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Argyll and Bute Council has created a ‘virtual’ Customer Service Centre function that enables Council advisors to work from offices distributed throughout the mainland and islands, while having access to common technologies and resources.

The Customer Service Centre is powered by Macfarlane CallPlus contact centre technology embedded within a new Cisco IP infrastructure. CallPlus is also tightly integrated with Lagan Frontline CRM software, ensuring relevant customer and Council information can be passed to advisors as calls are answered in order to deliver “one and done at first point of contact” service.

The virtual Customer Service Centre went live in June 2007. In the initial phase of deployment, Council Tax queries are being handled at a single Centre in Campbeltown – with a team of 4 Council Tax Advisors handling around 7-800 customer calls a week. Within months, the operation is likely to be many times bigger and operating on a multi-site basis.

Advisors make use of an innovative technology integration between the Council’s Lagan Frontline CRM software and Northgate SX3 Council Tax system that enables them to change customer records without the need for double entry. It is the first time this type of system integration has been achieved in a Scottish Council.

Following extensive Business Process Re-engineering reviews that will assess operational requirements in order to satisfy customer needs, the Council is planning to move Benefits, Street Lighting & Roads, Leisure Bookings and its Library Catalogue into the Customer Service Centre by December 2007. A new online web portal and other self-service technologies will also shortly be made available to Customer Service personnel to assist callers with over-the-phone payments.

In 2008, the Council is looking to bring Planning department and other services into the Service Centre in a rolling programme that re-focusses all customer-facing services into a service centre delivery model.


The process of technology-enabling the new Customer Service Centre started in February 2007. The Lagan Frontline software was installed and fully integrated with the Council’s Northgate Council Tax system and Civica (formerly Comino) Workflow and Electronic Document Management software by April 2007. The installation of the Council’s Cisco IP infrastructure followed, with the Macfarlane CallPlus contact centre being integrated into this set-up shortly after. The Council is already using VoIP telephony at three council locations and plans to extend this number over time.

The Macfarlane CallPlus platform provides the Council with an extensive and robust set of contact centre applications including intelligent call handling with skills-based routing, call recording, management information, interactive voice response and computer telephony integration (CTI).

CallPlus is tightly integrated with the Lagan Frontline system, enabling called number details to be stored on the CRM system so that when customers call again from the same number, customer details can be screen-popped on Advisors’ screens as calls are delivered to their desktops. The CTI function also delivers simultaneous voice and data transfer (i.e. when calls are transferred to ‘back office’ personnel for resolution, updated customer records are transferred to their screens at the same time). Advisors also use the Macfarlane/Lagan screenphone, a software-based system that enables users to make, receive and manage calls from their desktop screens.

The Macfarlane Management Information system provides Council managers with details about calls for the very first time. “Prior to the Macfarlane system, calls came into various Council offices and were answered within hunt groups” said Mhairi Renton, Customer Services Centre Manager, Argyll and Bute Council. “We had no record of how many customer calls were being answered, how long they lasted or how many calls were being abandoned. With the Macfarlane system, we have all that information plus more. We can plan better for peak calling times and, if a call report throws up issues, we can rectify them.”

“The Macfarlane trainers and technical staff were excellent” she added. “They were very accommodating and problems were invariably resolved on the same working day.”

“We are delighted to have been chosen for this project” said Paul Skinner, Sales Director of Macfarlane Telesystems. “With its use of state-of-the-art IP technologies, innovative integration between CRM and back office systems, and use of best-of-breed applications, I believe that the new Customer Service Centre is one of the most advanced set-ups within Local Government in Scotland.”

About Macfarlane

Founded in 1987, Macfarlane is a UK developer and supplier of communication solutions to service providers, enterprises and public sector organisations. Its CallPlus platform supports a range of applications including multi media contact centre, IVR, management statistics, recording and unified communications. Its SpeechPlus platform supports Speech Recognition, and other speech-driven applications such as the Macfarlane VoiceDialler. The company delivers cost-effective, market-focused solutions directly and through strategic partnerships with vendors such as Lagan, Capita, Northgate, Steria and Serco.

Macfarlane has established a strong position in the public sector where it assists central and local government reach e-government targets, providing a citizen-centric approach while working within Best Value practices. Existing customers number more than 80 local councils including those within the Government's Partnership programme such as Somerset Direct Partnership, the Warwickshire Direct Partnership, the Lancashire Direct Partnership, and more recently the Staffordshire Connects Partnership. CallPlus has enabled these Partnerships to link their many local councils and create single 'virtual' contact centres that serve citizens on a county-wide basis.

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Gray Associates
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