As most States continue to implement Next Generation 9-1-1 legislation, Geoff Land of the FIT Platform – a triage and workflow software for PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) – looks at what 9-1-1 call centers can learn from their commercial counterparts.
Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) seeks to “enable the general public to make a 9-1-1 ‘call’ (any real-time communication – voice, text, or video) from any wired, wireless, or IP-based device, and allow the emergency services community to take advantage of advanced call delivery and other functions through new internetworking technologies based on open standards.”
While North American PSAPs are quite rightly focusing on putting in place the IP Multimedia Subsytems (IMS), High Availability IP infrastructure, and internal routing and recording systems needed to deliver these goals, there are many other issues that need to be dealt with to ensure the public receives the maximum benefit from the changes.
The impact on dispatchers will be significant, with an already stressful and difficult job becoming much more complicated as they are expected to handle text, video and chat sessions alongside voice calls.
Many commercial contact centers have already been through this process with the introduction and expansion of multi-channel and now omnichannel digital customer experience technology over the last few years.
As a supplier of workflow software for call handling to both 9-1-1 centers and commercial contact centers, we have seen with our own eyes where each could help the other.
Systemise for performance
In commercial contact centers, if a caller happens to get connected to a more skilled and experienced agent who solves their problem much faster, then that’s their good luck; and their bad luck if the opposite occurs and they find themselves speaking to an inexperienced or poorly trained agent.
While the repercussions of this are generally not terribly serious in a contact center, it could be a matter of life or death in a PSAP. The level of skill or experience of a dispatcher, or their ability to use a piece of technology, should never be the difference between saving a life and not.
As the systems and technologies used by emergency dispatchers get more complex, they must be given tools which simplify and systemise the job. Triage workflow does just that by providing a single user interface to various systems, including the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch), and by providing intelligent guidance during the call.
The triage workflow can prompt the dispatcher to ask questions and allow them to take actions based on the responses – including assigning priority levels, asking follow-up questions, or dispatching appropriate response services and messages via the CAD.
Having got used to this way of working with commercial contact centers, it was a surprise when we saw one of the largest and busiest 9-1-1 command centers in the US still using paper-based scripts and rolodecks to triage incoming calls.
A screen-based system that can automatically move on to the next step depending on what the dispatcher inputs saves an enormous amount of time in each call, and improves accuracy, consistency and speed of response. It’s also much easier to update the system and manage version control.
Intelligent triage with complete control
The most common complaint among the many PSAPs we have spoken to this past year is that they cannot write medical workflows or introduce changes to enhance and optimize their responses to incoming emergency calls. A triage workflow system allows EMS teams and physicians to ‘own’ the responsibility for how they process and set priorities for all medical emergency calls.
Whatever workflow software you use to do the job should be seamlessly integrated with Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems. It should also capture the detail of every interaction to enable managers and specialists to analyse performance and adjust workflows over time to achieve continuous improvement. Such powerful data insights can deliver ongoing and measurable gains in dispatch times, resource accuracy, caller experience and operational efficiency.
Defining and measuring success is just as important in 9-1-1 centers
In commercial contact centers, KPIs will be defined and measured to assess the company’s progress towards its commercial goals. In our experience the use of similar KPIs – analogues of customer satisfaction, NPS (Net Promoter Score), and customer effort – in 9-1-1 centers is less prevalent.
In the emergency center environment, meeting the public’s needs is obviously the primary concern. My time in the contact center and customer service world has taught me that constant improvement is the main thing we as an industry strive for. We have done this by increasingly putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. What motivates us is to better meet customers’ needs, and that is what drives operational and technological changes, not the other way around.
Up until now, the world’s most agile and powerful contact center technology has been used to help people pay bills, get quotes, and shop but it has not been used to power emergency call systems. When deploying these tool-sets in the world’s largest contact center outsourcers we often see productivity gains of up to 20% – imagine how that could transform 9-1-1 centers?