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The VoIP Report

11 Reasons Government Organizations Need VoIP
April 12th, 2017

11 Reasons Government Organizations Need VoIP

Ian Linton

VoIP can help government organizations at federal, state and local levels meet their efficiency goals and provide citizens and businesses with quality, responsive service.

Government organizations must deliver value for the money to their “customers” – US citizens and businesses. Part of the process is to deliver better services more efficiently and work more productively. The challenge is not just to improve productivity, but also to reduce the barriers between departments and agencies that act against the goal of “joined-up government.”

Effective communications play an important role in reducing costs, improving productivity and collaboration, and delivering services more efficiently. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) can help government organizations at federal, state and local levels meet their efficiency goals and provide citizens and businesses with quality, responsive service.

Reduced communication costs

VoIP is available as a service hosted in the cloud. That means government organizations can reduce the cost of running communications by replacing legacy infrastructure on their own premises with advanced communications services that are hosted, managed and maintained by a service provider.

Government IT teams no longer have to invest in physical infrastructure, and they can focus their resources on developing and delivering essential digital services, while service providers take responsibility for management, maintenance, and upgrades.

Moving communications infrastructure to the cloud helps eliminate costly duplicate resources. Government organizations operating on a number of different sites no longer need to deploy infrastructure and support staff at each location.

A central cloud infrastructure can be deployed across all sites via SIP trunking, giving each site a consistent set of services and facilities. The whole system can be managed centrally. The infrastructure cost savings can make a significant contribution to delivering more value or freeing funds for more important tasks.

Government organizations can achieve further savings through VoIP’s lower call costs. Calls travel over the Internet rather than the PSTN (public switched telephone network), providing significant savings on long-distance calls. Internal calls and calls between sites connected by VoIP are free.

Simpler expansion

The ability to manage change efficiently can influence communication costs. If government departments expand, relocate to new sites or face a new intake of officials following an election, the changes can strain IT resources.

VoIP can simplify the change process in a number of ways. Service providers can manage moves, adds and changes remotely, freeing the IT team to deliver any user training and support required.

Adding capacity is quicker and easier because additional physical lines are no longer necessary. Service providers deploy additional virtual lines on-demand with no delay or disruption to service. If organizations open new sites, service providers can deploy a complete set of communication facilities from the cloud with no requirement for upfront investment costs.

Individual departments can also increase their communications capacity for short periods to meet seasonal or peak demands. That ensures they can maintain a responsive service with minimal delay to callers.

Delivering digital services

Many government departments are changing the way they deliver services by offering online facilities to citizens and businesses. Digital services and self-service facilities cut costs, reduce the demands on government staff, and offer citizens and businesses greater choice and convenience.

By integrating VoIP’s notification and messaging services with apps that support digital services, government departments can see further cost and resource savings. For example, IT teams can develop solutions that automate the distribution of payment receipts or reminders. Teams can use email, text, instant message or voice recordings to deliver notifications and meet citizens’ individual channel preferences.

Although digital services offer greater convenience, some citizens may find it difficult to use them. VoIP can help departments deal with the problem by offering a chat or click-to-call feature on a website, giving visitors immediate access to support from an advisor.

This facility can increase uptake and use of digital services and reduce the number of errors or support requests that create additional work for government departments.

Improving help desk efficiency

Despite the growth of digital services and self-service options, government departments must maintain help desk and customer service facilities to handle inquiries, transactions, complaints and other incoming calls efficiently.

VoIP’s call center solutions are available as hosted services from the cloud. IT teams can replace legacy call centers with advanced multi-channel contact centers without investing in infrastructure.

VoIP’s multi-channel contact centers give government departments the tools to handle inquiries by phone, email, text, fax or instant message on the same interface. This also improves convenience for callers, giving them the choice of contact by their preferred channels.

To handle incoming calls efficiently, VoIP provides sophisticated call routing facilities. Callers can use an IVR (interactive voice response) system to choose the department they want to contact or speak to a member of the help desk team. Help desk agents can transfer calls easily if callers need to speak to a specialist, or they can use VoIP’s messaging services to obtain information from a colleague during a call.

Supervisors can monitor real-time performance using VoIP’s management portal. A wide range of metrics and reports are available to help managers check that they are meeting performance targets and responding to inquiries within statutory guidelines.

While the majority of calls come during normal business hours, government departments can increase convenience by offering an out-of-hours service. IT can deploy a fully featured virtual call center to remote or home-based agents who are available to take calls outside normal hours.

Improving productivity

VoIP offers many features to improve productivity. The Presence feature, for example, can save employees time when trying to contact colleagues. Individuals can set their statuses to let colleagues know if they are available to take calls, or away from their phones or unavailable because they are busy.

This can reduce the problem known as “telephone tag” where callers waste time trying to reach contacts who may be unavailable.

Employees have a greater choice of communication channels with VoIP so they don’t always have to make phone calls. Organizations can send emails, texts or instant messages if they just want to inform or update a colleague.

They can also save time in checking their own messages because VoIP provides unified messaging features that let employees check their emails, voicemail, texts, faxes and instant messages in a single inbox. Employees no longer have to change devices to access different types of messages and that can save significant time during the working day.

Streamline workflows

VoIP’s ability to integrate with business apps makes it possible to streamline workflows and improve productivity even further. Integration with CRM (customer relationship management) systems, for example, gives employees instant access to detailed customer information when they are dealing with citizens or businesses.

Employees handling queries about payment or progress on planning issues, for example, can quickly access the latest information on the CRM system, rather than spending time searching for updates and returning calls later.

VoIP also integrates with tools such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Docs. Employees who are working on forecasts or reports using Excel, Word, or PowerPoint can place calls from within the apps to check information or email drafts to colleagues for review and feedback. Using the same interface to work and communicate saves time and makes an important contribution to productivity.

Improve teamwork

Many of VoIP’s features make teamwork more efficient. Many government tasks require departments to work together, share information and deliver results or joint decisions. However, this can also lead to excessive time spent in meetings, particularly if the meetings involve travel to a different site.

VoIP eliminates the time and cost of meetings travel with audio, web or video conferencing facilities. Team members can join meetings from any location and they don’t need to book dedicated facilities in a conference room. They can participate from their desks, small meeting rooms or from mobile devices if they are away from the office or working at home. This makes it easier to schedule meetings and ensure full participation.

Team members can share documents, statistics, spreadsheets, presentations and other visual content during formal meetings, making it easier to reach decisions. Using VoIP’s integration with Office 365 or Google tools, they can launch meetings and share content from within their apps.

For team communications between meetings, members can exchange information using VoIP’s other tools such as email, instant message or text for simple updates or feedback.

Inter-agency working

VoIP’s collaboration features also support efficient inert-agency working. This type of collaboration improves service to citizens, reduces the risk of errors and eliminates duplication of effort.

As an example, local government organizations may face problems dealing with vulnerable young people. Effective support may require close collaboration between social services, housing departments, police, health workers and child protective services. The agencies need to work together to ensure the best outcome and avoid problems caused by a lack of full information.

VoIP makes it easy to hold virtual meetings and to exchange information through the most convenient channels.

Mobile working

Many government officials and employees require access to communications away from the office. Busy government officials moving between meetings, or employees working in the community need to remain in contact. Housing departments, for example, may employ architects, surveyors, and inspectors who spend a large part of their working day away from the office.

VoIP delivers complete communications services on smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, allowing people to work with the same levels of productivity and efficiency as their office colleagues. Inspectors, for example, can access data or upload reports using VoIP’s mobile data capability. If they need advice or want to discuss problems, they can set up audio or video conferences with colleagues.

Flexible working

VoIP’s mobile capability gives government organizations the opportunity to offer employees flexible working arrangements. Permanent or temporary home working can be an attractive incentive to recruit or retain employees and increase employee satisfaction.

Because VoIP provides full communications features on any device with an Internet connection, employees can remain in contact and maintain levels of productivity.

Business continuity

VoIP makes an important contribution to productivity, efficiency and customer service throughout government organizations. It can also help ensure business continuity and speed up disaster recovery in the event of a serious incident.

Fires, floods or other disasters can disrupt essential services, particularly if the incident puts communications systems out of action. Cloud-based VoIP systems overcome the problem and provide essential communications continuity. Unlike premises-based phone systems, cloud communications can operate from any location with an Internet connection.

Recovery teams can set up communications in temporary accommodations to maintain essential contact while the recovery process continues. Maintaining business continuity ensures government organizations can continue to deliver essential services without impacting citizens or businesses.

Prepared for the future

VoIP is an advanced communication solution that helps government organizations meet their challenges, reduce costs and deliver quality service and value for the money. The technology continues to evolve with software updates, new forms of integration, and contributions from developers.

This makes it a future-proof solution that protects investment and gives government organizations the ability to meet future demands.

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