Working together with our partners to support Crisis UK at Christmas

The Aimar Foundation, together with Gradwell and An0 Technologies have supported Crisis UK to deliver reliable infrastructure and telephony required for the annual Crisis at Christmas event.

Crisis UK is a national charity set-up to support homeless people by providing advice, support, and access to essential services. The Crisis at Christmas event takes place every year, where the charity takes over unused hotels, schools, colleges, and academies to provide accommodation, support, and access to support services for people struggling with homelessness.

The Aimar Foundation has been supporting the charity with technology solutions and operations for their Christmas event since 2008. Together with Gradwell and An0 Technology, a partnership was formed to provide reliable telephony and infrastructure, ensuring that Crisis volunteers can communicate internally, with venues and suppliers and most importantly, with homeless people needing help over the Christmas period.

As a result of the help of this long-running partnership, Crisis at Christmas guests have been provided with access to reliable communications technology. In addition to this, implementing 3CX for the call centre support volunteers has ensured they are able to work as easily from home, as they would have in the office. This solution has meant that absences because of the pandemic have been far easier to manage and support services have always been available to vulnerable people who need it most.

The challenge

At the event, Crisis UK provide services for guests to contact friends, family, and essential support services. Prior to arriving at an event venue, the guests contact a Crisis UK call centre to report themselves as homeless and request support. The technology behind these services is critical to ensuring that the charity can provide the help that these people need.

The charity needed to ensure that as the event grew, hosting more guests and managing more venues, the communication and infrastructure services could cope with the demand.  Due to increased demand together with the pressures of the pandemic, it was increasingly difficult to manage call centre availability, and the previous technology was not well equipped for remote working. On top of the requirements to get this set up for the event, it was essential that technical support was available over the Christmas period to maintain maximum availability of the call centre services both for event guests, and the call centre volunteers.

The Solution

Across all the technology services that the partnership provided, what was fundamental was that this offered Crisis UK a safe pair of hands. Reliability was the core of the solution we delivered as a team.

“With an event such as this, there were a host of challenges and things that could go wrong, so ensuring that the phone systems all worked reliably was crucial, and this was one less thing we had to worry about on the day”

Simon Clark, CEO, Aimar Foundation

The partnership of the three organisations provided everything that was needed to cover all communications technology for the events and the call centre. This included hosting infrastructure, telephone numbers, the configuration of over 200 extensions, cloud VoIP with self-service portals, and 3CX support for the call centre. As a partnership, we provided the hosted infrastructure and licencing free of charge to the charity, proudly part of a team giving back to the community.

In addition to the essential infrastructure and support, a backup solution was requested for situations where the on-site teams were unable to connect to the VoIP services. So Gradwell setup and provided mobile SIMs that were connected to the VoIP solution, to enable always-on access to these services.

Over the last few years of supporting this event, Gradwell, along with Aimar and An0 Technologies have innovated to guarantee access to reliable services for future events. Having started from a simple Multi-user VoIP platform, this has recently expanded to include 3CX in 2019, which was a better fit for call centre volunteers requiring a remote or hybrid working solution. Throughout this development, Crisis UK maintained access to the same numbers and devices, meaning there will be less of an impact if there are future lockdowns and cutting out any admin effort required when external facing numbers change.

The Impact

The voice and connectivity services have a significant positive impact both on the guests at these events, and the support volunteers running them. For the guests, the reliability of this technology means that they can always contact the call centre to report themselves as homeless and access support. Homeless centres also offer outbound-only, anonymised and international, telephony services for guests to contact friends and loved ones; a service that is of critical important to many of those who are struggling.

The result of this partnership means that lines of communication are always open, both for Crisis volunteers and guests.

For the team of over 100 advisors, the 3CX call centre is optimised to suit both their office-based and remote working needs. An0 Technologies worked with Gradwell, Aimar and Crisis to integrate the 3CX instance with Office365 and Microsoft Dynamics; this CRM integration makes it easier for call centre volunteers to provide enhanced help and advice to homeless callers with faster access to digital resourses and knowledge bases.

For Crisis volunteers working at the venues, the solution ensures direct communication with the centralised logistics hub, third parties and suppliers should there be any issues on-site. As this event takes place over the Christmas period, they needed ongoing access to support, which, between The Aimar Foundation, Gradwell, and An0 Technologies, they always had whenever it was needed.

Gradwell are honoured to have the opportunity to work with in partnership with The Aimar Foundation and An0 Technologies every year to support this event. It’s a hugely appreciated opportunity that enables our team to give something back using our day-to-day skills and experience to support people at what, for some, is the most difficult time of the year. That’s the key impact of our partnership, and we hope to continue this over many years to come.

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