| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The transformation of the many fragmented call centers into the NCC was conducted using a public-private partnership model, unique in the region and field. To achieve this ambitious change, eGA adopted an implementation plan designed to first to secure the right partner and only then moving to build the right service:
Phase 1: Study and Viability Assessment 2008-2009: In the first phase of the initiative, eGA conducted a far-reaching study to assess the need for call center services within the government. The study, delivered with the cooperation of consultants Analysis Mason, was undertaken to assess the viability of establishing the initiative as a business.
Phase 2: Implementation Partnership 2009: Once the viability of the solution was clear; eGA began its search phase in order to find the most suitable implementation partner to provide the specialist expertise needed to make the project a success. UK-based Merchants Ltd, was selected on the strength of their extensive experience in implementing successful call centers. Once selected, eGA and Merchants established a joint venture company known as Silah Gulf to oversee the creation and operation of the NCC.
Phase 3: Design and Implementation 2009-2010: An international team from Merchants was mobilized, with the support of eGA, to setup the necessary infrastructure for the NCC in order to meet its objectives. The development of the infrastructure included the design for the technology infrastructure platform, and all processes and know-how’s of operating call centers using best practice.
Phase 4: Operational Roll-Out 2010: Phase four saw the roll-out of the NCC. In September 2010, NCC assumed responsibility for all calls that had previously been made to the legacy call centers. In addition, the first government call centers were integrated into the solution.
Phase 5: Scale-Up and Improvements 2010-2012: Phase five, conducted throughout the first two years of NCC operation, dealt with the integration of further government call centers into the solution. In addition, this phase conducted continuous monitoring of the solution to identify opportunities for improvement. One major improvement to the solution conducted in this phase was the launch of the Video Contact Centre in November 2012. The VCC provided full support for hearing-impaired citizens and residents through specially-trained staff.
Phase 6: Business Partnerships & Sustainable Development 2012 Onward: To ensure the sustainability of the initiative, NCC has already signed several contracts with private sector companies who will take advantage of the unique solution offered by Silah Gulf. As further support to the initiative, the eGA provided subsidized trials of the contact center services to key public sector organizations. All organizations offered trials reported complete satisfaction with the experience and feedback of their customers and continued as clients of the NCC beyond the trial period.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
To implement the transformational contact center solution across the whole of government, the NCC team engaged with the full range of internal and external stakeholders:
- eGA – Facilitated partnerships to deliver the NCC solution
- Analysis Mason – Assist in conducting a feasibility and Market Study for Contact Centre Solutions
- Merchants Ltd – Implementation and Delivery Partner with over 30 years of specific expertise in call center set-up and management
- Silah Gulf – Joint venture between eGA and Merchants to implement and manage the NCC and associated intellectual property
- Bahrain Economic Development Board – Initiative funding and support
- Mumtalakat – Bahrain government investment arm providing financial support for the project and taking stake in Silah Gulf
- Dimension Date – Setup of high end contact center platform
- Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MOIC): Licensing, PR and Customer Care Units
- Central Information Organization (CIO): Connectivity to Government Data Network
- Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA): Regulation body for any telecommunication business activity
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
1. Financial Resources
The initiative was funded by three main components; (i) cash capital, (ii) Intellectual Property (IP) and (iii) Professional man-days. The eGA contributed the cash capital of $5.3m and the Merchants Ltd contribution constituted its operational IP know-how estimated to be worth of $4.2m, and the professional man-days to setup Silah Gulf. However, being established as a standalone business that focuses on BPO, Silah Gulf has a clear business plan to be self-sustainable, enabling the company to recover the initial set-up costs in the future.
2. Technical Resources
In addition to the advanced technical resources of Merchants Ltd, including experts to deliver the state of the art technology platform and operational practices, the initiative was supported by specialist from Merchants parent company Dimension Data who setup the high-end call center systems for Silah.
3. Human Resources
The NCC is manned by over 60 agents on a 24/7 basis responding to enquiries and advising citizens. These agents are supported by over 9 different functions assuring the correct level of quality and accuracy is delivered to the callers in each contact. This includes but is not limited to:
- Technical support – to provide necessary support to full contact center infrastructure
- Human Resource Coordination – to provide support in the management of agents working in NCC operation
- Work Force Management – to manage the employee shifts in accordance with the call flow throughout the day, week, month and year
- Management Information Systems – to produce the reports required internally and externally
- Quality – to monitor and ensure the call quality scores are met
- Training- to provide refresher training to agents and train agents on new services
- Coaching – provide on floor guidance to agents while or after responding to calls
- Team leaders – to manage sub-units of the agent team
- Operation managers – manages large teams of team leaders and agents to deliver the call center services inline with the agreed standards and requirements
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The NCC provides consistently excellent service to every citizen who gets in touch, regardless of their abilities or the service they are enquiring about. Several key outputs have made it possible to realize the vision of integrated contact management:
Fully Integrated Contact Centre: The NCC has allowed Bahrain’s government agencies to save the time, money and frustration of procuring piecemeal solutions to their contact needs. By providing an affordable yet market-leading contact center, staff at these agencies have freed up thousands of man hours that can be better used delivering excellent services. The center is able to address 90% of all enquiries in office, an exceptional figure across over 200 different services.
Inclusive Contact Channels: The NCC has been developed to cater to the full range of Bahrain’s citizens regardless of their abilities. The multi-channel approach means that everybody, from physically-impaired citizens unable to attend an agency to elderly residents uncomfortable with digital technologies, can access consistent, excellent service through a channel they are comfortable with. A particular point of pride is the Video Service developed specifically to ensure that hearing-impaired Bahraini’s can enjoy access to specially trained personnel and the full range of contact services.
Silah Gulf Joint Venture: One of the principal outputs from the NCC initiative was the establishment of Silah Gulf, the company which makes operating the NCC a sustainable and viable solution through its ventures with both government and private sector organization. The company has been established using an innovative model similar to a public-private partnership that provides the NCC with access to leading-edge contact center technologies without upfront costs
More Jobs for Young Bahrainis: Silah Gulf has contributed to the reduction of the national unemployment percentage in the country through its focus in recruiting and upskilling young Bahraini’s into customer service roles. Furthermore, this initiative has enhanced Bahrain’s reputation as a viable market for hosting BPO services regionally, evidenced through winning of 12 Middle East awards over its years of operation. The positive attention received from these credentials have firmly placed Bahrain in the minds of established BPO providers wanting to enter the Middle East region.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The NCC has a wide range of systems in place to monitor progress and performance. The excellence of the NCC monitoring approach has been recognized with the award for Best Reporting Platform award from The INSIGHTS Middle East Contact Centre Awards 2 years in a row:
Management System using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):
Silah has a complete Management Information Systems (MIS) team that works to track all KPIs. The operational team within Silah uses these reports to ensure the KPIs are within international best practice levels. Many of the KPIs are derived directly from either the Customer Relationship Management system or the Private Automated Branch Exchange (PABX):
- Operational KPIs:
Abandonment Rate - % of calls abandoned by the Customer post exit of the IVR after 6 seconds
Average Handling Time - A metric that is the sum of talk time and after call work time, including talk time, wrap time, hold time, after call work time expresses as an average for the CC across skill queues.
Average Speed of Answer - Average speed in which a call is connected to an agent
Ticket Logging - All tickets received are to be logged
Email or fax response - All email and faxes to be responded to within the service level
- Customer KPIs:
Call Quality - Average score of agents call quality score from those calls assessed by the quality or team management
First Call Resolution - The percentage of contacts resolved on initial contact with the customer
- People KPI:
Absenteeism - % of Unplanned absence for scheduled agents
Quality Management Team:
A dedicated Quality Team is in place at NCC to monitor a percentage of all calls from each Customer Service Representative. The team then rates the quality against the agreed Performance Evaluation Matrix.
‒ Quality productivity – The volume of evaluations to be monitored (as % of overall call volume). This would vary based on client needs.
‒ Quality accuracy – The tolerance level for acceptable variances in quality results. This is calculated through both mystery evaluation or through calibration sessions.
‒ Quality effectiveness – The achievement against target of actual quality standards. This would vary based on client needs and requirements however the Silah Gulf acceptable level is around 90%.
The NCC team uses a robust Complaints Management System (CMS) to track reference for complaints received against any government service or process. New procedures or solutions are stored in the CMS and categorized in accordance with the service type to ensure the latest resolution options are in place.
Monitoring within eGA Project Portfolio:
The eGA has incorporated Silah and The NCC as two separate projects that are tracked as part of the larger program portfolio. Both services are regularly scrutinized by management to ensure their performance is furthering the global objectives and vision of eGA. The NCC as a service delivery channel is tracked based on the number of services delivered whereas Silah is tracked based on both its financial stability and the number of government bodies it supports.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
1.Communicating the Benefits of a Whole of Government Solution
One of the original obstacles the NCC faced was the perception of some Ministries that they could deliver their support services at cheaper costs using their own providers. This belief came from a misinterpretation of global costs. Many Ministries, for example, underestimated budgets assuming that the cost of implementing their in-house solution was limited to the cost of personnel.
In response to this misapprehension, eGA and Silah Gulf embarked on a campaign to educate Ministries on the hidden costs associated with operating a call centre internally. Such costs include procuring technology, supporting management, purchasing facilities and numerous other overheads. Ministries were ultimately convinced that the NCC was equipped with the advanced technology and operational modules that would generate economies of scale by maximising synergies across government departments. The single unified toll-free number, free-of-charge to Ministries and users, also helped convince Ministries of the benefits the NCC would provide.
2.Finding Highly-Trained Personnel to Staff the Center
Another key obstacle for NCC was the lack of experienced resources in Bahrain in the call center domain. Even personnel who had worked for one of the few providers before, lacked many of the professional communication skills required to meet international standards.
To address the skills gap in a sustainable and beneficial way, Silah Gulf launched the 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 using international standards. As a result, over 300 young Bahrainis have already gained valuable skills, qualifications and employment from Silah Gulf.