NHS Business Services Authority
Transforming the customer experience while driving cost efficiencies
The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) is the special health authority of the National Health Service. It provides a range of support services across the NHS and administers the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme. The EHIC, which provides UK holidaymakers reassurance that their healthcare costs are covered if they fall ill while travelling in Europe, is an extremely popular service.
The NHSBSA call centre deals with several different queries relating to the different services it provides, with each call coming with its own unique challenges. While most companies have a set customer base about which much information is known, NHSBSA's customer base is the whole of the UK population. Therefore, it must consistently forecast calls from potentially over 60 million people, making it difficult to allocate resources.
As EHIC cards need to be reviewed every five years, NHSBSA's contact centre was receiving a consistently high volume of calls from an average of 300,000 customers needing new cards per month. Within the peak months, there were as many as 2 million calls received. This presented a considerable challenge to answer all inbound calls by using call centre agents alone.
The call centre was previously unable to deal effectively with such unpredictable spikes in call volume, particularly due to most calls being handled were the more routine and straightforward application requests, so agents had less time to respond to more complex and detailed customer calls.
After consultation with NHSBSA, Nasstar* determined that any successful solution would need the ability to handle a high volume of calls, extend the hours for customer service beyond the contact centre’s opening hours, deliver significant cost savings, and facilitate a more agile and effective customer experience.
*Previously KCOM Business
Digitally transforming the inbound calls process for NHSBSA has helped to make applying for an EHIC more straightforward for both customers and agents, and has delivered significant savings for the authority.
With NHSBSA no longer reliant on traditional customer service agents for their services, the number of calls they can take has grown exponentially – the only restriction is bandwidth and infrastructure. As Nasstar also supplies the infrastructure that supports the solution for NHSBSA, they have the flexibility to scale up or down services as required.
Prior to the voice automation service being implemented, call centre staff were predominantly dealing with EHIC calls rather than other services. The new system has taken an average of 4,000 routine calls away from the staff and allowed them to deal with more complex customer enquiries. They also have more time to spend on training and learning new skills.
The cloud-based voice recognition solution has also provided huge cost savings for NHSBSA. EHIC card requests and renewals are now automated through the voice recognition system, making a potential 70% saving if the transaction is fully completed. In the first three years since the system was implemented, NHSBSA made a saving of £700,000, with this figure continuing to grow.
To tackle these challenges, Nasstar implemented a hosted cloud-based solution featuring natural speech recognition. In this scenario, a caller speaks to a ‘virtual agent’ and all the information required is collected through the caller simply speaking their details to the automated voice.
The virtual agents also allow callers to renew EHIC cards on behalf of family members, saving time and increasing customer satisfaction. The automated virtual agents were designed with human factors in mind, providing a reassuring experience for the customers, who have reacted very positively to the process. Nasstar also integrated the voice automation system into NHSBSA's customer database so if the caller decides to abandon the automated process and speak to an agent during their call, their information is instantly available to the agent that picks up their query. This ensures callers don't have to repeat all their details to an agent to complete a transaction.
As a commercial model, NHSBSA wanted to work with a partner on a 'risk and reward' basis. Nasstar proposed an innovative model where every call handled successfully (i.e., which culminated in an EHIC card being sent to the caller) would be linked to a fee – and Nasstar is only paid for each successful transaction. This ensures that NHSBSA would never have to pay for unsuccessful transactions, reinforcing our confidence in the effectiveness of the system that we have deployed and being cost-efficient.
It was very important for us to be able to work closely with a supplier who would continue to monitor and make improvements to the system, even after deployment. We were delighted with the system from day one, and yet we have benefited from further refinements ever since. We are confident that the system will continue to improve efficiency.