A Digital Future
Pobl is the Welsh word for people – and it’s an appropriate name for this large housing and social care provider, which puts the individuals it supports at the heart of everything it does. A not-for-profit organisation with almost half a century of creating affordable homes, Pobl manages more than 17,500 homes across Wales and provides care and support services to more than 9,000 individuals.
It has a charitable arm, Pobl Trust, which raises funds and allocates grants to community groups and organisations to improve quality of life and create opportunities for people in the areas where Pobl Group works.
Pobl has grown significantly, organically and through acquisition, over recent years and has over 2,500 employees working across a wide variety of sites, co-ordinated from headquarters in Newport and Swansea. As the social care sector continues to embrace digitalisation and its role in improving and personalising care, the management team at Pobl placed technology front and centre of their 10-year “Next Decade of Difference Making” strategy. A key element of the strategy is the pledge: “We will use technology and data to improve our services. Tech will help our teams work brilliantly and connect easily.”
As an existing Onecom customer for mobile connectivity and devices, Pobl chose to build on the relationship and collaborate with Onecom to implement this strategy. Onecom and Pobl’s senior IT team business partner, Darren Raz-Nick, worked closely together to set out a road map for the future. Together, Onecom and Pobl are at the beginning of the journey to fully digitise the business, with Five9’s industry-leading contact centre platform at its core.
"The biggest compliment I can give is that Onecom doesn’t feel like a separate company to ours. We meet regularly and it feels more like an interdepartmental meeting rather than a contractor/client one."
Pobl is an organisation with a huge number of demands and priorities, and communication is key to its teams being able to provide the best possible care and service for each individual.
Having grown through acquisition since its formation through merger in 2016, Pobl had teams working on a number of unconnected legacy telephone and customer contact systems. The main system was combined with telephone hunt groups and workarounds. They were unreliable and no longer meeting the needs of the business.
The system was unreliable, there was a risk of dropped calls and it did not give Pobl useful data to help manage its customer service teams by appropriately allocating resources according to call volumes and flows. These problems came into sharp focus during the pandemic, as teams worked to answer customer queries and to direct support where it was needed while working remotely.
In the field, there were also challenges to be overcome. There is a mix of technical skill levels across the organisation, and staff were often making paper notes during their shift which then needed to be entered into the system afterwards, with implications for time management, efficiency, and sustainability.
The task ahead was as much about business culture as it was about technology – giving Pobl’s teams the tools and support they needed to embrace new ways of working for the benefit of service users.
“We are already starting to see the numbers coming through, helping us analyse how much time is spent on each call, what our call volumes are, and how well we are utilising our people for the benefit of our customers."
Steps to Digitalisation
Rolling out Five9 as the contact centre solution for customer interactions is the first step on Pobl’s journey to a fully digital future. The system was implemented in February 2022 for customer service teams, and the business is already seeing the benefits.
Darren Raz-Nick reports that there was an “immediate impact” on the morale of the customer service team and managers, who quickly saw the benefits of the system’s functionality in their day-to-day working lives.
- Five9 integrates seamlessly with Pobl’s Microsoft Dynamics CRM, giving customer service teams detailed information about a customer, their call history and their individual needs.
- Calls can now be recorded for training and quality purposes, and as a reference in case of complaints.
- The system also includes secure methods of taking payment, removing the need for paper-based forms which can be a source of friction and delay.
- Five9 will enable Pobl to replace several regional telephone numbers with one central point of contact, and integrate telephone, voice chats and email communications for a seamless customer experience.
“Five9 is delighted to have been chosen as the intelligent CCaaS platform underpinning the POBL / Onecom digital-transformation project. Five9 boasts the full cloud-based CX technology stack to enable this solution to scale in line with POBL's ongoing requirements, and with Onecom’s proven implementation & managed services expertise, we look forward to hearing about the excellent returns that this solution has the potential to provide for the years to follow."
Crucially, the Five9 system reports valuable data that will help shape Pobl’s customer service function in the future. This includes encouraging customers to use its web portal for payments and day-to-day interactions, while still having the option to speak to a team member.
“We are already starting to see the numbers coming through, helping us analyse how much time is spent on each call, what our call volumes are, and how well we are utilising our people for the benefit of our customers. We have several call flows and customers will often choose the easiest route, but it won’t always be the right one. Five9 gives us the opportunity when we close a call to record what the customer actually called in for so we can learn from it, change if necessary, and be more proactive in directing customers to the correct lines and resources such as our payment portal. Five9 is really helping us to understand how people are working, using data to see how efficiently calls are handled, whether the customer went to the right place, and how much resource we need to manage the calls and customer contacts that are coming in.” Darren Raz-Nick, IT team, Pobl.
Onecom also collaborates with Pobl in a number of other ways.
- Pobl’s teams in the community are increasingly using SIM-enabled tablets to record data while they are working their shifts, eliminating the need to return to a desktop PC to type up notes afterwards.
- Onecom is working with Pobl to replace its legacy phone system with Connect4Teams, a cloud solution that delivers direct routing of calls within the Microsoft Teams environment. This will be used across the business as the main method of making external calls.
- For mobile devices and connectivity, Pobl uses around 1,200 Vodafone connections – 1,100 for smartphones – mainly Samsung handsets supplied by Onecom – and the rest for SIM-enabled equipment such as laptops and tablets as well as lift lines and alarms.
- Smartphones and devices are centrally managed using the SOTI system through Onecom for device enrolment, control and updates.
- A recommended next step is the rollout of Onecom’s OneCloud platform – a single pane of glass solution which drives productivity and customer experience to a new level by integrating several services and solutions into a single portal.
“A lot of it is about cultural change. People have historically been used to doing things in a certain way and because the organisation has evolved through growth and acquisition, the business change function has never been centralised until recently. The result was that each part of the business was siloed and responsible for its own methods and ways of working. Change is now driven centrally and enabled by the Five9 contact centre solution. This is core to the strategy of the business and gives Pobl’s management and teams the visibility, data and analytics to meet their ambitions.” Onecom Client Director.
A Bright Future
Pobl’s digitalisation ambitions are far-reaching, and as the organisation’s trusted technology partner, Onecom plans to support the business every step of the way.
Innovations on the road ahead include supporting customers with digital assistants, wearable technology, smart home devices and robotics. The organisation is especially interested in the ways that internet-enabled assistive technology could help anyone who uses one of Pobl’s services.
Central to this journey is data – taking control of the information Pobl learns from its customers and using it to change at pace – building systems and applications that meet customer need while delivering ease of use and high levels of safety and security. As a primary source of customer data, Five9 is central to this vision.
“The biggest compliment I can give is that Onecom doesn’t feel like a separate company to ours. We meet regularly and it feels more like an interdepartmental meeting rather than a contractor/client one. Their goal is to save us time and money, to give us the best possible offering they can and support us to grow and evolve. They challenge what we do and give us full visibility of everything they are doing for us, while supporting our strategy completely and helping us make decisions based on data insights. It’s a collaboration – we trust them, and from that has come a cultural change.” Darren Raz-Nick, IT team, Pobl.