Given the pressures on local government finances and the prospect of further reductions in Central Government funding, councils and local authorities have been finding new ways of saving money for some time. One of these initiatives is to create more unitary authorities, which requires the combination of services under a shared roof in order to reduce overheads.
The December 2018 House of Commons Briefing Paper on ‘Local government in England: structures’ reveals that plans have been outlined to create new unitary authorities in 2019 and 2020, including in Dorset, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. It is likely that others will follow, if they are not already leading this change.
If your authority is affected, the time has come to prepare for that change.
Local authority shared services and customers
If your local government office is considering, or in the process of, consolidating or joining with others then there is certainly a lot to consider: processes, technology, the services to provide, the staff to employ (or cut back on) and many more factors. It is likely that, with the best will in the world, thinking about how the public will be affected is not top of the priority list.
In some cases the assumption is that your customers, the public, will just have to adjust. In others, the anticipation is that remaining resources will become snowed under and increasingly unable to meet demand. However, there is an alternative way to see the merging of these services: as an opportunity to use new technology and approaches to better serve the public and reduce demand on employees, while allowing them to work more efficiently.
Putting the customer at the centre of local government consolidation
In this alternative way of looking at public services it is possible to put the customer at the centre of local government consolidation.
This is the approach that borough, city and county councils across the United Kingdom are taking. Rather than imagine an over-worked staff dealing with long queues, ringing phones and increasingly frustrated and unserved customers, they took a different view. They imagined a situation where Meeters and Greeters could welcome and direct the public when they arrived: predicting their waiting times, and automatically sending them text messages when their appointment is due. They imagined a world where it was possible to book appointments over the internet, and one where even drop-ins could be routed to the most appropriate services member without hassle. And then they turned it into reality.
Following in the footsteps of the several of our customers
With over 20 local government and multiple central government clients, we’ve seen this happening a lot already and continue to have many similar conversations with our existing customers. A connected theme among our discussions is the customer, and how their experience will be impacted, but also how this can be an opportunity to streamline services.
In order to help their local authorities increase customer satisfaction, improve front and back-office processes and digitally transform the customer experience these councils have decided to re-imagine public services using a digital approach.
Using technology to support local government service centres
Where there is increased footfall, more call centre traffic, and higher demand on staff – with less time and more skills needed – the answer can lie in using technology to help reduce the burden.
Technology can streamline services and customer experience processes, reduce the ‘cost per interaction’ with members of the public, while making sure customers are using the most relevant and efficient channels – including making phone calls and booking appointments, or even taking meetings online.
How does it work?
At heart, ACF technologies’ queue management solution called Q-flow is about using simple but effective tools like appointment scheduling, customer flow management and a powerful customer visit management app. Using business process management tools, ACF technologies can connect with customer relationship management software to make recommendations for staff optimisation improvements and even help with task management.
So instead of viewing the merging of authorities and councils as a threat to your ability to serve your customers, it is worth considering how using the right technology can actually be an opportunity to
- make cost savings,
- improve the way that customers are treated at council offices and
- use tools that give councils a hidden advantage, as well as
- improve your customer satisfaction scores.
In these times of efficiency improvements, our customers have found that using the right solution can improve their customer experience on site, as well as behind the scenes: matching your employees’ skills with your customers’ needs and make the experience better for both your employees and the public.
We think that is a great way to help councils serve the public better and that’s why we’re proud to be leading government organisations to improve their customer experience.