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Government customer service to focus on web chat and social

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18th Feb 2015
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Government departments in the UK are turning to web chat and social media to deliver more effective customer service, research has revealed.

A report from outsourcing provider arvato, in conjunction with NelsonHall has found 67% of public sector customer service contracts, including local government, were for multichannel service support in 2014.

40% of the contracts involved were outsourced, the research states, totalling £606 million in spend.

“The new research illustrates that local government organisations are increasingly realising the benefits of outsourcing for themselves and their citizens,” said Debra Maxwell, managing director of arvato UK. 

“The fact that the majority of contracts signed in 2014 involved second generation agreements shows that outsourcing is working and helps councils up and down the country to deal with current challenges.

“Digital is now a key part of customer services contracts, showing that authorities are utilising their outsourcing partnerships to really transform services and deliver channel shift.”

The public sector push for web chat and social customer service follows similar trend across businesses in all sectors of delivering more multichannel support options; an example being further recent research from arvato which found that multichannel customer service was now a common thread in 62% of outsourced service contracts in 2014, compared with 40% in 2013.

Social media enquiries are set to account for up to 11.5% of interactions in contact centres this year, according to data from Business Systems, while 32% of customer service professionals ranked web chat as the most desirable solution requirement for their contact centre this year in another recent survey.    

Last year, ContactBabel found web chat numbers had increased by 60% through 2013/14, with 250 million chats being conducted– a rise of 300% since 2011.

While specific organisations aren’t mentioned in arvato’s report, one government department desperate to improve its multichannel support is HMRC, with its phone line resources stretched close to breaking point in recent years.

In January, HMRC permanent secretary Lin Homer admitted to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that levels of customer service provided by HMRC were not good enough, with data from September 2014 showing that a staggering 34.5% of calls to the HMRC helpline now go unanswered, while the average waiting time for a call had increased to 11 minutes, up from just over four minutes. The PAC described the situation as “dire”.

In 2013 HMRC was ranked the “most frustrating firm” in the UK’s first ‘phone rage index’.

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