East Texas Council of Governments

A voluntary association of counties, cities, school districts and special districts within the fourteen-county East Texas region.

etcog.org

Orchestration EffortS

Customer Experience
Employee Productivity
Expense Management

Platform Partners

RingCentral
Mobility

"RingCentral saved us money. When COVID hit, it saved the day. And I can even say that RingCentral helped us save lives."

Brandon Deaton
IT Systems Administrator - East Texas Council of Governments

40%

OVERALL REDUCTION ON PHONE COSTS SINCE SWITCHING TO RINGCENTRAL

2.5

WEEKS TO ROLL RINGCENTRAL OUT TO ALL WORKFORCE CENTER EMPLOYEES

$1,000s

IN SAVINGS ANNUALLY  ON COMBINED COMMUNICATION COSTS

Providing essential services to their region’s most vulnerable

The East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG) is a voluntary association designed to help the area’s local governments plan for common needs and provide essential services to the region’s most vulnerable residents.
 
For the people who live in the 14-county East Texas region, ETCOG offers everything from job training and placement, to childcare, to transportation and other services for seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities. The association also provides 9-1-1 and other public safety services for the region’s rural areas.
 
One challenge that was becoming increasingly problematic at many of ETCOG’s locations was that their aging phone system couldn’t keep up with the association’s growing staff and increasing call volume.
 
But with COVID-19—which hit rural East Texas particularly hard, leading to a significant increase in the need for ETCOG’s services—the association’s phone troubles went from problematic to priority one emergency.
 

A communications-system migration that couldn’t wait

 
For ETCOG’s IT team, a communications-system upgrade was already on the roadmap pre-COVID. The association’s employees were becoming increasingly frustrated with their on-premise phone system—which made it difficult to manage even basic features, such as forwarding calls.
 
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the association to even more shortcomings of their legacy phone infrastructure. One problem that became obvious immediately was the inability to forward customer calls to employees at home.
 
To illustrate another problem, IT Systems Administrator Brandon Deaton recalls a heartbreaking story. “Employees at our workforce centers said calls had stopped coming into the office, which made no sense because you’d expect the pandemic and the unemployment that resulted to create a spike in calls for help,” he says.
 
Brandon investigated and uncovered the problem. Call volume had gone up so much, so quickly, the overwhelmed system began diverting calls to voicemail. Then, because it could store only so many voicemails, it stopped recording them.
 
“The first voicemail I listened to was a woman crying, saying she had no food in her fridge and was desperate for our help,” recalls Brandon. “It put tears in my eyes. Thankfully, our directors authorized us to fast-tracked procuring a new communications system.”

"As a result of the pandemic, we went from almost zero ability to handle calls from the public… to answering every call, usually within seconds."

Brandon Deaton
IT Systems Administrato - East Texas Council of Governments

RingCentral wins the RFP on all counts

 

As a public agency, ETCOG was required to solicit proposals from multiple vendors. But RingCentral topped the IT team’s shortlist on each of their key factors: functionality, ease of use, flexibility, and cost. “It was clear to everyone that RingCentral was going to give us the most value for the best price,” says Brandon.

 

A solution that likely helped save a life


Transitioning ETCOG to a remote workforce was further complicated by the fact that many of their employees live in rural areas, which often don’t have strong communication coverage.


As Brandon points out, this was one example of how RingCentral really shined. One of ETCOG’s employees volunteered to help handle the overflow of calls from residents seeking unemployment insurance. East Texas was suffering high levels of sudden job losses, and the association needed help with the spike in requests.


The problem was, this woman lives in a rural area with very poor internet service. “For her, an internet call wouldn’t have worked,” says Brandon. “But then we realized we could easily forward her RingCentral calls straight to her cell phone—because cellular voice coverage is excellent in her area.”


Leveraging RingCentral’s flexibility to set up that creative solution proved invaluable just days later, when the woman received a call from a man who was suicidal. “He couldn’t provide for his family and was talking about ending it all if he didn’t get help that day,” Brandon explains.


“But she was able to keep him on the phone for over two and a half hours, long enough to get him the help he needed. I think about that story a lot, and I wonder: What if he had gotten stuck in a call queue? What if we still had our old phone system and no one was able to answer at all?”

 

Boosting productivity and saving money


ETCOG has also benefited from RingCentral in other ways, including enabling their staff to get more done and substantially reducing their phone bill.


One example of the productivity boost is that, because ETCOG employees can now use the RingCentral desktop and mobile apps both to call and text message from their work numbers, they are able to connect with more of their customers on their first attempts than ever.


“With our old phone system, our childcare and workforce employees would call people and they often wouldn’t answer, because they didn’t recognize our number,” Brandon says. “Now, before they call, they send a text telling the person who we are. Far more of those first calls are getting answered now. In fact, sometimes our employees are able to handle the entire case through text—they don’t even need to call.”

"With the migration to RingCentral, we’ve been able to cut our communications expenses almost in half. That’s great news for our association. But what it really means is that we’ll now have more resources to serve the people who are counting on us."

Brandon Deaton
IT Systems Administrato - East Texas Council of Governments