Journey to the sustainable contact centre

Jeremy Payne, Group VP, Alliances, Enghouse Interactive, explains how local government can decarbonise customer service

Local authorities are increasingly looking to work in partnership with central government in the ongoing drive to achieve the UK's 2050 Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions target. There is much they can potentially do around decarbonising buildings, energy and transport. The need to expand electric vehicle charging points and grow energy innovation zones are likely to be especially key areas of focus.

Many have already kick-started their activities. The National Audit Office’s July 2021 report, Local government and net zero in England found, for example, that 91 per cent of local authorities have adopted at least one commitment to decarbonise their own activities or their local area and that more than one-third (38 per cent) of single- and upper-tier authorities have adopted a commitment to decarbonise their local area by or before 2030.

It is important to note here that not only do councils and local authorities need to support the move to decarbonising the local environment, they must also make efforts to reduce their own carbon footprint by ensuring working practices minimise impact on the environment.

One area that has been traditionally overlooked when local authorities assess how they can reduce their carbon footprint is the contact centre. With sustainability now an urgent priority, these attitudes are changing. And now equipped with the right communication tools and cloud-based technology, local authorities are starting to successfully shift their call centres to greener ways of working.

How cloud holds the key
One way in which local authorities and councils are increasingly looking to cut costs, deliver efficiencies and drive sustainability is by moving away from the traditional bricks and mortar contact centre of the past. Those buildings typically featured serried rows of agents working in shifts and travelling to out-of-town sites, typically by car. Added to all that, you have to factor in the environmental costs of heating, powering, and cooling these large contact centres and the large number of agents working there.

Using a cloud-based contact centre helps local authorities move away from these costs and the environmental impact associated with them. Cloud-based technology now means that contact centre systems can be accessed from anywhere from one central point – all that it is required is a laptop and a broadband/mobile data connection. Employees can log on and use exactly the same applications and systems that they are familiar with, with all the same functionalities. Voice over IP solutions and enhanced connectivity can easily route interactions to the right person or department, wherever they are located. And all this can be done while keeping the carbon footprint generated by the organisation and its workers to an absolute minimum. Travel is significantly reduced, the council or authority incurs less heating and electricity costs and the cost and environmental impact of printing is minimised.

How video collaboration drives sustainability
Video technology is also something that can be embraced to enhance the service offered to residents while cutting carbon emissions at the same time. Councils can enable public attendance at meetings in this way where appropriate, for example. This type of engagement can also be used for one-to-one engagement with individual citizens. One local authority, Durham County Council, is already piloting a video contact centre initiative, Durham Talk, which offers face-to-face support to customers.

This kind of approach provides great service to residents while both reducing the local authority’s carbon footprint and saving it money at the same time.

The bigger picture
Local authorities increasingly want to be at the forefront of decarbonisation and the drive to sustainability. As they look to address these key issues, it is worth highlighting that councils and local authorities are focused not just on the assets they look after but on their own public-facing activities too. Increasingly, thanks to the use of cloud contact centres and video collaboration tools, they are delivering a truly sustainable approach.

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