Rob Walton, Industry Director – Public Sector, Six Degrees, discusses how agile workspace tech can enable local authorities to deliver better-connected resident services
December’s General Election saw politicians from across the political spectrum making claims and counter-claims about the resources available to Local Authorities in the UK. Rhetoric aside, the average Local Authority is stretched in 2020 – the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that councils in England have seen an average real-terms cut of almost 26% to their funding since 2009–10. As any Local Authority will tell you, reductions in funding have not been matched by reductions in demand. Local Authorities play an essential role in enabling residents to do the things they need to do on a day-to-day basis, and their responsibilities have never been broader or more complex than they are today.
The introduction of transformational agile workspace technologies can enable your Local Authority to deliver better services to its residents. This article delves into the current status quo of Local Authorities when it comes to communication and resident support, the reasons it may be lacking and the knock-on effect on service delivery, and what can be done to deliver better-connected resident services, particularly when they are driven by a more connected workforce.
Improving communication and resident support
All organisations can make changes to their people, processes and technologies that support better outcomes for their end-users. This is especially true for Local Authorities, where the primary focus is to support residents. The average Local Authority has room for improvement in a number of areas when it comes to communication and resident support. Many UK residents report that they struggle to get vital information from their Local Authority’s customer service team – a frustration when they also expect customer service levels from their Local Authority to improve in-line with council tax rises.
There are some clear causes of this frustration: many callers report that they get passed between multiple service agents, with three or more hand-offs far from uncommon. And as for the resulting impact on the quality of service delivery, the results speak for themselves: missed bin collections, rubbish dumped on the street, missed rent payments, being forced to park illegally, holding events without permission – the list goes on.
This was evidenced in a Local Government poll from October 2019, in which less than half of surveyed residents were satisfied with key council services including road maintenance, services and support for older people and services and support for children and young people. Poor service quality frustrates residents and can lead to complaints: in 2017 the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsmen received over 16,500 complaints, 54% of which were upheld.
Considering the digital journeys that you send your residents on each day is the first step to improving the contact centre services that play such a key role in enabling residents to do the things they need to do on a day-to-day basis.
Optimise your Local Authority technology
New forms of communication and collaboration technology have opened up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to how Local Authorities empower their staff and engage with their residents. Specifically, agile workspace technology can hold the key to facilitating residents’ digital journeys throughout their interactions with your Local Authority and related agencies, including local NHS trusts, emergency services and housing associations. Adopting cloud-based agile workspace tools and technologies will simplify the way you work with colleagues, partners and suppliers, reducing costs and ultimately making lives better for the residents and communities you serve.
Here are five steps your Local Authority can take to deliver better-connected resident services:
Step one: Engage residents, staff and agency partners with a smartphone app
- Residents expect the same smartphone app functionality from your Local Authority that they receive from online banks, stores and other commercial organisations. Give it to them. A well-designed smartphone app will deliver a single portal for residents to engage with your Local Authority, enabling you to provide a streamlined experience, improve internal and cross-agency collaboration, and increase engagement and satisfaction.
Step two: Integrate your communications systems in the cloud
- Cloud-based communications and collaboration software enables you to consolidate voice, video, chat and contact centre functions. A unified communications platform facilitates unified internal processes, which has a direct impact on the services you deliver to residents.
Step three: Support all communications channels used by citizens
- When you implement smartphone apps, text communications and other engagement channels, it’s vital that residents feel like they’re receiving a single, unified service. Multi-channel citizen interactions drive first contact resolution and increase resident satisfaction ratings. Just make sure information shared through one channel doesn’t slip through the cracks when it comes to your other engagement channels.
Step four: Use video and voice, from anywhere
- Local Authorities’ people are their most important assets. The private sector offers workspace agility almost as standard – don’t fall behind and lose your best people as a result. Flexible working practices with video conferencing improve staff retention, and have the added benefit of helping Local Authorities achieve cost savings through office size reductions.
Step five: Use analytics to transform public services
- We are operating in a data-driven world. The latest cloud-based collaboration technology is built from the ground-up to provide meaningful, actionable insights that enable Local Authorities to make proactive improvements to their services. Data-driven insights from analytics help spot trends, enabling you to improve resident outcomes and change public perceptions.
In spite of funding cuts, there is a clear desire and willingness from Local Authorities to improve resident interactions, collaborate with colleagues and partners, combine health and social care programmes and achieve efficiency and cost savings. By adopting a cloud-first agile workspace approach, your Local Authority will be able to maximise its IT budget and deliver better-connected resident services.