MHS Homes’ decision to move its entire operations, from multiple locations across Kent into a single, purpose-built head office in Chatham, was an ideal opportunity to review and restructure its operations, in particular the ICT infrastructure.
MHS Homes was formed in 1990 and is now Kent’s largest independent landlord with 7500 homes in the Medway area. Through organic growth, MHS consisted of many small offices throughout the Rochester and Chatham area. Heather Nash, head of ICT, MHS Homes, said, “Each office had its own culture with different ways of working which tended to create barriers to effective communication and collaborative working.”
The new offices close to Chatham’s historic dockyard were completed in 2006, but a complete restructure of communications was needed, including infrastructure, telecommunications and customer services, before MHS staff could begin working. ICT was a key factor as it was driving the business strategy for the first time, using the network as a means of communication as well as for accessing and delivering services for internal staff, mobile workers and MHS tenants.
MHS selected ONI, specialists in Cisco unified communications, in partnership with Keylogic to design and install a Cisco service-oriented network architecture to support both voice and data applications on a single platform.
The network provided telephony services to over 250 users, while MHS gained greater control over its telephony spend through Soft-ex Ringmaster which delivers all communications information, including IP-telephony, email, mobile phone costs, traffic information, toll fraud and telephony monitoring, in a comprehensive and readable format for distribution via SMS or email.
Dual servers and Unity Voicemail were located in the new headquarters to provide telephony and voice mail services to staff as well as users at MHS Express, a high street-based ‘drop in’ centre for tenants. Cisco Mobility meant that users could be a part of the central IP phone system from any location. In addition, ‘adds, moves and changes’ were now simple and quick; the ICT department no longer needed to get involved as users simply moved to another desk and logged their profile into the IP handset.
MHS’s focus on customer service meant that a contact centre solution was an important part of the project. ONI installed Cisco Unified Contact Centre Express, a key benefit of which was its historical reporting function which empowered the contact centre supervisors by allowing them to monitor their agents’ performance automatically without needing to involve the ICT department. This time saving freed up ICT resources for front-line service, allowing ICT staff to support the business more readily.
Supervisors can now support their agents and improve performance and productivity within the team. By understanding statistics such as average wait times, number of calls, peak times and number of abandonments, the contact centre can be managed more intelligently. The success of the contact centre has led two other housing associations to use MHS’s services for their own tenants, resulting in new and unexpected revenues for MHS.
Heather Nash said, “Overall it was a time of great stress, but it also gave us the opportunity to deal with some really serious ICT issues which would have been difficult to justify at any other time. By working with key suppliers who supported our objectives, we have succeeded in delivering a successful relocation with systems to support the business into the next decade.”