Transforming citizen services

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 17 September 2015
Transforming citizen services

This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of OnWindows

Since the 2010-2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government carried out the Spending Review in October 2010, the UK’s local authorities have faced ongoing funding cuts, forcing them to find new and more innovative ways to drive operational efficiencies and reduce costs.

“Now that the Conservative Party has been re-elected for another five years and plans to increase public sector savings, local authorities will need to continue restructuring their operations to save costs,” says Simon Robinson, divisional director for Local Government at public sector customer relationship management (CRM) solutions provider Optevia. “They will also be faced with additional challenges as citizens increasingly demand more self-service channels and faster access to services.”

To lower costs while improving operational efficiency and transforming end-to-end citizen services delivery, many local authorities are migrating to cloud platforms.

“Central government has favoured cloud services since the Cabinet Office introduced the ‘cloud first’ policy in May 2013, but local authorities have only recently started to recognise the benefits,” says Robinson. “Now that there are fewer concerns about systems integration, data security and efficiency, cloud platforms will become the most viable option for local councils wanting to replace old IT infrastructures with a ­scalable IT environment.”

Local authorities are also turning to cloud platforms, such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, to reduce their costs by consolidating their multiple line of business systems, which range from complex software solutions to small databases and even spreadsheets.

 “Managing numerous systems is costly and the multiple integration points makes it difficult to streamline end-to-end business processes,” says Robinson. “By migrating to Dynamics CRM, local authorities can simplify and automate procedures and consistently manage applications, service delivery, security and data governance.”

In addition, the cloud enables councils to improve how they coordinate service delivery with external agencies. Sunderland City Council, for instance, has implemented Optevia’s Dynamics CRM-based Local Government Essentials solution to link processes across its social and leisure departments with external partners’ systems. For example, private funeral directors can now use a single online case management and scheduling solution to book funeral services at ­council-owned crematoriums, rather than making multiple phone calls. This saves time and money and provides over 275,000 citizens with faster access to multiple services.

Other local authorities in the UK are using the cloud to support digital engagement or ­self-service solutions to enhance how they interact with citizens.

“Some people prefer to access digital services at their own convenience, rather than phoning a contact centre during specified hours, making online self-service solutions a key priority for local authorities,” says Robinson. “In addition to automating workflows and reducing ­time-consuming processes, these services can also help the council to deliver personalised notifications to citizens’ online accounts.”

Councils can also gain additional cost and operational benefits by fully integrating their self-service channels with their cloud-based CRM systems. For example, Telford & Wrekin Council in the West Midlands has developed its Everyday Telford mobile app that is fully integrated with its CRM platform to enable citizens to notify the council about a range of matters including fly-tipping and potholes via their mobiles.

“The fly-tipping complaint is automatically logged on the CRM system, which then schedules an inspection, notifies the relevant council worker’s mobile device and updates the ­associated back-office system,” explains Robinson, adding that council workers first become involved during onsite inspections. “Not only does this minimise the number of resources needed to process a complaint, it also ensures the issue is resolved more quickly.” 

Social media sites are too becoming ­increasingly popular channels for citizens to report issues more easily. “Many people prefer to communicate via social media so it is imperative that local authorities harness this technology to enhance their services,” says Robinson. “Now, citizens are able to use sites such as Twitter to immediately inform the council about graffiti, or complain if their rubbish hasn’t been collected, rather than phoning the contact centre.” 

In future, Robinson expects that updates to cloud solutions such as Microsoft Social Engagement will help councils to proactively monitor and respond to relevant social media posts in real time, boosting employee productivity and enhancing customer service.

“Microsoft Social Engagement’s filtering, ana­lytics and data visualisation capabilities will ­allow councils to integrate relevant social media posts with the CRM platform as service requests so they can be handled as common business processes,” he explains. “Meanwhile, the incorporated Parature portals and new solutions for integrated mobile working in Dynamics CRM 2015 will become increasingly valuable to public sector organisations who want to transform how they deliver real-time customer services and interact with citizens.”

 

 

Topics

Government, CRM

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