution means that there are now plans to roll it out to other DWP agencies, with the ultimate long-term aim of creating a single IP-based virtual contact centre for the whole department. The solution also provides the foundation to support new ways of interacting with customers, for example self-service.
Sue Moore concludes: “We now have a much more flexible platform that can be quickly scaled to accommodate our future requirements. So far our customers have responded well to the new benefit and supporting system.”
- BT Contact IP-based contact centre
- BT Auto Contact interactive voice response
- BT Contact Recording
- Systems Integration using Genesys CTI