Friday, June 03, 2005

Ashford Borough Council uses SMS to extend social inclusion of services

[Via Public Technology]

Enabling public access to council call centre agents through mobile phone text messaging…hmm. No, it's not a Majestic 12 conspiracy... The story goes that Ashford (UK) Borough Council is trying to improve access to public services by addressing changing consumer behaviour and preferred channels of communication... by using the sms of course. The first council service to be given SMS access has been the social housing division at Ashford Borough Council. This service provides housing to the public through a list system published once a month. All this to help citizens achieve the desired results when applying for a help service.

The council now offers people registered on the Housing Waiting List two new ways to register their housing choices.
Moreover, choices can be registered throughout the day and night by sending the Council an SMS text message from a mobile phone or by using the automated telephone service. These new services provide increased flexibility to the people of Ashford, enabling them to call or text after-hours, at times when they may be more likely to be reviewing what housing has become available.
To offer the SMS service Ashford has integrated an SMS gateway with the Mitel contact centre. This enables text messages to be routed directly to contact centre agents, or alternatively to route the messages directly into a database if they contain a specified code word. In order to access public services by SMS, an individual can send Ashford Borough Council a text message, which is then converted to email and answered by a call centre agent in real time. The agent then sends back an email, which is again converted into a text and sent to the customer’s mobile phone.


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