Upgrade saves Smokey bacon

Auckland Regional Council was fortunate it had gone live with a new customer service and telephony system the week before it launched its 0800 Smokey campaign - it received 25 times the expected number of calls.

Auckland Regional Council was fortunate it had gone live with a new customer service and telephony system the week before it launched its 0800 Smokey campaign - it received 25 times the expected number of calls.

ARC IT director Tony Darby says the old disparate paper-based systems would never have coped with the thousands of Aucklanders who rang in about smokey vehicles on the city's roads.

In the past two months the council had consolidated its four customer contact centres - Enviroline, Parksline, Rideline and the main switchboard. In most cases they used paper systems; for example, an operator for the public transport information system Rideline would have to thumb through half a dozen folders of information to answer an inquiry.

Following the implementation of a new Australian system called Iptis (integration passenger transport information system), operators can call up a map and point-and-click to find quickest, cheapest and shortest bus, train and ferry routes. Iptis' Oracle database holds 5000 local landmarks and recognises them in common language queries.

"We are also using it to assess where services are needed," says Darby. "If we receive 200 calls in a month asking for a bus service on a route where there is none we can take that information and feed it into our public contract tendering rounds."

For Parksline and Enviro-line the council is using Allaire Spectra to convert supporting intranet pages into objects, which can be more easily managed and maintained.

ARC also predicted major volume increases across all areas except the main switchboard. It integrated a Rockwell Transcend telephony server with its existing Erics-on voice switch, which can send overflow on the switchboard to operators on other lines.

The council expected 50 calls a day for 0800 Smokey and on first day of operation there were up to 700 calls. "We had the technology but not the staff and the next day we had a mass recruitment drive," says Darby. "Within the first eight days we had hit 10,000 calls but the new system has stood up and handled it well."

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