As Local Authorities around the country look at ways to modernise their customer service provision, Guildford Borough Council have demonstrated that it’s often best to start by renovating and improving existing technology. Guildford have placed a particular focus on ensuring their telephony system provides self-serve functionality and is future-proofed and ready to work in tandem with new digital channels as and when they’re introduced.
This has involved working alongside Inform to develop a telephony system that delivers on three main criteria:
- 24/7 Service
By automating routine customer enquiries, the new telephony system allows for 24/7 customer service, reducing the strain on human agents during office hours and allowing customers to call when it suits them.
- An emphasis on channel shift
Over the coming years, digital channels will play an increasingly important role in customer service provision. However, one of the key ways LAs can prepare for this future is to ensure existing customer service technologies are capable of encouraging channel shift and pushing customers towards new self-serve channels when they’re implemented.
- Responsive and comprehensive scripts
In the modern customer service environment, the success of an IVR system depends on its scripts and the ability to respond quickly to changes in user behaviour. The Guildford IVR system scripts can be immediately altered by Inform to reflect the LA’s needs in that moment and our script expertise is one of the main reasons Guildford chose to work with Inform.
Belinda Hayden, Exchequer Services Manager at the Council, explains why she thought Inform were up to the job.
‘I was happy to renew the contract with Inform because of their specialist knowledge of Telephony scripts. They know about the automated script, what works and what doesn’t. Essentially, they understand what makes a great Telephony script.’
Though West Dorset Council, along with several other smaller councils, was recently incorporated into the larger Dorset Council, the council’s history of innovation and its willingness to embrace new technology has ensured its approach stands out amongst other LAs. Its collaborative approach to technological development has been key to its emergence as one of the most forward-facing councils in the country.
As a smaller council, facing tough cuts to an already small budget, West Dorset had to explore new ways to acquire the tools and technology they needed to improve the customer experience while also making savings.
Eventually, they settled on a unique arrangement with neighbouring Purbeck District Council and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council. This arrangement would see them pooling resources in order to acquire and operate the tools they needed to sustain key services.
Stuart Dawson, who worked at West Dorset Council and now heads-up Revenue & Benefits at the new Dorset Council, explains why such a decision was taken.
‘First, we believed that sharing our skills and expertise could result in a service that better benefitted the customer. Second, by working together, we thought we could provide a higher-quality service at a reduced cost. Finally, combining services would allow us to invest more heavily in the development of our people, improving both their skills and our customer service provision in the process.’
The collective procurement arrangement allowed West Dorset Council and its partners to work alongside Inform and to use our self-serve expertise and technologies to deliver an improved service at a lower cost. By sharing resources, the councils made annual savings of around £1.25 million – a third of their yearly budget.
The strategy also helped the councils by allowing them to implement Inform technology that:
- Reduced the cost of the councils’ telephony services and generated annual savings of £117,000
- Cut the time required to process a benefit claim by a third
- Contributed to West Dorset Council becoming the only LA in the country to hold both the ‘Customer Service Excellence’ and ‘Investment in People’ awards
As you can see, those LAs at the forefront of technological development are using innovative collaborative arrangements to ensure that they’re able to acquire and deploy the technology they need to maintain and improve services.
City of Edinburgh is also showing the way forward by embracing cutting-edge chat technology in their Revenue & Benefits department. By working alongside Inform to develop a new chatbot to handle high volume enquiries, the Council benefits in several ways. The Chatbot is responsible for:
- Reducing overall call volume and wait times by allowing more customers to quickly and easily help themselves
- Automating approximately 90% of website enquiries and 50% of telephone enquiries
- Enabling human agents to step away from routine enquiries that don’t make the most of their nuanced skills and abilities and ensuring they’re able to focus on more high-value work
- Providing an AI platform that collects and analyses large amounts of user behaviour that can be used to inform future decisions, improve services provision, and enhance the customer experience
- Providing 24/7 customer service, meeting the needs of users who are increasingly short on time and a growing number of whom prefer text-based communication and chat
Though the chatbot will initially be rolled out in the Revenue & Benefits department, Neil Jamieson, the head of at City of Edinburgh Council, expects the technology to be rolled out across the entire organisation in the future.
In this article, we’ve looked at the way three Local Authorities have tackled the issue of technological innovation in a public sector that’s been challenged by severe budget cuts. In each case, the LA has worked with customer service specialists to develop tools that are tailored to the authority’s particular needs. This requires that LAs partner with an organisation that not only understands self-serve and channel shift technology but that also has experience of the pressures and demands local councils face on a daily basis.
Our knowledge-based approach, developed as a result of years of experience creating and managing IVR and digital services, gives Inform a unique perspective on the Self Service and digital transformation work local authorities need to adopt to progress. By talking to the experts, you can ensure that your digital transformation is effective, well managed, and successful. With our help, you can undergo a digital transformation that works well both for your organisation and, most importantly, for your users.