The local government landscape has transformed completely over the last decade or so. One of the most significant changes is to budgets. The Local Government Association estimates that councils have lost 60p from every £1 provided by the Government over the last 8 years. This vast cut in resources has left local councils forced to look for every opportunity to make savings.
Additionally, many councils are also looking for ways to become more commercial, increasing revenue by charging for services that were previously free. Others are cutting the services that they provide in order to reduce costs. Both these options ultimately result in a poorer service for citizens. Either they’re no longer able to access services that they once used, or they find themselves having to pay for things that were once free.
However, increasingly we’re working with local councils who understand that digital transformation offers the possibility of reducing costs significantly whilst actually improving the level of service that’s offered to citizens. Cutting costs doesn’t have to mean cutting services. On the contrary, re-engineering processes and cutting inefficiencies means that your staff become more productive, responding to citizens’ requests more quickly so improving customer service whilst still achieving substantial savings.
Many local government organisations are still reliant on legacy IT infrastructure and manual processes. This means that the opportunities for improving efficiency are numerous. We work with clients to improve workflows and reengineer customer interaction across all areas of local council operation, from waste management and environmental services to revenues and benefits, from customer services to public protection. We’ve yet to go into a council and find that there’s no meaningful opportunity for efficiency gains.
There are a number of areas where digital transformation can often enable some quick wins – improving service and reducing costs at the same time.
- Mobile working – any department with teams of staff out on the road, whether it’s waste management operatives or environmental health officers can benefit from a switch to true mobile working. We’ve worked with numerous councils to put in place mobile working strategies and the efficiency gains in this area can be very substantial indeed.
- Digital assistants – Councils receive thousands of calls each month to their customer service centres and the vast majority of these are standard, basic questions that don’t really need the intervention of a human to answer them. Deploying digital assistants and automated web chat options can deal quickly and efficiently with these kinds of routine questions. Citizens get the answers to their questions more quickly, whilst the call volume into contact centres is reduced, meaning councils can reduce costs and deploy call handlers more effectively to deal with more complex enquiries that require human intervention.
- Self-service – Moving citizens towards self-service options wherever possible also offers the possibility of improved customer service whilst saving costs. These days citizens expect to be able to do things online. They expect that their local council will offer the same level of digital access that they’re used to when dealing with commercial organisations. Many people prefer to be able to transact online without having to speak to a real person unless absolutely necessary. An app or a well-designed mobile-friendly website offers citizens the ability to interact with the council at a time and in a way that’s convenient for them, so reduces calls into the contact centre.
- A single customer portal – Historically local councils have tended to operate in silos, with each department developing its own systems to support its own processes. Citizens who want to interact digitally have often found they need to register separately for each service and that the different services don’t speak to each other. It’s much more efficient to move towards a single view of customer using one modular system that can provide integrated services to all departments. As well as offering significant efficiency gains for the council, this is also much more efficient for the citizen who now gains a single view of council with all the information about their relationship with the council available to them in one place.
Whilst there’s obviously a cost associated with putting any new system or process in place, the costs of the options outlined above are often significantly less than you might assume, and the benefits come quickly. Savings can be realised almost immediately as citizens tend to switch to digital options as soon as they’re available. Investment into digital transformation pays for itself very quickly with savings that are clear and easy to measure. Substantial cost savings plus improved customer service is a win for councils and a win for citizens. Talk to us today about how we can help you achieve this within your organisation.