- Immediate implementation of front end greeting
- Relieve pressure on switchboard
- In the first month, reduced internal calls to switchboard by 85% with speech bot
- In the first month, speech bot directs 53% of external calls to the right extension first time
- ContactPortal speech bot implemented within one week
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust operates across three busy hospital sites in North West England and was in the process of upgrading their earlier Netcall contact centre to Liberty Converse.
Handling a huge volume of calls
Their switchboard team, a busy team of 20 staff, operate around the clock shifts, handling a huge volume of calls, including many internal calls between staff members. As part of their upgrade, the Trust invested in ContactPortal, our operator speech bot, primarily to handle the internal calls and relieve pressure on the switchboard. At that time, the Trust felt that their patients and external callers weren’t ready to interact with a speech bot, and they intended to adopt it as an internal operator only to relieve switchboard from internal calls.
Then the pandemic hit.
The COVID curveball
The Trust was under pressure to deal with increased call volumes and separate out urgent calls first. A front end greeting needed to be applied immediately to advise callers of how, when and where they could make contact with their sites. The ContactPortal installation was brought forward, initially to enable this greeting, going live within a week.
In April and May, reactions needed to be faster than normal due to COVID. So, the Trust’s Telecoms Manager, Louise Simpson, was able to deploy ContactPortal to handle external calls as well, to reduce call waiting times and switchboard pressure.
With a swift roll out, the Trust didn’t have the opportunity to fully update all their contact information, add bleeps or to fully educate their staff on using the system. But ContactPortal proved to be so sophisticated, reliable and easy to use and administer it began successfully handling a large proportion of both internal and external calls straight away.
We would have started with ContactPortal internally and then potentially rolled it out for external calls once we had seen the benefits that we have now seen. COVID changed it all for us. It was the reason we went live with calls from the public. ContactPortal became as successful, if not more so, in answering and directing more calls from members of the public first time than we could have imagined. It was a very swift implementation and now we are working to maximise the system and ensure that staff make full use of it on every internal call.
ContactPortal takes the strain
Here’s how ContactPortal took the strain, even in it’s first month, in May 2020, during the COVID peak, in comparison with calls handled the previous year.
The Switchboard Team is now upskilling and training on other tasks such as working within the IT helpdesk. Each site still has a night operator, but as ContactPortal is reliably routing calls, the call volumes to the switchboard has greatly reduced. So now the operators can update the next day’s on-call rotas and deal with database tasks, between the less frequent calls that reach switchboard.
I was unsure at first, I thought that ContactPortal would mean job losses in Switchboard, but I can understand this was brought in to reduce the call pressure due to COVID. Now, I feel that has this really helped. We now have only two members of staff required on shift but it’s less stressful.
Patient and staff experience
Patients have adopted the use of a bot as a ‘virtual operator’ very well. As this system was implemented so quickly, the Telecoms Team has worked to reduce granular details and pronunciation issues on the live system. Feedback from patients and their first time resolution rate are both continually improving.
Staff are also utilising the system, seeing that it is reliably routing calls and resulting in them spending less time on hold to the switchboard. The Trust aims to populate the administration system with more information and contact details and bleep details, which will further improve the call handling and first time resolution the bots can provide. Plus, the Trust is investigating adding an additional two bots to ensure they don’t hit thresholds in busy periods and ensure that staff make full use of ContactPortal.