How To Reduce The Cost Of Contact Between Citizens and Local Authorities
February 19, 2020
Welcome to the report on how Local Authorities and Local Government, in general, can provide further cost savings, improve citizen engagement, social mobility and general citizen to local government user experiences with the use of appointment systems, online scheduling systems, online booking systems, cloud-based registrar systems and other digital tools. We will present some findings from the local.gov digital transformation reports to illustrate opportunities for other local authorities, as well as provide a direct case study from Charnwood Borough Council.
As stated within the local.gov improving public services report – “From typewriters to smartphones, technology has always played a vital role in the way local the government manages its business. As councils face the twin challenges of decreasing funding and increasing demand, they have found new ways of utilising technology to deliver services more effectively and enable their staff to work in new ways, increasing productivity and reducing costs.”
We have taken a look back at some of the key success stories from across Local Authorities and listed below a variety of stats that provide insight into the benefits of implementing cloud-based and digital solutions such as BookingLive.
Digital Transformation Outcomes
- £10m saved in 4 years – Blackburn with Darwen Council has saved this through its successful implementation of telecare, online Booking and online scheduling.
- £22 million saved annually – Cloud-based Registrar usage across local authorities for reporting births or deaths has been implemented in over 90 per cent of councils and delivering total benefits of over £22 million annually.
- £450,000 saved over 4 years – In Suffolk County Council, customer insight tools were used to better understand the needs of troubled families, saving more than £450,000 over four years in cost avoidance.
- £134,000 saving per year – Birmingham City Council reduced rent arrears by £134,000 year-on-year through a new triage process and personalised ‘digital logbooks’.
- £1.15m saved annually – Hammersmith and Fulham’s online self-service portal has saved £1.15 million annually, with 70 per cent of households registered.
- £617,000 saved annually and 30 days processing time saved per instance – The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham has achieved a 100 per cent digital shift for benefit claims, reducing processing time by 30 days and saving £617,000 annually.
- £1.55m saved – London Borough of Harrow has saved £1.55 million over four years through a wide range of online services.
- £91,500 saved annually – East Riding of Yorkshire Council takes payments through self-service thanks to their mobile-accessible website and self-service kiosks. This has generated savings of £91,500 over a three-year period.
Insights And Overview
“Smartphones and tablet computers are now everywhere; town centres and public buildings routinely offer wireless access; data and systems are increasingly stored in the ‘cloud’. These advances have enabled citizens, businesses and public bodies to change the ways in which they
interact, gain access to information and services, and organise their work.
Councils have been quick to recognise the opportunities offered by technology and digital tools and approaches to target and deliver services better and save money. They have explored different methods of improving local people’s access to services including telecare, online applications for school places, cashless parking payments and ‘apps’ to inform or alert service users.
At the same time, they have made their workforces more productive by introducing mobile technologies, route planning tools and video-conferencing. At a national level, councils have worked closely with the central government to invest jointly in essential infrastructures such as reliable and fast broadband connections and the Public Services Network.”
Councillor Peter Fleming
Chair, Local Government Association Improvement and Innovation Board
How Local Authorities Are Implementing Change
As stated within the Local Government Improvement and Innovation Board – Councils deliver an estimated 80 per cent of local public services, and are located in and form part of the communities they serve. They are rising to the challenges they face and transforming the way they deliver services by redesigning, reorganising and reforming. An important part of this process is bringing their deep understanding of local needs together with technological innovations to offer better management of demand, more reliable and efficient handling of routine transactions, and greater use of shared data.
Below we see an overview of the main citizen to local authority communication channels and historic data visualised providing a clear value proposition for utilising Web over the phone, and face to face channels to drive cost savings.
However, data like this alone siloed will not provide the insight needed to ensure that the cost-savings implemented do not come at the expense of citizen user experience. This has been acknowledged by local authorities and it has been great to organisations such as London Borough of Lewisham offering training in ICT skills to customers who were assessed as high-vulnerability in terms of their ability to access benefits online.
At a time when public services face fundamental challenges, technology and digital tools and approaches are central to achieving all of this, but it must come with an acknowledgement of the user experience first and foremost, just like the mentioned London Borough of Lewisham initiative. For councils and their partners/ suppliers, these tools can enable:
- A deeper understanding of local patterns of need and interaction with government, allowing resources to be managed, planned and directed to where they will have the greatest impact
- More effective management of demand – for example, enabling user self-service and supporting
- peer-to-peer advice-giving and assistance via social media
- More reliable, speedy, and precise handling of routine, repetitive tasks – allowing costly and scarce professional expertise to be targeted at cases which need judgement or at new and unexpected situations
- Faster access to, and sharing of, data between councils, customers, and partner organisations, avoiding the need to collect the same information many times over and saving time on research and information collation
- New ways of working that potentially reconcile the goals of providing a better quality of customer experience while cutting costs.
Example Digital Transformation Project Detail – Charnwood Borough Council
Welcome to the Digital Transformation Charnwood Borough Council citizen engagement, appointment scheduling, and online booking report. Having put in place a key pivotal system, Charnwood continued to benchmark success and the incredible results that have come out of their project with BookingLive’s Online Booking, Online Scheduling System and Appointment Solution.
Key findings from within the report are shown below. These findings are key digital transformation success indicators that are transferable across local government organisations globally that implements BookingLive into its solution offering.
Council Internal Reporting
- 88% of all new orders for booking activities or buying WCs were made online in the first – this has steadily risen to 93% over subsequent programmes
- 68% reduction in calls – consistent reduction
- 50% reduction in administrative tasks – and still rising
- Customers can access and update their information in real-time and independently via their BL account
- 67% increase in WC memberships – consistent
- 29 hours reduction in CC advisors’ resources needed
- Robust and complete database of WC members updated in real-time
- Reduction in the potential for error
- Cost savings to the authority and the customer on stationery and postage
In the summer programme, 1 customer booked 28 separate activities in 1 transaction – out of normal office hours in around 30 minutes – it is thought that this would have previously taken 1 officer most of the day and several contacts with the customer.
Customer Survey Results
- 85% were satisfied or very satisfied with the new process – no one was dissatisfied, 91% of those that answered were satisfied or very satisfied with the ease of booking, 88% rated the service good and above
- The web team also reported a 104% increase in relevant web page hits.
Due to the success of the above the Council Leisure Team now use Booking Live’s appointment booking, scheduling tool and other booking services to promote the uptake of a wide variety of different solutions as their system of choice.
Booking Live Digital Solution Deployment
Implementation of a new corporate booking system which would enable customers and local citizens to easily book Active Charnwood holiday programme (HAP) activities and purchase Wild Card (WC) scheme memberships online via Charnwood Borough Council (CBC) online scheduling website whilst still being able to provide an improved service for those customers who may need some support or prefer to use the existing traditional channels such as phone or face to face.
Project Requirements and The Solution
Booking activities were done using a single contact channel (phone) through the Council’s Contact Centre (CC) during standard opening hours. The process was very manual and administratively heavy, relying on simple spreadsheets and wall charts to monitor bookings made, manual calculations of costs (including any relevant applicable discounts) with paper confirmations, instructions and guidance sent by post to customers.
The majority of WC purchases were also made using the same contact channel (phone), although there was the ability to buy/apply for them from the locally owned but privately-run Leisure Centres. Paper application forms were used and paper membership documents sent in the post.
Where forms were completed at a Leisure Centre, the form had to be physically collected or brought to the Leisure team, checked then passed to the CC team for manual input on Lagan. Any payments due to the Council were paid over in bulk at an agreed time within the financial year – leading to checks required to balance the books etc.
Related CRM scripts were not being used for various reasons leading to workarounds and service/process knowledge was dependant on the experience of the individual officer and due to the manual processes, there was a reliance on staff remembering to do something.
There was no working renewal process in place and there was no robust database of members. The volumes of WCs appeared to be reducing.
As a result of the above, processes were lengthy for both external and internal customers, open to error and difficult to accurately understand the WC membership in terms of volumes and the customer base and customer insight indicated that customers would welcome an online option.
Consequently, the service determined that the above was no longer fit for purpose and an online solution sought to help facilitate the overall process redesign , this also linked in well to meeting the Council’s corporate priorities/vision/values.
A procurement exercise was undertaken to purchase a corporate online booking system. BL were successful in bidding for the contract.
Working in partnership with BL our new online booking system was successfully delivered and went live on 01/04/2019 at 8.00am with a publicised time of 8.30am with the first booking being made online at 8.27am that day for multiple activities.
The new booking and buying of WCs process is now fully electronic from end to end, regardless of what contact channel the customer uses to access the service, and they have immediate electronic notifications and access to all their information via their BL account.
Customers can access the service and information 24/7 365 days per year.
Find Out More
Find out more about BookingLive’s scheduling system and its partnership with organisations going through digital transformation, and how BookingLive can bring its 10+ years of successfully servicing the public sector to support you with your department’s digital goals, please contact us via email, or call +1 (0)117 933 8632 to speak with one of our public sector solutions specialists.
To see a live demonstration of this booking software solution above and others click the link below.
Further relevant reports and references offering insights into digital transformation:
- Office of National Statistics (ONS) quarterly national update on internet access, February 2014 (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_353031.pdf) Cabinet Office
- Digital Landscape Survey, November 2012 (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/digital-landscape-research)
- Ofcom Communications Market Report, August 2013 (http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/market-data/communications-market-reports/ cmr13/uk/) Socitm annual
- Better Connected surveys ( http://www.socitm.net/research/socitm-insight/better-connected)
- New Local Government Network (NGLN) Smart people smart places: realising digital local government (http://www.nlgn.org.uk/public/2014/smart-people-smart-places-realising-digital-local-government)
- The Institute for Public Policy Reform (IPPR) Building tech-powered public services (http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/11600/building-tech-powered-public-services)
- The Need to Know Review No. 3 – Local government in the digital age (http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/11515/Local+government+in+the+digital+age+%28Need +to+know+Knowledge+Navigator+number+3%29/544d1515-3483-4a58-8da4-da92eca6126b)
- The Carnegie Trust UK Making digital real (http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/2014/making-digital-real)
- The RSA 2020 public services reports (http://www.thersa.org/action-research-centre/community-and-public-services/2020-public-services)
- Local Government Online (LGOL) programme outputs (http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20120919132719/http://www.communities.gov.uk/ localgovernment/efficiencybetter/localegovernment/products/)
- Front office shared services (FOSS) programme outputs (http://www.local.gov.uk/home/-/journal_content/56/10180/3511020/ARTICLE)
- The LGA Customer-Led Transformation Programme outputs (http://www.local.gov.uk/productivity/-/journal_content/56/10180/3510959/ARTICLE)