National Contact Centre (NCC)
eGovernment Authority/ Ministry of Cabinet Affairs

The Problem

The government bodies of Bahrain, including the eGovernment Authority, had distributed pockets of call centres either being operated internally or outsourced to one of the four local service providers. An old perception existed among citizens and residents, that calls take a long time to be answered and that the best way to enquire about governmental services is by paying each entity a visit.

Furthermore, quality of service differed from one ministry to another - depending on the selected provider or delivery method (in-house or outsourced). Some of those which are managed internally lacked efficiency and as a result affected quality of service. Some ministries did not possess call centres.
Call centre industry in Bahrain was very immature with a limited number of competitors and high variation in standards of service. eGA had established a sophisticated web-portal to deliver over 200 key government services. The next step was to make the services available to the population segment who are on the move or with no computer literacy.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The setting-up of the National Contact Centre (NCC) became one of five service delivery channels under Bahrain’s eGovernment Authority programme that aimed to bring government services closer to the citizen whilst improving quality of service.

The concept was to consolidate as many government services as possible into a centralized call centre. By centralizing the call centres within the governmental bodies, the government would save valuable resources by reaching economies of scale, while ensuring an easy access unified service to the public. In addition, the high quality of service is ensured for all government organizations. The benefit to citizens and residents of the Kingdom is that they will have access to numerous government services by calling only one toll-free number. For instance, a single point of contact for whether enquiring about an application for a governmental service or making an appointment at the local public health centre.

The initiative had to improve quality of services, create efficiencies in the delivery of services while maintaining self-sustainability.

NCC was seen as a channel that supports the other three eGovernment service delivery channels and act as a service delivery channel itself. With the high teledensity in the Kingdom, the centre was foreseen to be the channel of closest reach to citizens by utilizing different communication technologies such as IVR, SMS, and video calling to name the least. Being a 24/7 contact centre, NCC will act as a channel of communication between the citizens and the government; where suggestions and complaints can be conveyed to the relevant bodies in the government.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The eGovernment Authority conducted a study of the market through Analysis Mason, a British consultancy firm, in 2009 in order to examine the best method to approach the challenge. The options led to either establish an internal contact centre, outsource the centre to a local service provider, or build a centre from scratch. The objective was not only to set-up the fifth eGovernment service delivery channel but to create a platform that will improve communication between citizens and the government.

Given the relatively low maturity in Bahrain’s call centre market, the authority set out to establish the centre by partnering with a firm that holds an international expertise in setting-up and operating call centres worldwide. Such partnership ensures that the objectives of the centre are met while applying international standards, thus delivering an outstanding service to the people of Bahrain.
Following lengthy studies and comparisons, eGA chose to partner with UK based Merchants LTD. – a company that owns over 29 years of experience in the call centre industry. The partnership resulted in the creation of Silah Gulf, a third entity of the partners (eGA and Merchants) which collectively own. Merchants were given the task of setting-up of the centre’s technical and operational framework according to their international standards. Most importantly, such partnership opened the doors for Silah Gulf (and therefore NCC) to have full access to Merchants’ intellectual property and expertise that has been gathered through years of operation. Thus, such step enabled Silah Gulf to lead the most advanced and capable contact centre and BPO company in Kingdom of Bahrain as well as one of the leading examples and most prominent in the Arab Gulf region.

To ensure that the goals were achieved, the company’s board of directors comprised members of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board and Mumtalakat (the government’s arm of investment); which ensures that the company has all the support required from the government to succeed.

(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.
The initiative was implemented by partnering with international expertise in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, with proven track record in establishment and the delivery of high-quality services. By creating such partnership between the government and a private sector firm, the operator of NCC - Silah Gulf is set to increase the efficiency and quality of government call centre services. Baring in mind the government’s drive in maximizing quality of services delivered to citizens and residents; as well as the private sector firm’s expertise in delivering high-quality services with the highest efficiencies.
After the platform was established, the authority began to approach ministries to transfer their services to the new telephonic delivery channel, the contact centre. Priority was given to the most utilized services on the web-portal. Each service is then on-board to the new channel by undergoing a world-class service delivery life-cycle with multiple quality gates and reviewing points to ensure that all services are kept to the highest of standards initially sought from the initiative.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
In the early phases of the initiative (2008 – 2009), the eGovernment Authority conducted a study to assess the need for call centre services within the government. Such step was undertaken to assess the viability of establishing the initiative as a business.

In 2009, once the viability was clear, the authority began its search phase in order to find the most suitable partner, out-of-which the company Merchants LTD. was selected.
Once selected, a joint venture company was established between both companies to create the Silah Gulf entity (in 2009).

An international team from Merchants was mobilized to setup the necessary infrastructure for the company in order to meet its objectives. This included the development of the technology platform, all processes and know-how’s of operating call centres using the best practices.

The calling centre was operating prior to 2010 as an eGA support line, managed internally by eGA staff. On September 5th 2010, NCC took its first call from the revamped best-in-class technical and operational platform. The new platform catered for multi-contact channels including telephone, interactive voice response (IVR), web chat, email and fax.
On November 28th 2012, the centre launched its latest contact channel, the Video Contact Centre, which aimed to widen NCC user-base by including auditory disabled members of the society. Through this channel, government services are made closer to this particular segment via sign-language interaction with the centre’s trained staff.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
One of the obstacles that faced the contact centre at the beginning was that some ministries had the perception that they can deliver their services at cheaper costs. Such belief came about from analysing the monthly costs of employees. The authority and Silah Gulf had to educate those ministries of the many hidden costs which are associated with operating a call centre internally. Such costs are related to technology, supporting management, supporting management functions, facility and numerous other overheads. Ministries were ultimately convinced that the centre was equipped with advanced technology and operational module, and had established economies of scale; as a result, they were encouraged to link their call centre to NCC. The single unified toll-free number, free-of-charge to ministries and users, was also a major substantial factor as all ministries were certain of the benefits the centre is to provide.

One of the key obstacles was the lack of experienced resources in Bahrain in the field of call centre which holds professional communication skills and meets the international standards. Due to this particular reason, Silah Gulf launched Silah Academy which is responsible for delivering education and hands-on training, to new joiners, about the key skills and practices in operating a call centre based on international criteria.

(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
Silah Gulf, the joint-venture that operates the centre, was established with a large monetary capital to setup the infrastructure and provide support during the early days of operation.

Furthermore, the initiative is supported by experts from Merchants and their parent company Dimension Data to bring their call centre and BPO expertise and best practices to Silah.
However, being established as a standalone business that focus on BPO, Silah Gulf has a clear business plan that is self-sustainable and enables the company to recover the initial costs in the future.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The NCC model has been a standalone model since its inception in that it operates as a successful business, serving both ministries and private sector clients; with close monitoring of expenses to ensure the required efficiencies are reached. As a standalone successful business and with established operations in three physical locations which are in two different countries in the Middle East region – Bahrain and Kuwait, Silah Gulf is considered as a self-sustained government initiative. The plan for Silah is to continue to grow as BPO who provide world class services to various ministries and private sector clients within the Kingdom and the surrounding region.

Silah Gulf is a successful case of the partnership between government and private sector; which maximizes cost effectiveness and improves quality of services delivered by the government.

The initiative was obliged to improve quality of services, create efficiencies in the delivery of services whilst maintaining self-sustainability.

Though the establishment of a public-private partnership to maintain a professional national call centre for the government and operating a self-sustained successful business is unique regionally, the concept and process of the centre could be replicated to cater different governmental entities in the region. In this context, Silah Gulf has already taken the initiative to transform its best practices and operate call centres in three different locations within the Arab Gulf region.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
By striking the correct balance between the drivers of government to improve service quality and efficiency along with the drivers of a business entity to be efficient and profitable, the distinctive idea of government-private sector partnership has succeeded in becoming a sustainable, standalone Business Process Outsourcer that delivers the best quality of services in the most efficient manner.

Furthermore, NCC has managed to successfully embark on the path that will change some of the negative perceptions casted on some government bodies, particularly of being inaccessible and dull. Today, the centre operates 24/7 to receive and process citizen queries and services when it comes to governmental entities. Hence, with the National Contact Centre created by Silah, the government has substantially processed larger number of citizen and residents’ calls compared to before.

Challenges can be resolved by looking outside the box and introducing unique concepts to tackle exceptional challenges.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   eGovernment Authority/ Ministry of Cabinet Affairs
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Lulwa Ebrahim
Title:   Chief, Marketing Communications  
Telephone/ Fax:   +973-17-388388
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Postal Code:  
City:   Muharreq
Country:   Bahrain

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