This article was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of Touch
Headquartered in Basildon in the UK, Basildon Borough Council delivers citizen services across the towns of Basildon, Billericay and Wickford in the county of Essex. Employing almost 1,000 people, the council is responsible for the management of its housing stock, collection of revenues and delivery of benefits, management of waste/recycling services, maintenance of local parks and nature reserves, as well as the management of democratic services.
Basildon Borough Council’s customer service centre handles 680,000 telephone calls, around 84,000 face-to-face visits and receives 3,400,000 website views annually. Most customer enquiries were handled in individual departments (usually with an individual system to match), and not at the first point-of-contact.
The council realised that the customer experience was not as smooth as it should be. “If a customer was trying to pay their council tax, for example, our experience was that they would not instinctively call the revenues and benefits department,” explains James Dansey, Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementation manager at Basildon Borough Council. “They would instead ‘call the council’. We wanted to change our customer services structure to support that expectation, and so a customer experience programme was initiated to refocus the delivery of services to a single point of contact.”
The council decided to move away from individual departments to a core customer services team and expand its customer service centre. “Our previous customer relationship management (CRM) system was incapable of supporting the scale of expansion we had planned for our customer service centre,” says Dansey. “It offered limited integration with other systems and provided restricted customer insight. Coupled with changing infrastructure requirements, we thought it was time to look for a better way.”
Choosing the right solution
Basildon Borough Council considered many CRM systems and suppliers before selecting Microsoft Dynamics CRM, implemented by public sector specialist Optevia. “Optevia have a proven track record of delivery of CRM solutions to the public sector. The solution offered was the best fit for us and the price was competitive,” explains Dansey. “We recognised that up to 80% of customer contact could be resolved without technical advice or resolved without warranting interaction with an individual department. We want to shift that to be handled by our customer service centre and therefore and we need the systems and a technical partner that will enable us to do that – in Optevia we have both.”
As a multi-phased project, the implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM started in Spring 2013 and is expected to be completed by Autumn 2014. “Dynamics CRM is an enormously flexible product, so it is key that the specification work is not rushed. Optevia has been hugely helpful in supporting us through this,” says Dansey. “One of the main benefits of using Microsoft Dynamics CRM – or any Microsoft product – is the familiarity of the interface, which reduces training requirements. We are investing in other Microsoft technologies too so we hope to realise productivity benefits through better systems integration in the medium-longer term.”
The first phase of the project has seen 13 services go live including special collection requests, abandoned vehicles reporting, missed bin collection reporting and street cleaning requests. “Presently, we have 50 licensed users of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Our plan in the longer term is to introduce web portal functionality, primarily to reduce the license overheads,” explains Dansey. “Once that functionality is deployed, we will be able to extend the system to a greater set of internal users, as well as entertain better web integration for external customers. Any citizen within the borough with a web connection and an internet browser should benefit from the changes we are making.”
A single point of contact
The council now has a better idea of how the organisation and citizens relate to one another. “I think it’s that single point which has the greatest potential for us,” says Dansey. “Dynamics CRM, and the insight it offers provides a common language on which we can better understand our customers, and ensure that we are in a position to offer the service they expect.”
The implementation will also allow the council to build a timeline of interactions from first point-of-contact through to resolution. Customers will be able to log requests for assistance and track the progress of their request online, while council employees can draw on valuable customer insight on which to base key future decisions. The organisation is keen to improve how customers interact with its services, and the insight provided by capturing high-quality channel data will be invaluable in identifying the best approach. “Our strategic goal is to improve the customer experience, and this in turn will drive down operation costs. By making use of improved customer insight, we can make smarter decisions on how to improve our services and put the customer at the heart of service delivery. We see Microsoft Dynamics CRM as being a key enabler of change, and the catalyst for the realisation of significant efficiency savings,” says Dansey.
Citizens will benefit in a number of ways. Primarily, the whole council operation will be more ‘joined up’ so any requests or issues should be able to be resolved far more promptly. Furthermore, through web portal integration, the council can reduce delays between a request being made and the work being completed.
“Microsoft Dynamics CRM will enable us to be more proactive with our customer-centric approach. It will provide better analysis and reporting, as well as a single view of our customers across all channels. In time, it will become the backbone of our CRM and will be fully integrated into all of our front-line services,” concludes Dansey.
Tim Vernon, managing director at Optevia comments: “This is a very ambitious project, but one that I know Basildon Borough Council will be successful with. It has a great team, and by working very collaboratively, we can fully understand their processes and workflows. Together, we are undertaking possibly one of the most innovative projects I have been involved in. It should be applauded for its approach and vision.”
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