As public service organisations, councils are fundamentally driven by customer need and customer contact – these are probably as important as organisational purpose. Our model of the organisation is a simple one, which demonstrates that it is mapping and understanding customer need and organisational purpose which should drive customer contact, processes, and whole organisation transformation:
We believe in the pragmatic application of a ‘systems thinking’ approach and our view of customer focus is that it is not simply about contact centres and ‘customer services’. The ‘big picture’ is about managing the organisation’s reputation, identifying the best delivery model for services to combine efficiency and effective meeting of customer needs, and managing a reducing cost base by shifting channels and reshaping services.
This also means a huge change for employees, particularly the front-line staff who are critical to the customer experience and organisational reputation, and we work effectively with them as the drivers of change through a set of tools including Rich Pictures (rich illustrations of issues and strategy that create deep engagement), and the Power+Systems Organisational Workshop, which shows how positional roles shape and influence thinking, and how to work effectively together in the organisation.
As councils come to the second or third generation of customer relationship management systems, outsourcing, strategic partners and contact centres, we have the tools to undertake forensic analysis of the opportunities for savings and improvement, and the toughness and sensitivity to deliver real lasting change.
As our seven ways to save and improve shows, truly transformational savings opportunities begin with (or even before) customer contact – these can also open up downstream opportunities. We are expert in pragmatic customer focus and have established a reputation in this area.
We have led on some key projects in the customer focus arena, including reviews for numerous London boroughs, and the Capital Ambition customer contact strategy for London and the Capital Ambition / Customer Services for London Group customer contact baseline (25 authorities).
For more detail on other customer focus projects we have been involved in, go to our clients page.
Our team have deep experience from customer contact strategy, call centres, strategic partnerships through to programme delivery and driving savings through the organisation. For more information see our profiles:
Our customer focus offering works at these levels:
- Channel and strategy planning to transform customer contact
- Transformation planning and support for customer-centred change
- Improvement of dedicated ‘contact’ parts of the council
- Healthchecks of key areas around customer contact
Case study – Customer Programme in Westminster City Council
Two of our consultants (John Mallaghan, programme manager and Janice Prentice, project manager) are working with Westminster City Council on the Customer Programme. Phase one of the programme focused on enabling the closure of three One Stop Services and was completed by the end of 2011. Phase two brings a focus on further channel shift, reduction in customer services cost through channel shift and reduction in avoidable contact.
Key principles of phase one:
- It is both possible and necessary to deliver improved access to services while at the same time reducing the cost of delivery and giving our residents and businesses value for money.
- Most customers are ready for the convenience of 24 hour self service and transacting with us without having to visit the council.
- We will use detailed knowledge of our customers to model service delivery to ensure:
- We deliver services how and where it is most convenient to customers
- We deliver services how and where customers naturally want to conduct business with the council.
- We will deepen the level of service knowledge at the various points of contact – including self service on the web.
- There are real blocks for some people to self serve – we will engage key partners to help enable channel shift.
Key outcomes of phase one:
- Replace current three One Stop Services access points with a range of more convenient and accessible locations to customers
- Demonstrable channel shift – e.g. 80% permit applications online
- Annual cashable, operational savings of £2million
In order to enable One Stop closure, we needed to increase the range and ease of transactions available through non-face to face methods and support customers through the change. We did extensive analysis to identify all of the transactions that were being completed in One Stop Services and then mapped them onto the new operating model The main focus was parking and payments and these were the highest volume transactions.
Helping people online
Increasing the number of transactions that can be completed online has a positive effect on encouraging people to channel shift, but we were also aware that a number of people are not yet confident or indeed able to get online. To this end:
- we provided free public access PCs with scanning and printing ability in council branded kiosks in 21 community locations including 10 libraries where customers can get some help from staff
- we trained library staff how to signpost and/or resolve the customers’ most common One Stop queries. Libraries have not had any headcount increase
- we commissioned additional IT training in online council transactions across Westminster and have promoted this to customers who we believe would benefit
- Over the coming months, we will be trialling a number of assisted self-serve options including web chat, web cam calls, ‘on call’ assistance for libraries, help line for online transactions
Making the website an easier place for customers to transact
We are working to improve the web functionality for customers to complete council transactions online. As part of this, we have focused on:
- Online parking permit applications
- Converting paper forms to online forms
- Where possible, integrating online forms to back office systems
- Working with services to re-design their webpages to promote service transactions
Encouraging customers to phone direct to service specialists
- We provided 21 freephones in order that customers can call the council for free
- Freephone locations also offer lists of phone numbers so that customers can also call from home.
Providing more places for people to make payments – including cash and cheque
Acknowledging that for some people, online is not the most appropriatemethod and that cash and cheque payments are still required, we developed our relationship with the Post Office in order to:
- maintain the ability for customers to pay cash and cheque for council services while reducing cash handling costs.
- offer a wide range of high volume new and existing transactions– council tax, business rates and rent payments, submit parking permit applications, pay PCNs, buy scratch cards, order commercial waste bags, buy street trading vouchers
- Investigate additional transactions and assisted self-service opportunities
The Customer Programme is now focused on increasing the level of channel shift, providing customers with the 24/7 service they demand and reducing the cost of customer services further. To this end, we are working to:
- Identify transactions which with the appropriate technology could be self-service either online or through IVR
- Improve our web platform so we can offer a wider range of end to end transactions and make our website more of a full customer experience
- Reduce the level of avoidable contact the council receives
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