The NHS Business Services Authority (BSA) says it has saved £20,000 in the past six months, after implementing customer interaction management provider Eptica's knowledge management system.
The BSA provides central services to the NHS and general public and has three contact centres that employ 230 agents and receive three million calls a year.
According to BSA shared services manager David Roberts, the authority looked for a centralised knowledge management system to improve the quality of its telephone-based customer service.
"The main driver for the new system was that we get a lot of calls for a range of healthcare-related services. This includes dealing with the NHS pension scheme and processing payments to dentists and pharmacists.
"We tried to upskill our staff so that they would have knowledge of more than one area but our real challenge was keeping their knowledge up-to-date because much of the information they are given is constantly being updated," he said.
Roberts said that the BSA previously relied on Word documents and PDF files but because of the sheer volume of files and pages within documents it was incredibly hard for an agent to find the information that they were looking for.
"We had an internal intranet to search for these documents but it wasn't built for someone who had to deal with customers over the phone. It was far too time consuming," he said.
Eptica's Sherlock solution allows agents to type questions and receive up-to-date answers. It also has integral audit trail functions, allowing stakeholders to monitor performance and quality of information.
Roberts said the BSA chose Sherlock because it was the most user-friendly and because it had an option to offer the service for external customers in the future, if the authority wished to scale up.
The BSA agreed the contract details with Eptica in April 2011 and then worked with the vendor from June 2011 on the business requirements it felt that the knowledge base needed to meet.
"When looking at the requirements, it prompted a lot of rationalisation in terms of what documents we had and what we actually needed, which was a huge amount of work. We had policies that were out of date or not useful. We needed to figure out what we wanted to go onto the knowledge base," said Roberts.
In August, members of a BSA knowledge base team started to upload documents to the system and by October, Sherlock went live.
Roberts said the main benefit of the solution was that it saved costs and time, with the BSA saving £20,000 from October 2011 to March 2012.
"It saved us costs as our internal service desk has reduced from four to three people and the time to train our staff has reduced by 20 per cent," he said.
The solution has cost about £40,000 so far, including a monthly hosting cost of £6,000, but Roberts said that the BSA still expects to save £121,000 in its first full year and £162,000 a year thereafter.
He said that the majority of savings will come from reducing average call handling time and reduction in repeat calls through increased first call resolution.
"We have saved money just by reducing the amount of call time that is wasted when the caller has had to hold for three seconds. If you consider that we get three million calls a year, it makes a significant difference to the savings we will accrue," he said.
In the future, the NHS BSA may look to incorporate knowledge base content into specific, public-facing websites and Facebook pages as well as using it to share knowledge among partner organisations within the NHS.