Customer Service Efficiency

Customer Service Efficiency

Background

The aim of the working group was to review processes for customer contact and identify opportunities for increased efficiency in the way in which Welsh councils deliver customer service.

The group had contributions by officers from: 

  • Blaenau Gwent
  • Bridgend
  • Caerphilly
  • Carmarthenshire
  • Flintshire
  • Gwynedd
  • Monmouthshire
  • Newport
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Rhondda Cynon Taff
  • Wrexham 

Over a three-month period, contributors committed up to two hours of their time per week. In practice this meant attending a weekly group meeting (via Teams) to identify opportunities and agree activities, and then spend time conducting research or gathering materials to support a particular hypothesis.

Activities

The initial group task was to agree on what question(s) if asked of a council would elicit answers that identify ways to ensure more customers complete their goal without the need to seek help from the customer services team. The group agreed on three problem questions:

  1. What steps do we need to take to simplify the customer journey so they can complete their goal easily and fully at the first point of contact?
  2. How can we better use business intelligence to improve service delivery?
  3. How can we better work with other councils to share ideas and gain an understanding of common issues, and work towards improvement of customer service efficiency processes?

Next, it looked at what services generated the largest volume of customer requests to the service desk. Contributors conducted research following which the team agreed issues related to missed bins had the highest volume of requests, closely followed by Council Tax. As missed bins were being handled by another working group, it was agreed focus would be on seeking opportunities to reduce requests related to Council Tax.

By week five the team were discussing real world examples of customer experience. This led to a focus on a Council Tax payment problem at one of the councils, something customers had been experiencing for a while. The combined experiences within the team were mobilised and a fix identified. The local team implemented the fix soon after.

The group finally went on to develop three practical aims to help increase customer services desk efficiency. The aims include reducing the amount of avoidable customer telephone contact through improvements to the online experience, better signposting to automated payment systems, and standardising the way the support desk records/tags the purpose of a call to enable more meaningful management analysis.

Aim 1 – Reducing the amount of customer contact

This can be achieved by:

  • Clarity of message i.e., it is all about improving the efficiency of the online customer service experience.
  • Take steps so customers see the council website as their preferred first point of contact:
    • Researching best practice and use findings to prioritise improvements.
    • Improve request forms, e.g., discount request, change of address, balance enquiry.
    • Promote digital (‘My’) accounts to improve adoption.
    • Where possible have a ‘call to action’ to the website.
  • Communicating internally the value to the customer, to the council, and to the request handler of dealing with calls first time i.e., reducing the number of repeat calls.
  • Understanding that sending customers to the website is about releasing more time for customer services to better handle customers with complex needs.
  • Improving collaboration between customer services and back-office teams so there is an understanding of the unique pressures each team is under and clarity on how to best manage a customer request.

Aim 2 – Stop taking payments via the service desk

This can be achieved by using:

  • Telephone re-direct (select 1 for… etc.) to payment system.
  • Voice search capabilities.
  • Chat bots.
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) of the website to help customers to easily find the online payment system from their search engine e.g., Google.
  • Use analytics to identify how customers navigate the website and the kind of search terms they use when seeking content from the onsite search offering and optimise accordingly.

Aim 3 – Standardise the way the support desk categorise/tag the purpose of a call

This can be achieved by:

  • Developing a considered, ideally all-Wales, service desk call tagging taxonomy that councils can implement to help identify trends and outcomes of iterative improvements.

Contributors

A special thanks to the working group contributors: 

Cheryl Haskell, Chris Price, Christopher Phillips, Eifion Davies, Erin Smith, Jamie Cullen, Jennifer Roberts, Jeremy James, Julie Bellis, Melanie Jones, Natalie Taylor, Philip O’Brien, Rhodri Fretwell, and Sylvia Griffiths.

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