Creating a single digital front door

Citizens living in the English county of Somerset used to be served by five separate local government authorities and multiple contact centres. Now, consolidated on the Genesys Cloud™ platform, a united Somerset Council is at the heart of public services delivery. Nine ultra-efficient digital assistants have replaced long, confusing IVR menus — cutting abandonment rates in half and getting customers to the right department 47% faster. Other results include reductions in wait times, above-target customer satisfaction (CSAT) ratings, and cost and time savings.

50% reduction

in abandoned calls

47% faster

placement of customers in the correct queue

90% success rate

for bot routing

Up to 94%

CSAT rating the first week

Reduced average wait time

to 7–12 seconds

Saved

time and money

Now customers only have one number to call, spend less time queuing and no longer have to figure out our organisational structure to get the right support. And our staff are better prepared and start conversations on the right foot.

Sharon Passmore

Service Manager, Customer Services

Somerset Council

Ending confusion, duplication and frustration

Situated in the southwest, Somerset is England’s seventh biggest county by area. Residents used to be served by five separate local government authorities including Somerset County Council (SCC). Together, they provide a wide range of public services, including education (schools, libraries and youth services); adults and children’s social care; highway maintenance; waste disposal; emergency planning; consumer protection; and town and country planning.

Each local authority had its own contact centre with different phone numbers; opening times; out-of-hours coverage; and technology, including telephony systems, case management systems, workflow/CRM lite, IVR options and routing strategies. Competencies like knowledge, skill sets and work practices varied, too.

This fragmented approach caused confusion among customers navigating their way through 155 council functions and 1,073 separate services, as well as internal management challenges. All of this negatively affected contact centre performance and created duplicate costs and efforts. The time to reach the right team and resolve issues added to customer frustrations.

Focusing on a single vision for Somerset

The company launched a major change program known as “One Somerset” to bring everything together under a single organisation, ending confusion over which council and department does what.

Somerset Council won a 2023 Genesys Customer Innovation Award. Pictured from left: Genesys CEO Tony Bates and David Hawken of Somerset Council

“Our aim was to put residents at the heart of how we deliver public services,” said Sharon Passmore, Service Manager, Customer Services at Somerset Council. “We wanted to create a single front door and phone number, while introducing AI-powered automation to free up agents to apply the human touch where it mattered most — like dealing with vulnerable and at-risk residents.”

As the biggest change management program in the company’s history, there was an immovable deadline. “Our new virtual contact centre had to be up and running within 14 months to coincide with over 250,000 Council tax bills being sent out, with everything in place to manage high payment and query volumes,” added Passmore.

Choosing the right partner

While each government authority had its own experiences with various contact centre solutions, SCC had been using Genesys Cloud, hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), since early 2021 without experiencing a single outage. It was also having success with digital channels when the other authorities were primarily using voice only.

The Council went through a compliant route to select a telephony solution, unanimously selecting Genesys Cloud for the combined organisation. “As well as supporting our existing voice, email, web messenger and Facebook channels, adopting Genesys meant we could be more self-sufficient when it came to making better use of in-house skills and developing our own voicebots,” said Passmore.

To help with the implementation, the Council engaged Kerv Experience, a partner with a proven track record in managing other Genesys migrations with similar government organisations.

“Kerv Experience was very professional and did a great job working with us to get everything up and running within three months,” said David Hawken, UC Specialist at Somerset Council. “Each authority moved across seamlessly with zero disruption to service, which given where we all were on separate systems, was a breath of fresh air.”

Having defined its telephony architecture, the Council set about rationalising five separate IVR solutions. Each contact centre had handled processes differently, and it was crucial that high-priority calls, like adult and children’s social care contacts, weren’t delayed by system complexities.

“Our systems used to rely on customers understanding how a council’s organisation worked to get themselves to the right place,” said Passmore. “Also, they weren’t good at capturing data like why people were calling or the nature of their requests. So, general inquiries traffic was an impenetrable black hole.”

Deploying a digital self-help bot

Determined to improve self-service and escape an overly complicated IVR setup, the Council created a digital assistant for its internal IT Help Desk. It asked three questions: the customer’s name, their asset number and why they were making contact. The interaction was then routed to the right agent.

We chose Genesys AI because of the ease of building bots within the platform. It’s simple to edit and amend bot flows, and it really made sense for us to have everything in one place. Very quickly, we saw abandoned calls reduce by up to 50% and discovered bots are great at gathering valuable data.

David Hawken

UC Specialist

Somerset Council

Other self-help tasks were added for things like password resets. Amazon Polly text-to-speech software was used to create in-queue messages, while Genesys Bot Flows helped build and orchestrate voicebots within Genesys Cloud.

“We chose Genesys AI because of the ease of building bots within the platform,” said Hawken. “It’s simple to edit and amend bot flows, and it really made sense for us to have everything in one place. Very quickly we saw abandoned calls reduce by up to 50% and discovered bots are great at gathering valuable data. We now have one live voicebot efficiently triaging and fast-routing customer calls, as well as several digital bots handling routing, data gathering and self-help queries.”

Amazon Polly is used for all IVR messages. “It sounds natural, provides a consistent voice throughout our journey, and allows for simple pronunciation adjustments,” said Hawken. “And it’s also sped up our ability to make changes to our IVR messages. Instead of two people being able to record messages, anyone in our contact centre can log into AWS, create the message and get it uploaded.”

Transformation to a single-service organisation

Successfully meeting its launch date, four contact centre locations support the newly formed unitary Somerset Council, which operates as a single service organisation.

The customer experience has been transformed by orchestrating a connected journey with Genesys AI-powered digital solutions. When a call is routed to an advisor, they can instantly see the bot conversation and work out exactly why the customer is calling, allowing them to personalise the greeting and avoid asking repeat questions.

Previously, managers had no way to optimise contact centre performance. Now, they use Genesys real-time dashboard reporting to better prepare staff. And shared scripts ensure consistent processes and messaging, while helping with onboarding and training.

“Now customers only have one number to call, spend less time queuing and no longer have to figure out our organisational structure to get the right support,” said Passmore. “And our staff are better prepared; they know why the customer is calling and start conversations on the right foot.”

Moving to Genesys means there’s only one platform to manage, giving IT more time for innovation. Introducing asynchronous Genesys Web Messaging, linked to bots, has provided customers with a self-service option and reduced effort for the ICT Help Desk. And it’s given employees a threaded timeline for reporting technical issues.

“When we were using a web chat solution, it was a standalone conversation; once the customer rebooted their computer, they lost everything that we had told them,” said Hawken. “With web messenger, they can just log straight back in and they’ve still got a history of that conversation.”

With its previous on-premises system, the Council frequently dealt with downtime and technical support issues. Those troubles are now in the past with Genesys Cloud, and the Council can focus on more valuable tasks.

“Instead of battling outages, I can study our call and bot flows to make service improvements or spot instances when our bot support needs tweaking to provide customers with more support,” said Hawken. “Kerv Experience showed us how to use Genesys Architect, and we can pretty much do everything ourselves now.”

Plus, contact centre teams are more self-sufficient and spend less time less maintaining IVR menus and searching for call recordings.

Fast and impressive results

The Council has also improved visibility of service levels. “Across our contact centres, we now have a common set of KPIs that managers and agents can see at a glance,” said Passmore.

Before, with IVR, the average time to get customers into the right queue was 66 seconds. With the bot, it’s 35 seconds — a 47% reduction. Exceeding expectations, the bot has a 90% success rate in correctly routing customers. Callers are identified far faster — with an average wait of between 7 and 12 seconds.

“We have a much better handle now on call and message volume, and can easily channel-shift if required,” added Hawken. “Then we measure how successful that’s been.”

Within the telephony sub-workstream, the company forecasted financial benefits, starting next year. And customers can self-select to complete a short survey. This provides a CSAT score as well as speech-to-text comments, which are used for both internal celebrations and to identify areas for improvement.

“Our CSAT score on Day One was 77%, and it climbed to as high as 94% in the first week,” concluded Passmore.

At a glance

Industry: Local government

Location: UK

Contact centre: Around 200 concurrent users

Challenges

  • End customer confusion and frustration
  • Unify five separate council and contact centre organisations