The Citizen Contact Centre is often the frontline for Local Authority Services. Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils are looking to create a new combined Council for East Suffolk and have been reevaluating how they deliver services to their citizens. Effective digital working is key to this. I spent the day there and discovered what steps are fundamental to digital success within the contact centre.
Daren Knight, Head of Customer Services and Communications at East Suffolk Councils, has recognised that for citizen facing services to be effective, buy in at employee level must be right. East Suffolk’s strategy and vision holds the fast-moving digital landscape at its core – making sure they make best use of evolving technology for the benefit of both citizens and staff. The Councils have produced a set of 4 digital principles that drive their digital vision:
By communicating and ensuring everyone is on board with the council’s vision, staff are empowered to work effectively towards one goal. Andy Jarvis, Strategic Director at East Suffolk Councils, states that, “Everything is about better outcomes for the public, but to do this we need to provide the vision, drive and permission for staff to do things differently.”
With the ever-advancing digital landscape, effective training for staff is key. Darren recognises that not all staff may be on the same level when it comes to digital and that traditional methods of training can be ineffective and not bring the desired results.
When it comes to training their staff, East Suffolk Councils has stepped away from the mundane manuals that blight so many organisations. To motivate their staff they introduced ‘CRM School’, an interactive, visual, and fun way of learning how to use software. Their CSAs were divided into school classes, learned through collaboration and were given tests and certificates upon completion. Response to the CRM school was fantastic, with staff lauding the move away from outdated methods of training and, as a result, significantly improving call handling rates and use of the software.
Bringing consistency was a key recurring theme throughout my time spent at East Suffolk. Previously there had been too many cases of staff inputting and handling calls in inconsistent ways. The CRM school served to remove this issue, bringing every member of staff together on the same page and ensuring they use the tools at their disposal in the correct way. East Suffolk Councils recognised that consistency needs to be promoted across all areas of the organisation. From the top level, promoting consistency in their vision, to trainers providing consistent messaging so customer service staff can provide a consistent service.
For all this to be possible, effective digital software is vital to ensuring the council’s digital success. East Suffolk is using the Firmstep Customer Experience Platform to great effect. To achieve the Council’s vision they selected Firmstep as it is the only solution to provide a full, end-to-end experience for citizens and staff alike. The Platform supports all mediated forms of contact and digital access, ensuring a full picture of the citizen, no matter what service they are accessing. The solution allows them to rationalise existing systems, provide citizen choice in how they contact the council, and ensure the customer journey is recorded effectively in the contact centre.
Every decision that East Suffolk Councils makes begins with the question “How does this affect the citizen?” Having this as the primary aim allows for more focussed decision making, shared goals, and better internal processes. Each step for improving their customer contact centre has been focussed around this.
The insight reporting now coming from CRM is providing the data to inform future investment decisions to improve both the customer experience and reduce demand.