In 2020, LA investment in self-serve tools is set to grow considerably. This is largely due to the fact that:
Throughout the year, we expect to see greater investment in three specific areas:
Chatbots are the fastest growing customer service technology on the planet and an excellent way of cutting costs, reducing the number of calls received by your contact centre and providing 24/7 access to your services.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems
Although IVR has been around for a considerable amount of time, its use has been refined and it’s now a powerful automation tool that plays an important role in directing customers to the right self-serve channel, connecting them to an appropriate agent for quick resolution and providing basic information.
Considerable investment will need to be made in making new self-serve channels accessible to customers and ensuring they’re aware of their existence.
To maximise the benefits of self-serve technologies, LAs need to ensure that their tools are well designed and properly implemented. Due to the specialist nature of this technology, it will often be necessary to work together with a third party to create bespoke self-serve tools that are tailored to the specific requirements of the LA. We believe these types of partnerships will increase in number for three principal reasons:
1. Lack of technical expertise
Not all LAs have the technical expertise required to design and integrate self-serve tools. Even fewer have the expertise required to do it well.
2. Full support
Some customer service specialists offer full support should anything go wrong. This can be extremely important should key systems fail.
3. A more holistic approach
Good customer service technology providers understand how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. They know how to ensure each tool complements those that surround it and maximise benefits to the LA.
As well as managing costs, LAs will need to become more adept at managing demand. It’s not enough to simply implement self-serve technology, it’s also necessary to encourage greater channel shift and master the different ways in which you can push and pull customers towards certain channels.
LAs need to become experts in reducing the traffic being routed through expensive channels, such as telephony, and redirecting it to cost-effective channels. That’s why we think an increased focus on managing demand will be one of the key trends driving service transformation in 2020.
This can be achieved by considering:
Channel shift strategy
A coherent channel shift strategy must be in place if you’re to maximise the benefits of your self-serve technology. How can you use existing channels to encourage greater use of new channels in the future? In this instance, many LAs benefit from a partnership with a self-serve specialist who can leverage their experience to create a tailored and effective channel shift strategy.
LAs can also manage demand for their telephony services by providing a platform through which customers can help each other. Currently, several Local Authorities operate forums that allow residents to express their ideas and concerns publicly but also works as a way of crowd-sourcing solutions to common problems.
How best to publicise the platform
The success of your channel shift strategy depends on where and how well it is publicised. Before you design your publicity campaign, consider what channels you want to move customers from and to. Take a look at our article 15 ways to promote your Chatbot for some ideas.
Faced with shrinking budgets, many Local Authorities are searching for ways they can continue delivering key services despite a lack of funding. One potential solution involves taking a more commercial approach. This would see the shortfall in funding reduced by an effort to maximise LAs income. This is already being put into practice in several different ways:
- Delivering services to other councils – some LAs have chosen to establish Joint Ventures or cost-neutral organisations to deliver key services to their own residents and other LAs. This has been particularly successful in East Hampshire, Cheshire West and Chester Council.
- Commercial use of assets – in some instances, LAs can deliver where the private sector can’t. This gives the council an important stream of revenue, whilst also benefiting the local population. A good example of this is the City of Wolverhampton’s WV Living project.
- Selling assets – assets such as real estate can be used for commercial purposes to attract private investment. This type of arrangement has been successfully implemented by Wirral Council.
No matter what technological advances are made over the coming year, one thing remains certain – Local Authorities will be expected to reduce their spending and meet challenging financial targets. If technology is introduced, it must be able to reduce costs in the long run. Many LAs are also having to search for inventive solutions to the funding shortfall. They include:
Shared service arrangements
Some local governments are reducing costs by sharing responsibilities for certain services. This allows authorities to focus investment in one particular area, rather than spreading themselves thinly. More information about successful shared service agreements can be found on the Local Government Association website..
Several Local Authorities are also procuring tech collaboratively (Croydon Digital). By pooling resources to invest in shared self-service technologies, LAs can reduce costs considerably.
Permitting staff to use their own devices
While there are certain security concerns to address, the emergence of cloud computing has made it possible for employees to use their own devices to work at any time and in any location. This is a small but significant step Local Authorities can take to reduce technology costs.
In 2020, many of the most important trends and developments in local government are concerned with the desperate battle to cut spending whilst also maintaining services. For this reason, automation and self-serve technologies will play a big role over the coming years, allowing LAs to sustain or improve existing standards of service while also driving down costs. However, LAs will also be forced to find new, creative ways to manage customer demand and limit their spending.