Citizens Advice St Helens Cambridge and District Citizens Advice is a registered charity providing free advice on problems that the public face in their everyday lives. The organisation offers guidance on everything from various issues with things such as employment, benefits, housing, and relationship issues. The team consists of paid staff alongside experienced volunteers. Support is offered to residents in the Cambridge City and South Cambs area.
When the UK government announced a national lockdown in March 2020, no single person was unaffected, adding tremendous pressure to the vast number of charities throughout the UK. The organisation needed to continue to provide a holistic service to those in need and without interruption. The team transitioned to home working and calls were diverted to mobile or landline phones. Costs skyrocketed very quickly. Many features were not available due to the calls being on divert, simple things we often take for granted like transferring or placing a call on hold. Cambridge and District Citizens Advice, as an existing customer of VS Group, approached the team with their dilemma and a reliable and future-proof solution needed to be agreed upon, Hosted Voice (VoIP) was the answer.
Citizens Advice offered the Cambridge and District branch funding to upgrade the existing telephony infrastructure. The only requirement was to spend the fund on softphone capability. A softphone gives a user the ability to make a telephone call over the internet through a desktop or mobile application. It has all the features and more of a traditional telephone system. The project to get things up and running was time-sensitive. Upon approaching VS Group in October 2020, completion was due by the end of November. Though Tessa Crook, IT Leader at the organisation was dubious as expected with a full system implementation for over 70 users, Kevin, Managing Director and Founder at VS Group assured Tessa that the deadline could be met, and it was.
The organisation reduced call costs massively from the outset as volunteers and staff were no longer having to use personal phones to continue providing the service. And as for the team, Tessa says that they love it and the entire installation process has been smooth. “All the volunteers absolutely loved it, they took to it like a duck to water – it was really simple for them to do”. With the support from VS Group’s Provisioning Manager, Alex, and the documentation provided, Tessa now has the confidence to remotely train her team to access and utilise the system’s useful features.
Tessa made it simple for her staff to access and use the app on their devices whilst keeping the configuration, security and set up of the system to only those that required access to it. When asked if it was easy to navigate and configure the portal, Tessa replied that she was fine with it. “Yes, I had a couple of sessions with Alex, and I had lots of questions that were all answered, no question was a silly question. Nothing was too much trouble for Alex or Kevin; it was all good – there were no problems with that at all.”
The new solution will benefit the centre more than previously anticipated. Besides cost savings and flexibility, future volunteers also needn’t have to be from the local area. The Hosted Voice solution allows users to work anywhere. With its easily scalable nature, a volunteer can be at any location in the UK. Furthermore, existing local volunteers no longer have fixed-location constraints. Let’s say a user goes and stays at their home by the seaside for the summer; they can now go online and connect to the service on their mobile or laptop whenever they see fit. They can take their softphone anywhere with them and continue volunteering, so long as there is an internet connection nearby.
The pandemic has changed things for us all, which goes without saying for Cambridge and District Citizens Advice. Tessa explained that the centre might never return to ‘normal’ with everyone working from the office full time, especially with the virtual phone system’s new capability.
The benefits of Virtual Office