Greater Manchester Police (GMP) serves more than 2.5 million people. Covering an area of 500 square miles, it comprises 12 divisions, including a specialist division based at Manchester International Airport, with 13,000 police officers and staff. Its vision is to be the most effective police force in the UK by putting people first in everything it does, being proud of delivering excellent service, and working with and for the people of Greater Manchester to make communities safe and feel safer.
Any police force has a duty to respond quickly and efficiently to calls from the public. Service interruptions to emergency numbers could have dire and possible deadly consequences. Dealing with non-emergency calls is also important for a number of reasons, from helping to instil a sense of confidence in the community to improving information gathering and case solving.
Efficient call handling at GMP had traditionally been a challenge because of disparate technology platforms and inefficient shift models. In fact, in figures compiled by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies in 2008, the force was ranked 42 out of 43 for its call handling. Like all police forces, however, GMP could not afford to simply throw money at the problem.
BT and Greater Manchester Police work together to provide a service to the public. If we fail in that then people’s lives could be put at risk.
BT provides the vast majority of the GMP communications infrastructure, including LANs and WANs, internet access, secure remote access, and closed circuit TV. It was therefore a natural choice to help solve the call handling problems. Superintendent Karan Lee of Greater Manchester Police says: “We formed a joint BT GMP team to analyse the problems and consider possible solutions.”
A BT Onsite Contact Avaya Contact Centre 6 (CC6) platform was installed to improve flexibility and responsiveness through unified voice and multimedia call handling. Its converged architecture supports IP telephony, and also enables calls to be handled in a context-sensitive manner. That original system has more recently been upgraded to the CC7 high-availability model from Avaya to offer better business continuity.
BT also helped to remodel the GMP shift structure and train agents as the changes were implemented. At the same time a core optical fibre ring around Greater Manchester segmented the network into three hierarchical levels to improve resilience. Forming a metropolitan area network (MAN) each GMP site has two or three circuits running at up to 1Gbps to further ensure service continuity.
GMP now handles all emergency and non-emergency responses on that single Avaya platform, which incorporates an automated skills-based routing system to distribute calls to free agents. Karan Lee explains: “It allows 999 emergency calls to be answered more rapidly and with priority, while non-emergency calls are answered by the first available call taker. Agents then make the decision as to how the incident is handled. For example, is it a real emergency that needs to be upgraded? Or is it not a real emergency and can it be downgraded?”
This has had a truly significant effect on GMP call handling. The force gets more than three million calls a year, translating to roughly 3,000 incidents a day. Against that background, Karan Lee quantifies the impact: “It’s improved our service levels from the mid-seventies for emergency calls and around 40 per cent for non-emergency calls; to the high-nineties for emergencies and the mid-eighties for non-emergencies.”
In addition, call handlers now have more time available to deal with enquiries, increasing their chances of dealing with a problem first time. “If my call takers spend an hour talking to an individual but deal with the incident at that point, that’s the ultimate aim for me,” says Karan Lee.
GMP technicians locally maintain the system with BT providing second-line and third-line support, with proactive monitoring of telephony switches. And the call handlers now have more time available to deal with queries, increasing their chances of dealing with a problem first time. Karan Lee concludes: “BT and Greater Manchester Police work together to provide a service to the public. If we fail in that then people’s lives could be put at risk.”
It’s improved our service levels from the mid-seventies for emergency calls and around 40 per cent for non-emergency calls; to the high-nineties for emergencies and the mid-eighties for non-emergencies.