Developing a Digital Access Strategy
As part of our commission to support the ICT Collaboration between East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire Councils, Castlerigg provided strategic consultancy support to develop a digital access strategy and implementation plan for both councils. Digitisation of services was recognised as a key element of the councils’ aspiration to provide new and improved access to services, making it easier to do business with the council at times, and in places convenient to customers and citizens. There is increasing expectation amongst customers that councils should use technology to:
- Improve Access to Information to improve the speed of resolution of queries and requests for services for both customer service teams and customers themselves
- Exploit access channels that are now well established in terms of service delivery in the private sector (for example web, smartphone applications, kiosks etc.)
- Digitise services – digital first and by design - to support self serve and automate end to end service delivery
Each council had already made good progress in terms of improving customers’ access to services, but there was a requirement to take this to another level and further exploit technology. Through consultation with Castlerigg, both organisations have recognised that such an initiative should take an information led, requirements driven, rather than technology driven, approach to improving their customers’ access to services.
Councils’ access to information to predict customer need and inform channel shift had in some cases been incomplete or difficult – local knowledge, professional expertise and best practice had enabled progress to be made but was limiting their ability to take this to the next logical stage in terms of fundamentally re-designing services around customer need and exploiting new, emerging technologies.
Working with the councils, Castlerigg identified a need in some instances to undertake customer segmentation and analysis to inform the councils’ approach to channel shift/design. However, it was recognised that the councils needed to be first clear on how it would intend to exploit this information to support customer need and wider council priorities to ensure the exercise was worthy of the time and investment needed to collate and evaluate. The two councils expressed the desire to move to a centralised customer services delivery model, supported by technology enabled ‘end to end’ transactional processing and greater use of automation. The councils needed to have greater control, visibility and understanding of performance and productivity across all customer access points/channels to control costs and service performance.
Castlerigg facilitated a number of workshops where officers from both councils identified the need to make web and telephone access as appealing as possible to those customers who were able to exploit these channels. Some felt their customer service teams were already handling a considerable amount of the telephone and face to face customer access, but acknowledged areas for continued development in terms of increasing ‘end to end’ processing and service resolution without manual hand-offs - potentially through CRM.
In order to support the councils’ aim of making the customer’s journey from initial contact to resolution of query as efficient and seamless as possible Castlerigg supported the councils to deliver the following in this workstream:
- A baseline project to review the councils’ current ‘as is’ models in relation to customer access
- A digital access strategy which describes the councils’ aspirations for improving their customers access through the digitisation of services and the steps, resource and technologies required to achieve these required outcomes
"In June 2013 Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire Councils identified no basis for a formal ICT shared service due to our divergent processes, approach and infrastructure. Today based on the work Castlerigg has delivered, we have common business strategies around agile working, information as an asset, digital service design and have a common ICT operating model which now provides the basis of a clear shared service opportunity for our consideration.”
David Martin, Chief Executive, Renfrewshire Council (now Chief Executive, Dundee City Council)
Castlerigg supported the councils to undertake a project to review current access to services for customers in order to identify opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness. In order to achieve the objectives of the project Castlerigg worked with officers from both councils to carefully plan the scope of the work required. The scope included:
- A baseline assessment of the ‘as is’ customer access model in each council. The assessment was to consider the ‘end to end’ customer transaction
- A breakdown of performance levels in the Customer Service Units and rationale for current figures
- Understand the current web access available across the councils and the utilisation including whether these processes were end to end electronic or what level of manual input was required
- Identification of all technology currently used to support customer services (Websites, Customer Relationship Management Systems etc.)
The outcome of this project was a number of opportunity areas that were identified informing the development of the Customer Strategy, these included:
- Joint procurement of customer access systems
- Sharing of expertise and resource to make improvements to existing customer access systems e.g. CRM, websites
- Authentication approach to online and wider service delivery
- Provision of information to improve efficiency of customer services
- Changes to working practices
Castlerigg supported both councils to describe their desired ‘to be’ model (or blueprint) for an improved and efficient customer experience to inform the new digital access strategy. Improved technology is only one dimension requiring consideration when improving services. Although improved technology can often enable benefits in relation to an improved and more efficient customer experience, a ‘total system approach’ to designing the operating model for improved customer access to services should be taken to realise maximum benefits. Castlerigg supported the councils to articulate a ‘to be’ model which considered the following the elements:
- Information – What do the councils need to know about their customers in order to inform service direction, design and ensure quality? What information do the councils need to know in order to identify shortfalls in service provision and inform decision making as to where improvements can be made?
- Technology – How can technology support the councils to ensure that officers have ready access to the right information, about the right customer or service and at the right time? Also, how will technology allow the customer experience to be as efficient as possible in relation to the number of visits (electronically or by other means) required to provide information/make an enquiry and achieve service fulfilment
- Processes – what do the councils need to do differently in order to achieve customer excellence and make sure that any new technology is used in a way that maximises benefits?
- People – who in the council workforce is most suitable to respond to customer enquiries and at what stage in the customers’ journey should they become involved?
Strategies by their nature drive a change exercise of some description. Achieving senior buy in and commitment is critical if strategies are to become real and implementable. We approach all strategy development as a change management exercise, with a strong stakeholder engagement emphasis and lots of opportunities to clarify the commitment and intent of those who will be ultimately accountable for its delivery. Too often this element of strategy development is missed, with strategies being drafted in isolation and presented at a final stage to strategic decision makers. This often leads to glossy documents that do not lead to meaningful delivery on the ground.
The approach to this commission allowed Castlerigg to support the councils to establish the drivers for changing the way customer’s access services, the current and future needs in both councils that investment in technology could look to address, the intended outcomes and what success would look like for both councils following the implementation of a new customer strategy and the initial readiness for change in both organisations.