Council enlists unified communications to kill 20 year bogie

Video conferencing pilot underway

Strathbogie Shire Council has replaced a 20 year old PABX system with a state-of-the-art IP communications system for its staff and constituents.

The regional council, regarded as the horse capital of Victoria, has 120 staff located across six local and remote sites, including the central office building, a community centre, and a regatta centre. It serves about 10,000 residents.

Richard Bianco, manager of information and services for the council said the business case for replacing the archaic phone system sold itself.

We wouldn't be able to get the system back online if it ever went down

Richard Bianco, Strathbogie Shire Council

"The old system needed huge resources to maintain it. There was no direct dialing, so calls came straight to the receptionist who dialed around extensions - which occasionally dropped-out," Bianco said.

"We couldn't transfer calls to other sites, and we worked out that we wouldn't be able to get the system back online if it ever went down because nothing was supported.

"The benefits of the new system were obvious because the technology was ready to go."

The council installed a new unified communications platform with Computer Telephony Integration (CTI), caller identity functionality and agent routing, across all sites.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was not installed, despite being an included feature, because Bianco said it would taint the the council's personal communication with its constituents. A small IVR module is installed in the council's after-hours answering service.

Callers can now contact a council member directly, or via reception using the agent routing and CTI feature which dials both office and mobile phones.

The function is integrated into Microsoft Outlook which tells reception if staff are at lunch, are off sick or on the phone with another customer, while caller identity flags emergency calls for after hours service.

While the benefits have not yet been quantified, Bianco said almost 100 percent of the 250 calls it receives a day are answered either by an agent or through the new voice mail features.

Bianco said the old system did not have battery backup and category five cables needed to be installed to add new phone extensions in the main council building.

"It was expensive and always caused delays. The new system runs off server-room infrastructure so it has full redundancy and power backup," he said.

A reporting function documents call handling times, including how long voice mails are stored, which has improved customer service.

The implementation took about six months to deploy and this included staff training.

Included with the system is 72 IP handsets and two phone conference stations.

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