One phone number for all questions

How Inland participated in the reorganisation of Migri’s customer service phone lines

We’ve all been there at some point. Phone in hand, trying to reach authorities through their customer service number. Some authorities might have separate phone lines for private people and companies, or possibly a couple options based on the topic of your question. At Migri, there are currently 12 of these numbers.

The main goal of Puhe-project was that there would be just one number. Or technically more, but a person trying to reach Migri would always know the number to call.

Why one number?

There is a constant stream of people trying to reach Migri on a daily basis. In addition to the traditional channels of customer service phone lines, email and Migri website, there are also newer self-service solutions like Migri’s chatbot Kamu. Most people still reach out to Migri by phone. The customer service phone lines consist of 12 numbers; the general customer service line is open from 9am to 4pm and the 11 unit expert lines have weekly 3-hour slots. The expert lines are based on Migri’s substance units’ general area of expertise and then further divided into more specific subcategories within each unit.

But what happens if a person is not sure to which number to call? Choosing from 12 options, especially if equipped with complicated and layered questions, can become both effort- and time-consuming. This has caused a large amount of misdirected and repeating questions to phone lines unable or unauthorised to answer them. In practice, the overcrowded lines have long waiting times and decrease in the overall answering percentage. This has caused a lot of frustration to customers but also additional work to civil servants working in Migri. The obvious problem is the number of phone lines, but other issues include units’ limited phone hour resources and the sheer amount of information customer has to navigate through.

There is a lot of ongoing work in Migri that pursues to improve customer service and its efficiency, especially through self service solutions and automatisation. The newest addition to Migri’s service channels, the chatbot Kamu, is one of the ways to address the huge amount of questions and help improve the current answering percentage. However, there’s still a strong need for human-to-human customer service, be it for the lack of personal interaction or simply the complexity of the questions asked. The complete self-service experience is still quite far in the future, making phone services a relevant area for improvement.

A bit on the context

In the Fall 2018, the phone line development had a chance. The phone system was having a technical renovation and changed into a new system which enables queuing and better call statistics. The system also introduced the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu, that allows the customer to navigate through options by using the phone’s keypad. This enables the system to tentatively guide the user during the call before a human customer servant answers. The timing offered possibilities for further development work on the overall model of phone services alongside resource allocation planning. This is when Inland stepped in as a participant of the project team, whose main goal was to plan new phone service logic. We had a role in the reorganisation of the phone lines as part of the project team, instead of leading the project or only doing consulting work.

Our role consisted of background research, rearranging the call topics, facilitating a workshop to create new call logic, gathering customer feedback and co-creating a final proposal with the team. Inland’s main contribution was the creation of an initial proposal to help communicate the new phone service logic and to support its technical development.

Inland’s project role in 4 stages

Stage 1 — Background research and rearranging call topics

The first stage was mostly desktop research: studying Migri website and service guidebook content as well as the results of a phone line expert survey. In practice, this was to understand the topics and questions the phone lines deal with. The most common questions were grouped according to their themes, to form new categories that phone lines could potentially be organised around.

Searching for themes from the most commonly asked questions

Stage 2 — Facilitation of a workshop for creating the new call logic

In November 2018, we conducted a workshop with the project team that consisted of Migri’s service planners and unit experts. The goal of the workshop was to ideate the reorganisation possibilities, negotiate the division of work and map possible collaboration efforts. There was also the goal to agree on the question categories from the previous step.

The workshop consisted of two tasks: the first one dealt with topic negotiations and had the participants read, reorganise and add on the content of their unit’s phone lines. The second part was developing phone line reorganisation plans in groups. The participants built their own proposals of phone line plans from customer point of view using paper “building blocks” and customer question cards as support. The workshop resulted in two alternative service logic reorganisation plans that explain the options visible for user in the system and where they lead in Migri.

Groups building their proposals

Stage 3 — Gathering customer feedback

We conducted simple low-fidelity testing with a small sampling of people with foreign background. The tests were carried out in Finnish (non-native) and in English, both in person and over the phone. The testing was executed as “roleplay”, with the tester playing the role of the automated phone service voice. The main purpose was getting feedback from people, however, there was a predetermined goal of mainly confirming the version that was seen as most promising. Despite this, testing brought into attention new details and personal experiences to take into consideration in the development.

Testing call scripts with users

Stage 4 — Proposal

The results so far were made into a proposal consisting of three parts: the reorganisation plan, list of new topic categories and recommendations for further development. The reorganisation plan was made to aid the communication of the desired solution to the technical development team building the system. It communicates the overall system logic in a single page visualisation. The list of the questions organised in new categories was also turned in as complementary material, to set examples on the content of each topic area, and potentially serve as part of new staff training material.

Proposal for the new system logic

Expected benefits of the new system

  • Customers know which number to call and the system is able to guide them to the person best suited to help them
  • Migri gets less overlapping and repeating phone calls
  • Directing calls to the right experts gets easier for the customer servants
  • System enables phone service customer servants to specialise in certain topics. This offers possibilities for more effective customer service training and widening of expertise
  • Pre-recorded announcements have the potential to help direct callers to self-service solutions in the future

What we learned

1 — Importance of internal communication and ownership

All units that answer phone calls participated in the project, and as a result, were up to date with what was going on in the development. The unit representatives were able to understand the process, support its development and appropriate the solution. This helped them to also gain ownership over the solution, making them more devoted in supporting it at a later stage. This is crucial when working across units in customer centric projects.

2 — Internal service design training shows results

A positive observation was sighting of some primary effects of Inland’s in-house service design training. The project team included three people participating in the training, making them not only more receptive to ideas, but also more precise on what to expect from our team.

3 — Being part of a project instead of leading it

In this specific project, Inland didn’t have a leading role, but we were participants. This allowed us to concentrate on what we do best: service design, and took us the burden of the project manager. We didn’t need to coordinate schedules, organise meetings or write reports. Instead we could do user research, facilitate workshops and give our expert advice in the direction of the project.

4 — Simple ideas might need complex implementation processes

Even though the idea of having only one number to call seems quite simple, making it possible took a lot of time and a complex process. The tasks involved different working practices of different civil servants that work across the organisation. Certain design capabilities such as negotiation, synthesis and visualisation skills were needed in order to produce a solution suitable for all parties. Inland could provide these capabilities in the project.

5 — Bringing customer centric research to the organisation

We believe that introducing and demonstrating new ways of working in an organisation with complicated processes and stiff hierarchical structures is important in order to promote a gradual change in the organisational mindset. Through this project we could show that simple low-fidelity prototypes and less structured ways of testing can also have value.

The first stage of the project has been successfully completed and the development work continues during 2019. Inland continues the collaboration in a consulting position.

Authors: Katariina Kantola and Mariana Salgado

Editor: Suse Miessner