Many communications channels, one better experience

By Stuart Pearson (Chief Digital Officer, Citizens Advice Manchester) on 21st Sep 2020

Citizens Advice Manchester provides free, confidential, impartial, and independent advice to people who need it. We want to make it as frictionless as possible to access our service. The easier it is to use it the sooner people will choose it. At the same time people are so used to communicating with family and friends across different apps and devices that they expect to be able to connect with organisations just as easily. Our advisors have ended up using telephone plus SMS plus Webchat plus Facebook Messenger in order to provide advice. As one can imagine this was not a great experience for our teams, jumping from one system to another. Coronavirus then meant we had to stop our face-to-face service, which increased demand across all these different channels. This made the issue worse and led us to look at a more effective way to manage these multiple inbound communication channels.

We wanted to have a single platform for advisors to access advice enquiries across all the channels. The solution we chose was Twilio, the cloud communications platform. As a charity, we qualified for their program for non-profits plus a $500 kickstarter. Twilio were great. We had several calls with them offering help and advice about best practice. Working with a developer we were able to get an inbound contact centre live in two weeks using their Twilio Flex product. This enabled us to manage voice, SMS and Facebook Messenger in one place.

Screen shot of Twilio flex CRM with incoming clients messages from multiple channels but one chat screen
        for staff
Screen shot of Twilio flex CRM with incoming client messages from multiple channels

A few weeks later we were able to add WhatsApp to the platform. This option is already proving to be an incredibly popular way to access our advice services. Like Messenger it is an asynchronous channel, which means that a client can send a message out of hours and a team member can pick it up when they are next available. WhatsApp has the added advantage of end-to-end encryption - having the ability to securely share documents is really useful.

By using Twilio and adopting this new ‘omnichannel’ approach we have seen multiple benefits:

  • we are providing more choice and a better client experience
  • the modular nature of the platform means we have been able to gradually add extra channels for our clients
  • our advisors have a better experience, now just logging into one portal without having multiple tabs open on their screen
  • our advisors are more effective and efficient, as they can easily pick up the next enquiry regardless of which channel the client used
  • there has been a reduction in IT admin support, as there is no need to manage multiple user accounts across different systems, which was a real drain

When linked to our CRM (customer relationship management system) this technology will allow our clients to switch seamlessly between these channels, from Voice to SMS or WhatsApp, without having them repeat their story multiple times.

The platform's flexibility has provided us with an exciting roadmap of features and improvements we want to add. Its modular approach also means it will be easy to add new channels in the future if we see a rise in demand, or new popular trends emerge.

Find out how we helped introduce this new platform to our staff, in our Service Recipe by The Catalyst.