Local authorities have been working towards a channel shift agenda for a long time now. Pretty much all the councils we deal with have wholeheartedly embraced channel shift, not just as a cost saving mechanism but also as something that offers real benefits to citizens as well as councils. So what’s the next step? How are we likely to see channel shift developing in the future?
A single view of citizen
Commercial organisations often talk about their aim to develop a single view of the customer. In the public sector there’s the same desire for a single view of the citizen. Historically departments have tended to operate with a ‘silo’ mentality, with different departments developing their own systems and solutions. This is obviously sub-optimal from the citizen’s perspective, as it means they have to manage their relationship with the Council by logging into numerous different systems, but it’s also far from ideal from the Council’s perspective as it means they don’t have a view of the totality of their relationship with each citizen.
An individual may want to set their preferences as to communication channels across the whole council – it’s much more convenient to be able to specify that you want to get your information via email once in one place and to know that information is then carried across the whole council than it is to have to tell the council tax team, and then the library team, and then the waste management team. It’s better for the Council too to only have to ask for this information once. A true single view of citizen can also give councils the data they need to generate a complete picture of citizens’ requirements as well as to predict future requirements.
Seamless user experience – one interface for all services
Of course the flipside of a single view of citizen for the council is a single view of the council for the citizen. Councils are increasingly recognising that they need to match the seamless digital service levels more consistently on offer from commercial organisations. Citizens are coming to expect that applying for a parking permit or arranging a green bin collection should be as straightforward as booking a flight online or buying a book on Amazon. If I’ve told the planning department that I like to be contacted via email, why should I then have to re-communicate the same information to numerous other departments that are all part of the same organisation?
We’re talking to more and more organisations like Southend Council, who say that
“The vision for the future is that you’ll log into your account and get one single view of the Council. We’ll know who you are and how you want to be engaged, what you’ve signed up for and so on. At the moment this is done service by service, but in the future you’ll be able to set all your preferences across all Council services in one single place.”
Push to develop end-to-end digital processes to cover all aspects of a service
In our experience, talking to many different councils, day in day out, they’re all committed to moving transactions online. The next step is to make this online transfer seamless for the citizen. Often one aspect of a service will be online – you can pay your council tax electronically, for example – but another will still be resolutely offline – your bill is still sent to you through the post. The same might be true behind the scenes. Perhaps you can report fly tipping or abandoned vehicles online, but those reports are then manually passed to the operatives charged with dealing with them.
Increasingly we’re working with councils who want to develop end-to-end digital processes. For example, Stafford Borough Council has used My Council Services mobile worker module to develop an app for use within its Streetscene team. The entire process of managing Streetscene requests is now digital – the app has replaced the paper-based referral system completely. Likewise, Cannock Chase Council has implemented the same system and has now seen over 12,000 requests go through its online eforms and apps, with a concurrent reduction in the number of calls into its contact centre.
Consistent outbound communication voice
For the most part local authorities have really embraced the potential of social media. However, it’s still generally the case that individuals within the authority, or particular teams and departments tend to run their own social media channels and no one in the organisation has a proper overview of all the communication channels that exist, let alone of the messages that are going out.