“We are on a digital transformation journey – we have grown with technology and have been an early adopter in many cases. The ethos of Intercape and Telviva are the same. Telviva has the right mindset of being able to fix things; if there is a problem, they are on it. We selected Telviva because they are a Tier 1 provider and not just a reseller – they have their own infrastructure and engineers and are in a better position to meet our unique requirements or solve any issues.”

Ivor Kettles
Chief Information Officer at Intercape.

Intercape strives to improve the mobility of people across Southern Africa and to be their intercity transport operator of choice. As such, the company is dedicated to delivering a safe, dependable and affordable road transport service to all people. Due to the nature of the business, there are high volumes of calls to the company’s contact centres, as well as high volumes of inter-company calls. Then, there were two-way radios used at the major depots, with drivers utilising the call back functionality, adding to communications complexity.

As a result, Intercape was constantly looking to improve its communications infrastructure to better serve its customers and its own internal purposes.

A journey of digital transformation over time
Traditionally, Intercape used a hybrid voice solution to harness the benefits of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This included a blend of legacy PBX systems connected via PRI lines from a fixed-line provider or via cellular router, as well as their own on-premise Asterisk PBX servers. The company has had a long-standing partnership with Telviva (then Connection Telecom), which initially provided assistance and support for the Asterisk PBX servers.

As cloud telephony matured, they connected their Asterisk servers to Telviva’s voice service via a SIP Trunk and began shutting down other services including the PRI lines, with all services moved to the cloud. With Intercape having numerous branches around the country and recording huge volumes of inter-branch calls, as well as calls to the contact centre, moving everything to a single platform was the ultimate goal.

Improving operational efficiency
Intercape has a strong software development team working on technology solutions for the company, including having built its own ticketing system. Partnering with Telviva – which has its own infrastructure and engineers – meant that it opened up greater opportunities for integration. In one example, when the company’s call centre receives an incoming call, a call recording would automatically be attached to the ticket created by the system for future reference.

Intercape also worked closely with Telviva to implement a call-back solution for bus drivers, with voice being the primary means of communications while they are out on the road. Through this system, drivers phone a number and then hang up, before they are called back by the operations centre, which has all the necessary information and tracking data on hand.

If there is a technical issue, operations agents can seamlessly see where the bus is, contact the nearest mechanic, and set up a conference call that brings together all three parties on the same line. Previously, the two-way radio system had to be added into the conference call as well, leaving agents juggling multiple phones. In addition, if there is a huge influx of calls, the communications system automatically starts escalating calls and routing them through to staff members’ cell phones. With over 150 vehicles on the road at the same time, enabling seamless communications has resulted in major improvements in efficiency.

Enhancing customer service and experience
Being a bus company transporting passengers around South Africa and beyond, customer experience and customer service efficiency has been key. This includes having high quality voice communications, which is critical for a call centre, as well as a well thought-out IVR system that ensures calls are routed to the right people. And, routed properly – there’s nothing worse than calling a call centre, being put through to another person, and the call being lost along the way.

While the main means of communications with its customers has traditionally been telephonic, customers are now looking to engage through other channels as well. One of these is WhatsApp, the most popular instant messaging platform in South Africa, and one that is fast becoming a mainstream communications platform for businesses as well.

It is no different for Intercape, which has seen a 200% year on year growth in the use of WhatsApp and web chat – while the use of phone calls has declined – and has employed call centre staff to specifically manage chat queries from customers. Chat engagements also reduce the burden on call centre employees, with a single agent being able to attend to four chats simultaneously, as opposed to telephonic queries where agents can only service a single caller at a time. As a result, when looking at chat interactions, the company has seen an improvement in turnaround speed for resolution while searchable historic record of communications has helped in providing a more personalised service.

However, WhatsApp messaging should not be run in isolation and needs to be used through a platform that brings together all multiple communications channels so that they can be used efficiently. In the case of Intercape, the company uses Telviva Engage, which gives contact centres, customer service centres, and customer-facing teams a single user-friendly view of all the channels on a browser they can access anywhere, on any device, for a more authentic, immediate customer experience.

“The main benefits of taking the cloud route have been flexibility as well as a quantifiable reduction in cost by streamlining all communications to a single service. It also means that the company can now engage with customers on the channel of their choice. There was a time when our communications costs were coming down even as the company continued to grow. We have a strong relationship with Telviva and a strong understanding of what technology can do to enhance Intercape,” says Kettles.