Cobalt Telephone Technologies (CTT), part of the Parkmobile worldwide group, is a leading provider of on-demand and prepaid mobile payments for on- and off-street parking. CTT specialises in end-to-end parking solutions which enable motorists to pay via a variety of a payment channels from traditional fixed line telephones to smartphone apps, mobile internet, fixed web, SMS and interactive voice response (IVR) systems.
Today, the most well-known product in the CTT portfolio is the award-winning solution, RingGo, the UK’s leading cashless parking system – provided nationwide by local authorities, rail operators and private companies as an alternative to pay and display parking. RingGo’s 8.7 million registered motorists use it to pay for parking, by credit or debit card. Advance registration isn’t required. Motorists simply register, by app, online or intelligent IVR, the first time they use the service. Thereafter, RingGo recognises the mobile phone and recalls the information provided.
Gauging the Challenge
CTT originally used a fairly basic interactive voice response (IVR) solution to communicate with customers and deliver payment options. Over time, however, as the public usage of digital self-service channels and automated information delivery proliferated, CTT realised it needed to enhance and scale up its service and put a better platform in place to support the IVR capability its customers were increasingly looking for. Critically too, as CTT was operating in multiple industries, it knew it needed a robust platform capable of running multiple different IVRs.
As Chris Spacagna, IT Director, CTT puts it: “When we first considered a self-service development product, our main challenge was to put in place a platform that would enable us to support multiple IVR applications of various different kinds. At that time, we were looking at promoting different types of payment IVR systems to a range of sectors and informational applications and we needed a single solution that could handle all of these demands.”
These were among the key reasons why CTT opted to implement the Enghouse Interactive Communications Portal (CP), an open standards-based development platform from leading communications expert, Enghouse Interactive. CP significantly reduces the time, cost and complexity of creating and deploying tailored voice self-service and communications solutions.
The rationale behind the choice of CP is one that still holds true today: namely, that it is one of the best platforms for rapid prototyping and development. CTT is continuously innovating and focuses on putting out new products onto the platform quickly in order to drive market growth and stay ahead of the competition.
“We have a strong business development pipeline and when we bring in new business, it’s usually on short timescales. So, it’s crucial that we are able to develop prototypes quickly,” added Spacagna. “What the Enghouse Interactive Communications Portal has enabled us to do is to get these out in a matter of months, sometimes even weeks, on some of our smaller projects.
“The key is ease-of-use,” Spacagna continues. “The CP interface is intuitive and there is a good help system. Using the platform has enabled us to significantly cut development time in addition to reducing the cost and complexity of creating and deploying tailored solutions.
“It also provides a full software solutions stack,” he adds. “That’s a big win for us also. Without that capability, we would probably need to go off and start searching for other pieces of software in order to build up a complete solution.
Another important issue for CTT is platform stability. As Spacagna explains: “At CTT, we have to process vast volumes of calls and we need to do this 24×7, 365 days every year. Also, many of our interactions could be termed ‘distressed phone calls’. In other words the customer needs to take action there and then. They can’t afford to be kept waiting. We therefore need to have complete confidence that the platform is always going to be there for us; that it will be able to support a fast response and that there will be very few delays. With CP, we have a solution we can rely on and that gives us confidence that we can deliver a quality service at all times.”
An Evolving Picture
The flexibility of CP has enabled CTT to develop new solutions to run on the platform seamlessly over time. CP has for some time supported the well-known RingGo brand but it also supports the RingGo Corporate product line, used by thousands of businesses, large and small, across the UK. These business people are always on the move – and have very little time to re-enter details. The need for short sharp interactions and therefore the level of automation within the IVR application, are consequently even higher than they are in the main RingGo solution itself.
CTT also uses the CP platform to run a fully automated payment module for clients outside of the parking industry, an IVR system that allows members of the public across the UK to pay for Council and debt recovery payments.
In addressing the key challenges faced by CTT, the stability of the platform and its ability to support the rapid development of prototypes are both key, as already referenced. But with such a vast volume of calls coming into the organisation, CP’s control panel also has a critically important role to play. The dashboards on the panel can help operational staff monitor the situation on a second-by-second basis – from the number of calls coming in, split by product type, to the precise status of individual calls. This provides an overview in real-time of the whole operation and enables senior management teams to take decisions on resourcing, for example, to address issues arising.
Over the longer term, reports can be created based on the information generated by the platform, which enable CTT to better understand the nature of their customer base and the performance of their products, in turn helping to shape product development and other strategic business decisions going forward.
Looking to the Future
While product development is relatively stable, CTT does have plans in place to develop the functionality of the CP platform. These include transitioning it to a fully session initiation protocol (SIP) based solution capable of handling voice over IP (VoIP) calls and also making more use of virtualisation.
These enhanced technical capabilities will enable CTT to tap into additional operational benefits over and above what it is already achieving, helping to optimise the power of self-service and automation in delivering efficiencies for customers and for its own operations. Thanks in no small part to Enghouse Interactive and Communications Portal, CTT is consistently living up to its reputation as the innovative automated transaction specialist.
For more information about Enghouse Interactive, visit their website.