The National Contact Centre
eGovernment Authority

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The pioneering Bahrain eGovernment Authority (eGA) has, for many years, worked in partnership with government agencies throughout the Kingdom to ensure that all citizens have convenient and easy access – via the channel of their choice - to a wide range of smart, efficient and effective online public services. In recent years the eGA built upon lessons learned to successfully update, unify and modernize services across a variety of channels, resulting in the creation of a new web portal, and mobile internet portal which enhance the operations of physical service delivery centers in a manner that delivers cost efficiencies whilst increasing customer satisfaction. However, despite these technological service advances, one channel that remained stubbornly outdated was telephone contact channel. The majority of government agencies within Bahrain, the eGA included, ran proprietary call centers specifically dedicated to answering questions solely about their own services. These call centers were small in size, and operated internally by the government agency or outsourced to one of four local service providers. The limited number of competitors in Bahrain contributed to an immature call center industry with highly variable quality standards. A few Ministries had excellently performing call centres but the majority offered poor or even non-existent support to customers. The variability in support services created a common perception amongst citizens and residents that if you weren’t online then the only way to access government services was to visit the Ministry in person. This outcome put un-necessary strain on vulnerable groups such as the growing elderly population and the physically disabled who were not computer literate and found it challenging to travel to and endure long waits at service centers. In turn, resources became overstretched at the service delivery centers managing the unnecessarily large number of visitors whose enquiries could have been dealt with remotely. With its firm focus on inclusion, the eGA knew that to deliver cost effective whole of government solutions that benefit all of society, public service support needed to be available to all, no matter people’s level of computer literacy levels. Whilst 200 key government services had been made available through the sophisticated web portal, alternative remote access to support needed to be developed, and telephone contact, despite its challenges, still seemed a good way to achieve this aim. Knowing that the current status quo of each government agency providing services via telephone silo’s posed an obstacle to the continued growth of reliable eServices, the eGA ultimately decided to create a unified shared National Contact Centre to provide a definitive one-call point-of-contact across the whole of government for all public service telephone enquiries, and deliver efficiencies through the integration of all the remote support channels – web, email, fax - in one place.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
In 2009, in response to the challenge of unifying the many government call centers into a single solution, eGA, with support from the highest levels of government, initiated a study to understand the scope of the challenge and generate potential solutions. The study, conducted in partnership with consultants Analysis Mason, examined the situation across the different government call centers and analyzed the market to identify best of breed solutions. The study concluded that, due to the immature market for call center services within Bahrain, the best solution would be to build a definitive new center to unite telephone enquiries for the different agencies providing services. Following the study, eGA secured the partnership of implementation experts Merchants Ltd. – a company with over 30 years of experience in the call center industry globally. Partnership with a world-leading specialist was seen as critical to deliver a truly transformational call center capable of providing consistently outstanding service to the people of Bahrain. To deliver the project, in 2009 eGA and Merchants formed a joint venture called Silah Gulf. The joint venture marked a novel approach to service delivery in the Arab region by combining the vision and customers of eGA with the deep call center subject-matter expertise of Merchants. Crucially, the joint venture provided eGA with access to the leading-edge technologies of Merchants’ solutions whilst allowing the eGA to retain the rights to the solution after completion of the project. Together with the international experts, eGA developed a concrete set of objectives for the design and delivery of the new Contact Center: - Take over the operations of the eGA internal contact center - Consolidate the many fragmented contact centers of different government agencies - Increase consistency and quality of customer service - Create an example of excellence in call center service for the entire Gulf Region On September 5th 2010, the new National Contact Center (NCC) was launched and took its first call using its revamped, best-in-class technical and operational platform. The new NCC platform infrastructure catered for the full range of contact channels including telephone, interactive voice response (IVR), web chat, email and fax. The platform proved an instant success at providing a consistent, reliable service for all citizens. In particular, the platform was designed to include the tech-savvy younger generation through state-of-the-art web technologies while providing full inclusion to those preferring to use traditional telephone contact. By mid-2012, the NCC had enjoyed 2 years of successful operation. However, one area where further development was needed was in the inclusion of those with hearing difficulties. In November 2012, the center launched its latest contact channel, the Video Contact Centre, to specifically cater to auditory disabled citizens and residents. The Video Contact Centre is supported by a fully trained staff who can provide sign-language interaction. The NCC has so far unified the contact centers of over 300 government services. In addition to providing citizens and residents alike with consistent, reliable contact mechanisms, the NCC has also achieved exceptional efficiency savings for Bahrain, for example government agencies save on average 40% of the cost operating their contact centre on a 24/7 basis. Currently 90% of all enquiries are provided with an instant resolution from call center staff, with only 10% requiring escalation to personnel inside the relevant ministry. The establishment of the NCC through the centralization of resources has not only increased efficiencies in the operational model through the utilization of the Shared Agent Pool structure, but has also led to direct financial savings due to the centralized investment in the complex systems infrastructure worth over a million dollars.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) Model - The NCC forged a unique PPP with a leading-edge provider. The PPP model allowed eGA to take ownership of the intellectual property developed during the project to create a sustainable source of revenue. Single Gateway - The NCC is the first ever solution to unite all Bahrain’s government entities under a single, toll-free, easily memorized and accessible 24/7 number. Even if an agency has not yet integrated their contact center, citizens can still rely on NCC staff to secure an answer to their question. Multi-Channel Support – The NCC not only focuses on the processing of telephone calls, but offers multiple channels to assist the audience and ensure any citizen can contact the center through their preferred channel, regardless of their situation. On-Contact Resolution – The NCC provides on-contact resolution for more than 90% of the enquiries received with only 10% requiring further support. Empowering Center staff has freed up thousands of hours of staff time. Hearing-Impaired Channel - A distinguishing service of NCC is the provision of a dedicated channel for people with hearing audible disabilities. This dedicated channel showcases NCC’s commitment inclusion for all Bahrain’s citizens and residents.

C. Execution and Implementation

 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%. Complaints Management: 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.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The NCC model achieved many goals even in its early life stages. The NCC successfully planted the concept of a unified contact number for the Government of Bahrain in the minds of a large segment of society. In fact many queries received are related to organizations that are not directly supported by the center but can still be handled effectively by the highly trained staff. Beyond the superior service experienced by citizens, eGA has built a market-leading exemplar call center solution for a country that previously lacked a strong service provider. As well as providing benefits to Bahrain’s agencies, Silah Gulf has proved popular with private sector companies and now generates a consistent source of revenue back to the government. The success of the NCC solution and the unique partnership model of Silah Gulf is already paying dividends for government and citizens alike: 1) Benefits for Citizens/ Residents: * One Number for All Contacts: Customers can now answer any question using a single number. Citizens are no longer required to spend valuable time searching for different contacts. * Consistently Excellent Service: Citizens can now expect the same excellent service for each and every contact with their government. * Multi-Channel Support: When contacting the NCC, citizens can use whatever channel they feel most comfortable with in the knowledge that it is fully supported * Greater Social Inclusion: From less digitally-literate citizens to those with hearing or sight impairment, every citizen can expect to benefit from the NCC through specialized support, removing the need for long journeys to meet a support operative face-to-face * More Jobs: NCC and Silah Gulf have created a large number of skilled jobs for young Bahrainis 2) Benefits to Government Agencies: * Greater Affordability: The NCC provides economies of scale and allows agencies to realize significant savings versus in-house contact centers * Frees Up Staff Time: Outsourcing contact management to the NCC frees up staff time by addressing 90% of all contacts without the need to contact the agency * Consistent Service: The NCC is guaranteed to provide the excellent, consistent service to every customer that allows agencies peace of mind in their contact solution * Improved Citizen Perceptions: Agencies using NCC have reported excellent responses from the public and a much more positive image for their customer care * Scalable solution: The NCC is built to be scalable and incorporate all government entities to provide a support backbone for delivering whole of government solutions and services * A Profitable, Sustainable Business: Silah Gulf has successfully begun to sell the NCC solution to private sector businesses to generate revenue that further subsidizes service provision for government

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Financial and Operational Sustainability: The NCC solution is designed as a self-sustaining, standalone service from its inception. Administered by Silah Gulf, NCC operates as a successful business, serving both Ministries and private sector clients with close monitoring of expenses to ensure the required efficiencies are reached. The success of the business has been evident in the expansion to three physical locations across two Middle East countries – Bahrain and Kuwait. Silah Gulf is now considered as a self-sustained government initiative. The plan for Silah is to continue to grow as a Business Process Outsourcer providing world class services across the Middle-East. 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. Social Sustainability: Through the Silah Academy, the NCC is making a unique contribution to the skills base and employment of Bahrain by providing many young people with good jobs and transferrable skillsets. As Silah Gulf continues to expand and bring in new clients, further young people can expect to benefit from the investment the NCC is making in Bahrain’s future. In addition, the NCC faciliates the inclusion of all individuals, no matter their levels of digital literacy, or their physical abilities, to benefits from the same high quality remote support services, no matter which channel they choose. Environmental Sustainability: Through the consolidation of many fragmented call centers into a single entity, the NCC has been able to realise substantial efficiencies in the energy consumed by the centre simply by having one call centre premises instead of several in several locations Transferability: 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.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Public-Private Partnerships can Deliver Successful, Profitable Services: 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 succeeded in becoming a sustainable, standalone Business Process Outsourcer that delivers the best quality of services in the most efficient manner. Better Contact Management Leads To Better Perception of Government: The NCC has managed to successfully embark on the path that will change some of the negative perceptions cast on government bodies, particularly of being inaccessible and unhelpful. The professional, consistent service provided through the NCC has significantly improved citizens’ perceptions of the government. Other governments seeking to improve their public image would do well to begin with the point at which the citizen most frequently interacts with their government – contact centers. Bring in Strong Partners: Should a similar initiative be explored in future by other organizations, eGA would definitely recommend spending substantial time and resources on the selection of a future business partner. The partner must be selected on the criterion of expertise, credibility and appetite to enter the local market. The correct partner will bring enough expertise and momentum to such an initiative that will force it to stay on a successful track.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   eGovernment Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Maher Al Khan
Title:   Asst. Director  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:  
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