Report of the Cabinet Member for Communities and HR.
The Cabinet Member for Communities and HR briefly introduced the item and referred to the need to modernise and make changes to ensure that the customer service delivery was fit for purpose. The Strategic Director, Transformation and Change then gave an overview of how customer access had changed significantly over the last few years. There had been an increase in online demand with people moving away from using a desktop PC to using mobile phones, although there was a vast array of digital ways to access services. It was vital that the Council created a modern, flexible customer experience which offered a choice and delivery which was convenient to all customers, businesses and visitors. To do this services needed to maximise the use of all channels available, face to face, via the telephone, web, chat and Skype using language that gave a consistency of offer across all channels. Changes would continue in technology over the next three to four years and it was vital that the Council had the flexibility to embrace them and engage in a different way. Currently 87% of retail purchases were made online, people wanted the convenience of doing things 24/7. The skills required by a customer service officer five years ago were based on telephony skills, now the skills required were based more on digital skills.
Interactions with the Council during 2018/19 could be split as follows:
39,133 telephone calls handled by switchboard operators
95,547 telephone contacts through the customer service centre
461,171 visits to the Council website home page
On line demand had grown significantly. The average cost of interactions using the latest industry benchmarks put face to face at £8.62, compared with £0.15 for online, although the Councils costs (face to face) were slightly higher.
The vision contained within the Customer Experience Strategy was split into four key themes. Theme one was the Operating Model which covered accessibility and sustainability. Theme two covered Technology, how operating systems could be integrated, how the 150 services could be joined together. Theme three covered Customer Ethos, how a customer first ethos is embedded within the organisation so it could act as one. Theme four covered the measurement and management of the customers voice and how information could be used to continue to modernise customers experience across all services. Understanding the types of transactions and how these can be managed in a different way.
The Committee then discussed the Strategy and the following comments/questions followed;
- What was the difference between webchats (person) and chatbots (through a virtual worker with a different level of functionality, using knowledge based frequent questions to respond to a question not a person)? Webchats have the benefit going forward where you could request an email copy of the “conversation” for your records. As services are built, allows to detect if people aren’t getting the information correctly the first time by use of the web pages.
- It was felt that not enough promotion was given in relation to Ward Councillors and how they could help their constituents – it was recognised that people sought information in different ways, all Councillors were listed on the website and people were directed to services with other sources of help. A new website design was currently being progressed.
- One Member felt there were “too many” words within the document and it contained too much jargon, it was not clear what the Strategy was about, were services being changed. It was the interaction with the service, not the service itself that would change.
- The same Member felt that the inference from the report was that the Market Deeping and Stamford office would close, if this was the case it should be made clear in the report. Work was being done to look at the best way to deliver the service in these areas. Any proposal would involve public consultation, it was how services at these locations could be manged in a different way. High volume payment transactions could be dealt with via a kiosk using a self-service checkout. A phone line to a customer service advisor could be made available for more in depth questions and computer provision to enable people to go on line and carryout transactions for those without that provision at home.
- Further comments were made about the language contained within the report specifically sections 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5.
- It was stressed that any proposal would be consulted on and no decision had been made to date, the challenge was understanding the impact of the proposals and how services could be delivered in a different way and how that was facilitated.
Further comments were made about people who were hard of hearing and it was recognised that everyone had different needs, however the quality of the service given needed to be the same high standard however and whoever accessed it. The use of technology, upskilling, required support and wording contained within the document specifically the word ‘breed’ on page 62 were all commented on. Comments on how interaction could be stimulated were also mentioned.
The Cabinet Member acknowledged the comments made by the Committee and felt that the word change should be used rather than remove reference 2.3 of the report. He also indicated that there would always be a level of face to face within the service, modernisation of the service was needed to fit in with how people interacted with council services and cost savings being used to help the more vulnerable of the districts residents when contacting the Council.
The Chairman read out the recommendation and on being put to the vote this was agreed.
The Rural and Communities OSC notes the development and progress to date in relation to the Customer Experience Strategy and the comments made during the meeting of the Committee, ahead of it going to Cabinet and recommends to Cabinet that the Strategy be adopted.
An adjournment took place between 3:20pm – 3:33pm