Building an ‘all digital window’ for customer contact
'Light CRM' helps two councils make digital the preferred choice for their citizens - delivering a 45% reduction in calls and 39% decrease in visits to council offices
High Peak and Staffordshire Moorlands Councils are reaping the benefits of a successful channel shift strategy that sees first year savings in excess of £150,000 and significant reductions in calls and visits to customer service points.
Whilst they are celebrating the completion of the successful first phase of their joint channel shift strategy, they are already looking ahead to the next phase of making digital channels the preferred route for their customers.
The issue moved up the agenda for both councils in January 2016, when the Alliance between the two – which provides a shared management team and services – produced a strategy for channel shift aimed at delivering internal efficiencies by, using digital platforms to improve processes and to meet changing customer demands.
The plan had five central elements: implementation of three new websites; introduction of risk based verification for housing benefit and council tax reductions; elimination of paper claim forms; the setting up of a new citizen portal; and retiring the legacy CRM system.
On examining the options, the Alliance saw a way to combine much of the central elements together by working with IEG4 to build an ‘all digital window’ into the two councils; as a result both councils are now realising significant benefits from the move.
Replacing legacy CRM
A key step has been in the retirement of its CRM – which at 11 years-old was nearing the end of its lifecycle – with the IEG4 OneVu platform which Rachel Felix, digital transformation business partner for the Alliance, describes as a “light CRM”.
“We looked at lots of things and because of the push to self-service we wanted a platform that puts the emphasis on the customer, and this does it,” she says. “The aim is for a high percentage of residents to have an account with us, but we will still be there on the phone and we will get the same view as the customer.”
The platform combines three main functions: IEG4's OneVu citizen portal, CSVu customer service portal and Open Process workflow element.
With a mobile first design, OneVu has done a lot to attract residents to use the portal, with the provision of answers to frequently asked questions and functions to submit IEG4 forms and the ability to track the progress of service requests.
CSVu has effectively taken the place of the old CRM, providing customer advisers with a view of what the citizens can see on OneVu and giving them the ability to respond to calls and to add notes to the customer history. It has helped to make assisted services available as advisers are able to log into a citizen account and complete a task on behalf of a resident if needed.
Meanwhile, Open Process provides the workflow capability to monitor and manage the fulfilment of service requests.
Implementation of the platform took place June 2017 and has already brought significant results. By March 2018 about 13,500 residents of the two districts had live accounts, with 32% of those being created out of hours – an indication of the ease of self-service – and 41% being personalised with back office system authentication.
In addition, the number of new visitors to the councils’ websites has increased by 50%; online form usage has risen by 80%; the volume of calls to the contact centres has decreased by 45%; and visits to their neighbourhood offices have fallen by 39%.
It indicates a direct correlation between the customers choosing to access services in their digital account and a reduction in calls, and it has given the customer services team the time to concentrate on a ‘right first time’ approach, in which they deal with enquiries from start to finish. This is supported by triage and validation features within CSVu, along with the access to a variety of back office systems.
It has also enabled the Alliance to reduce the opening hours of its contact centre by two hours a day and close the phone lines two hours a week for staff training and development. Additionally, an assessment of the change in demand has led to a review of the opening hours at the neighbourhood offices.
Automation of some transactions has improved processing times and helped to reduce fraud and error, that, together with other benefits of the channel shift programme such as reduced IT, print, postal and administration costs, is producing savings that so far are estimated at £150,000.
The integration capabilities have been effective, linking the platform to Northgate’s PARIS software for payments and Civica’s OPENRevenues for revenues and benefits. Integration with Civica’s APP software is also scheduled for early Spring to support the Alliance’s waste management processes.
The Alliance is now working on a project initiation document for phase two of the strategy’s implementation and has further plans for the platform. These include adding processes around business rates and registered landlords, and an integration of payments.
Councillor Tony Hall, Cabinet Member for Customer Services at Staffordshire Moorlands, said: “The potential for integrating other systems into this platform is exciting and, over time, will hopefully mean that we can introduce even more capability for our residents and, ultimately, improve the efficiency and breadth of services offered digitally.”
The Councils are also looking at the potential for robotics automation in handling high volume, non-complex processes such as council tax transactions, although this is still at the ‘possibility’ stage.
The IEG4 platform has already helped High Peak and Staffordshire Moorlands Councils to go a long way towards the vision of their strategy, to ensure that digital channels are not just acceptable but become the main preference for their residents in accessing services.
Emily Thrane, Executive Councillor for Finance and Operational Services at High Peak, said: “The channel shift programme is about modernising the way we and our residents transact and delivering services via channels our customers are using for other everyday services. We’ve made a successful start but we know there’s still some way to go – the work we’ve done so far is yielding encouraging results and we’re looking forward to introducing additional functionality in future phases.”