Local councils could make major savings by fully centralising all front office customer service activity and appointing dedicated managers who are responsible for such interactions across the organisation, according to a report.
The study written by the local authority IT managers’ association Socitm revealed that too many customer service departments, where they exist, only cover a limited amount of council’s interaction with the public and often do not include all channels. Moreover, too few have dedicated corporate executives in place in order to take responsibility for customer contact issues.
As a result, Socitm believes that a revamp is required to introduce common standards and ensure that the necessary systems and processes are available to enable the comprehensive analysis of enquiry and service data – a situation again which is rare. The aim of such analysis is to enable customer service departments to manage enquiries more efficiently, identify scope for improvement and track progress.
The report entitled ‘Better served: customer access, efficiency and channel shift’ also indicated that, while the active management of customer relations was necessary in order to cut costs, such activity needed to be focused on three key areas.
The first related to the introduction of professional customer service approaches and common standards in order to ensure that queries were handled more efficiently and quickly, ideally on initial contact.
The second was to reduce avoidable contact, in which citizens got in touch with the council unnecessarily, perhaps because no other information was available, it was of poor quality or a given service was not delivered as expected.
The third consideration related to moving enquiries from relatively high cost channels such as face-to-face, mail and phone to lower cost ones such as the web.
The study indicated that all three measures taken together could reduce the volume of customer interaction across all channels which, in turn, would lead to headcount reductions and cost savings.
Although the volume of online queries was likely to rise –as long as the web site was up to the job - the cost of servicing additional customers via this channel was marginal, it said. A recent Socitm study revealed that between 8% and 35% of web site enquiries were currently unsuccessful, however, which meant that citizens were forced to revert back to traditional channels.