What is the future of voice for the public sector?

Pundits have a habit of proclaiming the death – or the diminished importance – of a medium or technology, only to see their predictions proven thoroughly wrong. The people who said talk radio was dead have since witnessed the explosion in popularity of podcasts. Those who announced the end of television have seen Netflix go from strength to strength. Even the printed paperback book is holding its own after the invention of the e-reader.

So let’s avoid that trap and begin by saying that voice will always be a vital channel for public sector organisations. Just as people will always want to listen to voices or watch things on screens, they will always want to deal with public services over the phone.

The evidence backs the assertion. A recent report on digital engagement with the Metropolitan Police Service (from the technology company Unisys) revealed that voice is the preferred contact channel for most public services. The research found that the public would reach for the phone when getting in touch with local councils (65%), the fire service (88%), the police (87%) and the ambulance services (87%) – more so than any other method of communication.

Evolving with the needs of the public

This isn’t to say that you should focus all your efforts on traditional voice telephony and call it a day. As the ways in which the public use technology changes, public sector organisations must adapt their communications infrastructure and offering accordingly.

This means that voice must be seen an important part of a multi-channel public sector comms mix that also includes social media, text, apps and online services. Not least because there are some queries and services that the public will always expect to conduct through voice. So it’s up to government organisations to think about which aspects of their service citizens would prefer to carry out digitally and which should be a little more traditional, shall we say. Paying council tax will become an exclusively digital service, for example. Whereas reporting a crime will likely always be done over the phone.

But what ‘over the phone’ means is changing, too. The public may come to expect to communicate over VoIP or video conferencing services – using FaceTime to speak their GP or Skype to talk about their disability allowance – and still consider it to be ‘over the phone’. Meaning that traditional telephony might soon be insufficient to serve the public through the means they expect, and organisations will have to invest in the infrastructure necessary to deliver new points of contact.

Find out how SIP trunking has helped the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies deliver cost savings, and increase resilience and flexibility by reading our case study.

Read the case study

Find out how SIP trunking has helped the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies deliver cost savings, and increase resilience and flexibility by reading our case study.

Read the case study

Putting the building blocks of innovation in place

None of this is particularly revolutionary thinking. Of course, the public’s technology habits will change and new platforms will be required to accommodate them. Which is why you should start understanding the ways in which expectations of voice are changing in relation to the services you offer and how they are typically consumed.

Once you have a clear picture of this, you’ll be able to figure out where voice will sit within the channel mix of other digital technologies. And you’ll be able to invest in the infrastructure that allows for further innovation.

The Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies, for example, updated their legacy telephone system from traditional ISDN. With SIP trunking, they were able to realise cost savings, greater flexibility and more resilience. Not only have they brought their telephony up to date, with better management and control, they have delivered the potential for future upgrades.

For many public sector organisations, the telecoms journey from A to be B can be disrupted by numerous external factors. Find out how Gamma’s solutions have been designed to help them meet their IT and telephony needs.

Find out how SIP trunking has helped the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabularies deliver cost savings, and increase resilience and flexibility by reading our case study.

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2 August 2017 | Sam Winterbottom

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.