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BT assists in unemployed citizens’ support services delivery across Spain
In Spain, where recession has seen unemployment soar above 20 per cent, supporting the unemployed is a mammoth task. For Rocío Rodríguez in the Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal, swinging budget cuts magnified the challenge.
With the help of a renegotiated BT contract, Rocío and her team have been able to improve efficiency and reduce cost, while helping the department provide better services to citizens. Unfortunately not everyone in Spain is working, but the country can rest assured that its benefits system is.
We have seen dramatic staff reductions and our people face increasing workloads. The services and technology BT provides are critical in assisting us in dealing with this situation, while improving the way we help our citizens.”
- Rocío Rodríguez, Deputy Assistant Director-General for Information and Communications Technologies, SEPE
An effective and efficient benefits service is important in any nation with pride in its welfare system. In Spain, one of Europe’s largest economies, it’s become increasingly critical since a nationwide property bubble burst in 2008 and unemployment began to rise. By 2012, one in five people in the country was out of work.
For under-30s unemployment was even higher at around a quarter of the workforce, meaning that there wasn’t a single breadwinner in many Spanish families. Adding to the problem was the high cost of public administration, which led to deep budget cuts across all central government departments.
The Spanish Employment and Pensions Department (Servicio Público de Empleo Estatal or SEPE) was particularly stretched since it provides services across the entire country. The department has to maintain more than 50 regional headquarters, almost 800 offices and around 10,000 employees. It was clear to its leadership that technology could help to meet this challenge.
The department has relied on BT for its ICT services since 2000. During that period, BT has helped SEPE continuously evolve its technology to suit the times, for example using call centre technology to introduce an automated appointments system in 2010. However, with the BT contract due for renewal in 2012, SEPE put the business out to tender under statutory purchasing stipulations.
“We were looking for network improvements, such as being able to use IP telephony to improve our service,” says Rocío Rodríguez, deputy assistant director-general for Information and Communications Technologies at SEPE. The question was whether BT could build on its knowledge of SEPE for new benefits and greater economies than ever before.
BT had traditionally provided four distinct service pillars to SEPE: a BT Connect MPLS-based wide area network (WAN); BT One for telephony; BT Contact for customer relationship management (CRM) applications; and BT Advise for professional services.
BT put forward a plan to migrate the SEPE WAN to a BT IP Connect infrastructure, reducing dependency on third-party network providers. Besides cutting access costs, this would help SEPE take advantage of BT broadband services to improve branch bandwidth and reliability. For locations that couldn’t be accessed over its own infrastructure, BT negotiated faster upstream and downstream bandwidths with third-party providers to improve value.
The network migration also enabled BT to enhance its BT One service by allowing SEPE to switch all its calls onto the BT IP Connect network using IP telephony, and thus do away with the need to maintain aging PBXs. Since the WAN had already been built, the only additional cost for SEPE was in upgrading handsets. Here, BT carried out a benchmarking exercise to ensure that SEPE got the best possible price.
Finally, BT enhanced its contact centre operation to cater for an increase in calls. Over the years SEPE had extended its automated appointments system across all Spanish regions, culminating with Andalusia in 2013, bringing the number of incoming calls to around 1.5 million a month. The BT Contact service is cloud-based, meaning the additional calls could be handled very cost effectively for SEPE.
The final service pillar, BT Advise, remained essentially unchanged with half-a-dozen technical experts providing full-time proactive onsite support at the SEPE headquarters.
In renewing its contract with BT, SEPE has gained substantial operational benefits at about two-thirds of the price available from the nearest competing vendor. With the move to the BT IP Connect WAN, access charges were significantly lowered because more locations could be directly reached over the BT infrastructure. That cost reduction was passed on to SEPE. A tenfold improvement in connection bandwidth, from 2Mbps to 20Mbps, is matched with six BT IP Connect quality-of-service classes for prioritisation of critical voice and data traffic.
This network improvement translates to better application response times, which are helping SEPE people become more productive. It also helps ensure better availability and reliability of SEPE citizen services. “We can’t take a day off,” says Rocío Rodríguez. “These days we’re completely reliant on communications technology.”
Meanwhile, switching to IP telephony means SEPE can cater more easily for employee telephone moves and changes – a significant benefit for an organisation with 10,000 staff. Additionally, the move to a new IP telephony infrastructure has allowed SEPE to consolidate all staff onto a single phone system, which has eliminated complexity and greatly improved communication within the department.
SEPE now no longer has to worry about the risk of outages arising from its former PBX estate, parts of which were up to 20 years old. “The elimination of our obsolete exchanges was a critical issue,” says Rocío Rodríguez. “We have to be able to provide a quality service, and they were beginning to fail.”
BT has moved contact centre telephony to session initiation protocol (SIP) for extra scalability and performance. Overall, SEPE has seen eight per cent savings on its contact centre costs, while extending the geographical reach and call volumes handled by the appointments system. That’s critical because unemployment claimants are not seen without a prior appointment.
Finally, SEPE continues to get high-level proactive support from its BT Advise professional services team. “These people are not administrators, but technical experts who are empowered to deliver solutions,” Rocío Rodríguez concludes. “In all our years with BT the relationship has been excellent. There has never been a conflict and BT has shown itself to be very flexible and co-operative in responding to our changing needs.”
- BT IP Connect
- BT One
- BT Contact
- BT Advise