Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre
Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Centre
United Arab Emirates

The Problem

The Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre, a flagship initiative under the Abu Dhabi eGovernment program (ADGCC) was launched in 2008 amid a major push by the Abu Dhabi Emirate to modernize its service delivery. Service modernization vision was based on four key pillars: Efficiency Focus, Cross Government Design, End User Focus and Comprehensive Design.

Prior to this date, this vision was challenged by key and systemic issues , amongst which are:

Limitation of access channels – The Abu Dhabi Government, as the case in general in public sector, mainly focused on the counter channel to deliver its services. In fact, and prior to 2008, only 7% of government departments had a contact centre that received customers’ calls or emails, and that centralized customer care for these channels. Although 71% of these entities had toll free numbers or local numbers, these numbers just provided switchboard service to communicate with back office employees – and unfortunately most often, customers calls went answered.
This lack of accessibility was true to the phone channels as well as to other innovative and new age channels that are widely popular these days in customer care such as mobile and social media.

At a time of high economic and population growth in the Emirate, this heavy reliance on the counter channel with its limited availability and high inconvenience greatly challenged the Government’s objective of facilitating service delivery to its customers.

Fragmentation in Customer Experience and lack of cross-government policies – More than 50 government departments are responsible for providing hundreds of distinct services to customers, and in several cases, collaborate on the provision of these services. Prior to 2008, customer care for each entity was a silo function, completely provided at the entity level, and subject to its own standards of customer service, with minimal or no coordination among departments or with the central government.

Considering this vast landscape of government departments, the lack of binding institutional frameworks, and inter-agency, and weak culture and training for customer service, customers were faced with fragmented picture of customer service ranging from excellent to extremely poor and frustrating. Response to enquiries or complains were inconsistent in quality and duration, and this inconsistency although apparent to the customer, was difficult to gage and understand at the level due to the lack of data and supporting reports.

This picture created one of the most significant challenges in the vision of “One Government”, a government that is highly transparent and accountable, and that Abu Dhabi seeks to aggressively promote.

Low usage of ICT in customer care and common infrastructure– Prior to 2008, customer care functions were mainly ad-hoc and informal, and were provided through back office systems that are transactional in nature, and lack the key capabilities of customer relationship management. The usage of CRM systems was limited.
This immature adoption of ICT in customer care led to a fragmented view of the customer, and to an inability of the entity or the government to understand customer pain points and improve organizational performance accordingly.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Based on the above mentioned challenges, the Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre initiative was launched. The objective of this initiative is to accomplish and provide the following:

Government-wide focal channels for Customer Service - The Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre (ADGCC) aimed to provide a single point of access for all government services. This focal and government-wide point of contact can be accessed through the phone channel, as a primary channel, supported by several peripheral channels such as Email, SMS, Self Service (www.abudhabi.ae), Chat, and Mobile Apps. The original core service offering of this contact centre is information, complains, incidents, suggestions and select service requests. This core service offering is to be expanded later phases to include more complex and transactional services such as licensing, permitting and fines payment.

“One Government, One Number” – This One Stop Shop initiative, requires a mammoth amount of work of alignment, standardization, and consolidation among customer care processes, people and technology across the government. Eventually, the target vision is to have one main and central Contact Centre for the government networked with several highly specialized Contact Centres at the Government departments’ level, working in a synchronized way for the benefit of the customer.

Bringing Care to Customer Service – Unfortunately public sector tend to be service centric rather than customer centric, considering that most of the services provided are mandatory and governments are not faced with any competition in providing these services as in the case of private sector.
With the ADGCC initiative, the government aimed to provide a leading example of a customer oriented service that is founded on a genuine desire to care for the customer, and to foster a relationship that does not start with an application for a service and ends with its fulfillment.

Based on this vision that goes much beyond providing an additional channel to customers, the ADGCC became a change agent and nucleus of a customer care community in the government

“Build a State of the Art ICT Capabilities for Customer Care” – With full recognition that customer care is provided first and foremost by people, technology can become a key enabler. Therefore, the ADGCC initiative was set to build state of the art technology platforms such as the government-wide Customer Relationship Management platform. This CRM platform aims to provide key capabilities to all government departments such as Case Management, Campaign Management and Business Analytics and ultimately becomes a centralized repository of customer data and customer interactions in the entire government.

Alongside the government CRM platform, the ADGCC initiative aims to provide a stack of platforms and solutions that encourages innovation in customer service such as interactive mobile apps, locations based services, eParticpation and social collaboration platforms, most of which are already released with high adoption and usage. Such innovative solutions include CityGuard mobile apps which have allowed any resident in Abu Dhabi to snap a photo regarding an incident or a suggestion, and record the location using an interactive map and send the case to the ADGCC for resolution.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre relies upon several key and committed stakeholders to deliver high quality customer service to our customers.
At the highest level, the Executive Council provides the necessary sponsorship that is so essential in securing engagement and commitment from government departments. Under the guidance of the Executive Council, ADSIC proposed, led & implemented the incubation of the service from its launch, through the Capability Building and Onboarding phase, to Consolidation and Collaboration. Centralized ownership under ADSIC has been critical in ensuring sustained and steady development of the service.
ADSIC has partnered closely with Musanada, the Abu Dhabi Government’s shared service company, who have provided service management capability in three key areas; Contact Centre Management, Entity Relationship Management and Technology Service Management. As well as managing service delivery by 3rd party outsourced service providers both domestically and internationally, the management of the relationship between the Contact Centre and up to 50 government departments has been critical to the success of the service. By maintaining regular and close contact with the Channel Leader at each entity, the Relationship Management team provides support and advice to the entity, helping them to meet their performance targets and, ultimately, to deliver an excellent customer experience. Furthermore, they also provide an invaluable training delivery service that ensures the user base understands what is expected of them, and how they can maximize the potential of the technology that underpins the service.
Each of the departments that subscribe to the Contact Centre service appoints a Channel Leader to act as the focal point for all matters relating to Customer Care within that entity. This role is pivotal at marshaling the efforts and resources within their entity and ensuring customer service stays at the top of the entity’s agenda. The other role that plays a vital part is that of Knowledge Champion. Around government, a Knowledge Network of such people has been established that ensures information on the services and events offered by each entity is fed-in to the Knowledge Management platform and back to the Contact Centre agents, who can in turn, relay this to our customers.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
Although the ADGCC program is four years old, which is young compared to other international contact centres with similar vision and scope, its accomplishments surpass its age. This is credited to its incredibly passionate and dedicated team as well to its implementation approach.

The implementation of the contact centre was anchored with a detailed strategy and design phase that ensured the program vision is clearly defined, its stakeholders are properly involved, and its implementation roadmap is adequately outlined.

The strategy was founded on a comprehensive understanding of Abu Dhabi Government contact centers’ landscape and maturity, and the requirements of the program stakeholders. Furthermore, the strategy identified similar international contact centres to benchmark, such as 311 New York, Service Canada, Easy Link Hong Kong and others. The benchmarked contact centres provided best practices and lesson learned which in turn provided implications on all the pillars of operating a contact centre – Services, Channels, Operating Model, Sourcing, and Financials. The strategy then concluded with an implementation roadmap and the required next steps to launch this program.

Most importantly, this strategy identified the ownership and sponsorship of this program which are under the Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Centre (ADSIC) and the Executive Council respectively.
Considering that the Executive Council is the highest body in the executive branch of the Abu Dhabi Emirate, its direct sponsorship and oversight of the program greatly accelerated the acceptance and adoption of the ADGCC by government departments.

Once the strategy was defined, the contact centre development journey immediately started. This journey was broken into two sequential and evolutionary phases, each spanning between 3-4 years: The Capability Building and Onboarding phase followed by the Consolidation and Collaboration phase

The Capability Building and Onboarding phase, which lasted from 2008 until the present, focused mostly on building the technology and workforce capabilities of the contact centre. As a result of this phase, a government-wide CRM solution, a Knowledge Management solution, self-service, chat, mobile apps have all been implemented with great degree of success and adoption. Additionally, this phase focused on on-boarding government departments to the contact centre, and consequently, more than 50 departments are now using the contact centre as their primary or secondary phone channel, and around 500 government employees located within these departments, are working collaboratively according to common goals and framework, and forming a cross government customer service network.

The Consolidation and Collaboration phase, which started this year, and is planned to complete in the next 3-4 years, will focus on consolidating all the contact centres in the Abu Dhabi Government under one number – the ADGCC number (800 -555). This will be done by either decommissioning the entity contact centre, or collaborating with it according to a defined framework. This phase will complete with one main contact centre for the Abu Dhabi Government, networked with few other highly specialized contact centres – acting as “One Government” network and offering a much simpler and integrated service.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
In line with the program vision and defined implementation roadmap, the contact center development journey has seen year on year improvements to its capabilities and services via numerous initiatives. These initiatives were realized through a cross functional teams focusing on technology, department relationship management and contact centre operations management.

The contact center was launched in March 2008 and in its first year was serving 28 government departments; to date over 50 Government departments participate in this shared service.

By July 2010, an enterprise CRM solution was implemented centered on case management, campaign management, and business analytics. This key enabling technology was the foundation of subsequent initiatives.

Once the usage of the platform was established, a major enhancement release went live on April 2011. This release focused on providing a framework for a flexible KPI definition and measurement.

With these new capabilities in place and with raised confidence, the contact centre embarked on a series of marketing campaigns starting from May of 2011. These campaigns increased awareness of the contact center among the public and grew the confidence among departments of the service, resulting in a 73% increase in contact volumes.

This increased volume refocused the Leadership attention toward the contact centre, and triggered the implementation of Executive & Performance Dashboard which became available in July of 2011 providing a real-time, consolidated view of cross-government performance leveraging the KPI framework.

Soon afterward, The CityGuard mobile applications expanded the contact centers reach through this innovative new channel when it was released in August of 2011. Adding to the current portfolio of interactive channels, CityGuard capitalized on the high smart phone penetration in Abu Dhabi, allowing residents to submit media rich, and location based cases on the go

Last but not least, in April 2012, the legacy knowledge management tool was replaced for an Enterprise solution. Additionally, this knowledge initiative created a knowledge community across the entire CRM user base, aiming to maximize knowledge contribution and formalize knowledge authoring and publishing.

As the development journey of the contact center evolved, the program moved into the Consolidation and Collaboration phase at the start of 2012. Setting the stage for this phase was the integration between the government CRM and the Abu Dhabi Municipality CRM. This initiative laid the groundwork for future integrations, and became the cornerstone in integrating the counter channel of the largest entity in Abu Dhabi with the government CRM.

Additionally, this phase of the program has a large pipeline of future initiatives to be implemented, such as Emiratization of the entire contact centre, the continuation of contact centers’ consolidation as planned and Fikra. Fikra is a social CRM initiative that that encourages collaborative feedback between customers and the government. Social CRM will be the key building block of a comprehensive social strategy.

In parallel to these initiatives, department onboarding is a continuous process that ensures department requirements are collected and implemented, users within the departments are comprehensively trained, and services are adequately provided by the contact centre.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The journey of the ADGCC has been rewarding but also challenging. This was expected considering the scale of the program and maturity level of customer service in the government prior to 2008. These challenges were further amplified considering the large ambition of the ADGCC initiative, which not exclusively focused on providing an additional channel to customers, but also to transform and create a new generation customer care. Key challenges are:
Resistance to Change – The government departments were still used to the “Black Box” approach to resolving customers’ cases. In fact, a typical resolution response received in the early days of the program was “Your complaint was escalated to the proper department”, and the case was closed.
Even though the sponsorship of the Executive Council was present from day one, a clear mandate or law was missing. The realization of the importance of this mandate immediately triggered the Executive Council to issue necessary decrees (Number 13/2011 and 28/2011) clarifying the role of the Contact Centre and empowering the Contact Centre user community within the government departments. This resulted in immediate and tangible change. This change was noticed in the speed and quality of resolution. In fact, more than 80% improvement in overall average response time to customer cases was achieved by Q3 2011, which to a large extent was attributable to the issued decrees.
Customer Service Maturity Levels - Prior to 2008, and for a lot of government departments, customer service function was not a formal function supported by trained agents, defined processes and enabling technology. The ADGCC was between a customer with high expectation and government departments with low capabilities, resulting in an inability by the ADGCC team to commit to a high quality service.
With the implementation of the government-wide CRM, the technology handicap soon turned into one of the strengths of the program. While most of the departments started using this platform as their exclusive customer care platform, others started integrating their CRM with the government CRM.
Soon after the initial go live of the CRM platform, government wide KPIs and targets around case management was introduced, further elevating the maturity of customer service across all government. An example target set at the government level was the 3 hours response duration for all inquiries, and a KPI of 90% compliance.
Finally, and most importantly, agent training, and the entire culture around customer service became the focus of the Executive Council, who through its Performance Unit, is currently devising a comprehensive change management program for every front office agent in the government.
Multilingual Requirements – Abu Dhabi is a civilization hub, with dozens of nationalities and languages. At the same time, the government official language is Arabic, and high percentage of the contact centre users in the departments is only Arabic speaking. This was partially resolved through a technology and agents that supports both English and Arabic languages. Additionally, and based on the entity request, agents can translate from one language to another to speed up response by the entity.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The ADGCC program has leveraged a considerable amount of resources across financial, technology and people dimensions.

From the financial perspective, and to date, the program expenditure has been in the order of USD 23 Million and is set to increase significantly with future key strategic initiatives for 2013.

From the technology perspective, the program leverages several technology platforms and solutions provided by the Abu Dhabi eGovernment program. The shared government CRM platform is hosted in the Shared Government Data Center, a 500m2 Tier IV Data Center used for hosting Shared Government Services. Underpinning the hosting environment the Abu Dhabi Shared Government Wide Secure Network (ADNet) offers high-speed Government-to-Government and Citizen-to-Government access to the Shared Government Services, including the CRM platform. Additionally, the program leverages the Abu Dhabi Government Portal (www.abudhabi.ae) to deliver its self-service functions and the Abu Dhabi Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) for most of its integration and in compliance to the Government Service Oriented Architecture & Standards, and Government Interoperability framework. The introduction of the CityGuard mobile apps added another stack of technology platforms such as Mobile Backend and native mobile applications on iPhone, Android & Blackberry. The location based services provided on these mobile apps leverages in return the Abu Dhabi Government Geographic Information System (SDI).

Finally, and from the people perspective, as of today, there are in excess of 540 people actively involved in the contact center ecosystem. This workforce can be broadly categorized into four functions which are:
1 – Contact Center Management - approximately 14 FTEs from Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Centre and Musanada (described in the Stakeholders section). Primarily these resources provide management oversight and direction to the contact center program
2 – Technology Operations - approximately 11 FTEs from the outsourced systems integration partner provide technology operations and maintenance for the enterprise CRM solution
3 – Contact Center Operations - approximately 55 FTEs from the outsourced contact center partner provide contact handling, quality control and training capabilities. These FTEs are divided along multiple roles such as Customer Service Representatives or CSR (24), Case Offices and Team Leaders (35)
4 – Entity Customer Service, 457 FTEs from government entity’s customer services divisions. This workforce is broadly divided into four roles, which are:
4.1 – Channel Leaders, 109 FTEs representing the main point of contact between the ADGCC and the entity
4.2 – Service Managers, 188 FTEs, accountable for delivery of service(s) within a government entity
4.3 – Service Owner, 131 FTEs, responsible for delivery of service(s) within a government entity
4.4 – Knowledge Champions, 6 FTEs, responsible for maintaining and distributing knowledge capital. Since the Knowledge Network is relatively new, this role is expected to be significantly expanded in the near future.
It is anticipated that this resource pool will considerable expand in 2013 due to the current pipeline of initiatives as described in other sections of this document.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The contact center program, once it has achieved all of its primary objectives, will clearly deliver tangible cost savings to the government and clear customer service transformation. This transformation, in combination with a maturing population in the middle-east that is increasingly demanding better service, has made the contact center a prime candidate for benchmarking and knowledge transfer. Over the past 5 years, Abu Dhabi Police (ADP), Dubai Police and Dubai eGovernment have used the Abu Dhabi contact center as a role model from which to learn. Further afield, countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have leveraged the lessons learned in Abu Dhabi to assist in their customer service journeys. More recently, in 2011, Botswana’s eGovernment program visited Abu Dhabi on a benchmarking exercise marking the first international transfer of knowledge. An MOU between the two countries is currently being developed to ensure knowledge transfer around eGovernment program in general and the contact centre in particular.
This welcomed knowledge transfer, over the lifespan of the contact center, credits the work being done in Abu Dhabi to improve customer service but also highlights the reapplication of such efforts not only regionally but internationally as emerging nations establish eGovernment programs.
As the contact center evolves in the Consolidation and Collaboration phase of the program key decisions are required to ensure sustainability of the service in the future. As the continuation of contact centers’ consolidation progresses a balance needs to acknowledged as to when a government entity is too large, in terms of service complexity, to consolidate under a ‘one number’ government contact center. This balance needs to consider the convenience to residents of having a single point of contact for the government, versus a high level of customer service where ‘one and done’ is the objective of contact handling.
As the contact center program matures through the Consolidation and Collaboration phase and strikes the balance between one point of contact for government services and excellent customer service it is evident it will be a beacon regionally and internationally for how government’s should interact and collaborate with their residents. Moreover, with the emergence of new governments striving to move into the electronic age, as a result of the recent Arab Spring, the opportunity to transfer this model of interaction becomes increasing relevant. Finally, as Abu Dhabi becomes a greater economic hub in the region the opportunities for public, private sector collaboration becomes more relevant, the vision to transfer customer service excellence from lessons learned in the Abu Dhabi contact center should remain at the forefront as the program emerges from the Consolidation and Collaboration phase.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
Tangible benefits to the customer - The multiple channels offered have improved accessibility to government services. Customers are able to choose their preferred channel based on convenience and location with approximately 2 million visitors annually. This is clearly demonstrated through the usage of these channels, with phone 81%, email 9%, chat/online 8% of total contact volume.
Latest answer rate higher than 95%. Customer experience is seamless as they are protected from complexities of back-end work. Till date 584,350 customers served.
Customers inquiries or complains, customers are constantly invited to provide their feedback either through suggestions, outbound surveys or through a new innovative initiative that is currently under implementation, Fikra, a social engagement platform around suggestions . Customer satisfaction is monitored and used for improving the service
Transformational change within the government – Considering that the ADGCC operation is a government-wide operation, it is constantly promoting and realizing the vision of “One Government”. This is achieved through collaboration with more than 50 government departments currently onboard to standardize and continuously improve their customer care functions.
Through dashboards and reports, the government or the department can have a much clearer picture of their customer care functions ensuring higher transparency and accountability within the government.
For instance, a 40% compliance for inquiries for a certain entity triggered an injection of resources in customer care, which resulted in an significant increase in compliance after 3 months.
Learning Lessons:

Have the law at hand on day one - Public sectors are resistant to change, and motivation to change is less of a factor than it is in the private sector. The program tried in the first two years of operation to negotiate and motivate government departments to provide excellent service, with varying degree of success. Once the support of the Leadership was more apparent to departments with decrees fast and real change started to materialize. A lesson learned from this experience, and a recipe of success to other similar programs would be to have a balanced approach to provoking transformative change – A law from one hand, and on the other a skillful and passionate team of program champions that negotiate their way out of government complexities.

Understanding the boundary of the service – Consolidating contact centres is a daunting task therefore, Service Readiness team was dedicated to understanding the consolidated service and gage the ADGCC’s capability to absorb the service in a way that is not detrimental to customer experience.

Keep the stakeholders in general and the sponsors in particular motivated and involved – Long term programs, with multi-year roadmap tend to go through peaks and troughs of excitement levels. The challenge is to prevent these troughs from leveling, leading to demotivated stakeholders. Team worked tirelessly through the strategy team to keep exciting and innovating initiatives flowing. In fact, the introduction of state of the art, visual and interactive Dashboards for government performance, the implementation of CityGuard, the mobile app that encourages civic involvement in keeping City image kept the program team and Leadership involved and motivated.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Abu Dhabi Systems & Information Centre
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   Sunil Thawani
Title:   Mr.  
Telephone/ Fax:   0097126961572/ 0097126717333
Institution's / Project's Website:   www.adsic.abudhabi.ae
E-mail:   sunil.thawani@adsic.abudhabi.ae  
Address:   P.O.Box - 3133
Postal Code:   3133
City:   Abu Dhabi
State/Province:   Abu Dhabi
Country:   United Arab Emirates

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