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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 09/07/2002
Electronic Government for Customer Service - Electronic Service Delivery Pilot



The purpose of this report is two-fold:

To provide the Executive with an overview of progress to date on the programme of investment of the capital grant of 200,000 for 2002/03, awarded by the DTLR to assist the Council in delivering its vision for e-Government; and
To propose a pilot project to evaluate the implementation of that part of the Council’s vision relating to the delivery of customer service at the first point of contact.


APPENDIX I
WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

EXECUTIVE– 9TH JULY 2002


Title:


Electronic Government for Customer Service

Electronic Service Delivery Pilot

[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and Purpose

The purpose of this report is two-fold:

To provide the Executive with an overview of progress to date on the programme of investment of the capital grant of 200,000 for 2002/03, awarded by the DTLR to assist the Council in delivering its vision for e-Government; and
To propose a pilot project to evaluate the implementation of that part of the Council’s vision relating to the delivery of customer service at the first point of contact.

Introduction

1. Members will be aware that the DTLR awarded the Council capital grant of 200,000, for the financial year 2002/03, to invest in electronic service delivery.
2. The awarding of a further grant of 200,000 in 2003/04 will be dependent upon the Council being able to demonstrate that it has invested this year’s grant specifically on the delivery of e-Government and that it has made significant progress towards delivering its vision as set out in its “Implementing Electronic Government (IEG) Statement”.

Background

3. The awarding of the grant of 200,000 was conditional upon the submission of a satisfactory IEG Statement by 31st July 2001. Waverley’s IEG statement was submitted by this deadline and endorsed by the Executive on 28th August 2001. The grant is “ring-fenced” and the Council is required to provide a statement of actual expenditure, signed by an auditor appointed by the Audit Commission, to verify that it has met the conditions of the grant, i.e. it has been spent exclusively on the delivery of the Council’s vision for modern service delivery as stated in its “IEG Statement”.
4.

Members are reminded that the vision is as follows:

For the Customer

For our staff 5. The DTLR has announced its intention to make available a further grant of 200,000 for 2003/04 subject to the fulfilment of two conditions:
The submission of a satisfactory revised “IEG Statement”; and
The successful demonstration, to a DTLR inspectorate, that the Council has made significant progress towards the delivery of its vision for modern service delivery.
6. The deadline for the submission of the revised IEG Statement is 30th September 2002. Your officers will be reviewing the Council’s IEG Statement over the summer and will submit a revised version to the Executive for its approval.
7. The nature and timing of the DTLR inspection have yet to be announced. However, a detailed report will be submitted to the Executive, containing a detailed account of the Council’s progress on delivering its e-Government vision, which will form the basis of its response to the inspectorate.
8. Before then, though, it is necessary to assess where we are now, confirm where we want to go and approve action that will demonstrate the Council’s commitment to its vision. To this end, this report seeks the Executive’s approval to undertake a pilot project to investigate the delivery of customer services at the first point of contact.

Progress To Date

9. The 2002/03 Capital Programme provision for Implementing Electronic Government is 500,000, which consists of projects, identified as milestones in the Council’s IEG Statement, with a total cost of 560,000 and the requirement to identify a reduction of 60,000.
10. The IEG Group has been seeking to identify how this reduction might be achieved. In order that this be undertaken effectively, without compromising the successful outcome of any project or impacting upon the Council’s ongoing requirement to maintain its ICT Infrastructure and existing back-of-office systems, it has been necessary to focus on three key areas of investment:

Electronic delivery of Planning Department Services;

Upgrading service delivery via the internet/intranet; and
Customer Service at point of contact.
11. Progress has already been made in the electronic delivery of planning services with the Executive’s approval of phase 2 of the implementation of DIP in the Department. Work is also progressing on making the Local Plan available on the website in mapping form. Building Control has just gone “live” with an application, entitled “Submit a plan”, which enables customers to submit building regulations applications electronically.
12. The Council has achieved a number of awards and plaudits for the quality of its website. However, in order for it to move forward from being, primarily, an information-disseminating website to one that can also handle transactions investment needs to be made in the Council’s web-hosting arrangements.
13. The work being undertaken in Planning with respect to DIP and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is supportive of the Council’s vision in as much as it will make information available electronically, and investment in the website will address the delivery of that information. However, between them, investment solely in these areas will only directly deliver that part of the vision concerned with the on-line access to information.
14. It is therefore proposed that a pilot project be undertaken under the heading of “Customer Service at Point of Contact”, initially concentrating on “face-to-face” access to information. This pilot would seek to support a number of front-line staff (at Farnham Locality Office) in the direct delivery of a small subset of services, selected by each Department, to Waverley’s customers by combining information from the appropriate back-of-office systems and “scripts” on the website (delivered via the intranet).
15. The remainder of this paper describes the proposed pilot and seeks the Executive’s approval to proceed.

Customer Service at the Point of Contact – Delivering the Vision

16. A customer’s “first point of contact” with the Council can be face-to-face, over the phone, by letter or via the website. The proposed pilot will focus on “face-to-face” contact with the customer, although it is recognised that 75% of customer contacts are made over the telephone and that the findings of the pilot would also be relevant to how the Council might handle telephone enquiries in the future. The pilot will also have a beneficial “spin-off” in improving the “self-help” facilities on the website.
17. It is recognised that there will always be cases in which customer queries cannot be resolved at the first point of contact and that the depth of knowledge required to answer such complex technical questions will require the professional expertise of the staff in the service departments. However, the experience of Authorities that have implemented Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems in contact centres suggests that approximately 80% of customer’s enquiries can be answered by the provision of high-level, “non-technical” information.
18.

This high-level of information is already available, or could easily be made available, to front-line staff. However, in this context, where information might be delivered by “non-specialists” (e.g. locality office staff) it is not so much the availability of information as the way in which it is delivered that is important to avoid inappropriate or misunderstood answers being given to the customer. This issue is addressed in CRM systems by the development of “scripts” consisting of a series of simple, multiple-choice questions and unambiguous answers that direct the front-line staff towards the provision of the correct answer or the identification of the appropriate referral.

19. These “scripts” would be developed by the specialist providers of the services, with the necessary support and input from Locality Office staff as required. This is essential, if services are to be successfully delivered in this way, for the following reasons:
The service providers must continue to “own” and be responsible for the quality of information being provided about their service and the way in which it is provided;
The answers provided must be based upon their expert knowledge; and
The identification of the appropriate questions and answers has to be based upon the service provider’s experience of their customer’s frequently asked questions.
20. Expenditure of 215,000 in CRM has been identified in the Capital Programme, (15,000 in 2003/04, 100,000 in 2004/05 and 100,000 in 2005/06). This represents significant investment in technology. However, experience of other organisations suggests that the installation of the technology is relatively straight-forward and that the main issues surrounding the implementation of CRM are those of change management – the re-engineering of service delivery; the separation and shift in the responsibilities for delivering services; the minor structural implications with respect to the customer support role; etc.
21. These are all extremely important issues and it is felt that, before embarking upon significant investment in the technology, it would be prudent to undertake a low-tech pilot that would test and investigate the management, procedural and organisational issues surrounding the Council’s e-Government vision of resolving its customers’ queries at the first point of contact.

Customer Service at the Point of Contact – The Proposed Pilot

22. The key elements of the proposed pilot to identify and address the issues surrounding the delivery of services at the customer’s first point of contact are set out below:
Each Department identifies two services (or self-contained elements of services) that might be delivered to Waverley’s customers by non-specialist staff. These services would consist of the imparting of comprehensive information or high-level advice. Statistics showing the number of enquiries received at Farnham Locality Office would be taken into account when identifying these services.

The providers of the services would develop a “script” of question and answers that would direct non-specialist staff unambiguously to the provision of the correct information or advice.

IT Section would insert the script on to Waverley’s “draft website” (intranet).
Reception staff (including cashiers) at Farnham Locality Office would be given access to the website on their PCs and training in how to provide the information using the “scripts”.
The Locality Office staff would be empowered to provide the service and should be recognized as delivering the customer support role.
The quantity of enquiries dealt with in this way will be recorded. In addition, ways of identifying the appropriateness of the information imparted, the level of customer satisfaction and the impact upon the service providers will need to be developed.
23. The perceived advantages of customer service at the point of contact, which will be tested by the pilot, are;
The service provider is relieved of having to answer the “run of the mill” questions and is able to devote more time to addressing the more complex and professionally satisfying areas of service delivery;
The faster access to information and delivery of service;
The capturing of “frequently asked questions”; and
The development of a self-service facility for the public.
24. In order to test the above, the outcomes of the pilot will:
Measure the impact upon the workload of front-line staff and service providers;
Measure customer satisfaction;
Develop procedures for fine-tuning “scripts”; and
Automatically capture management information.
25. In addition, at the end of this pilot, the Council will be better placed to assess the case for implementing CRM at Waverley.

Resources

26. Although this paper is proposing a “low-tech” pilot, it will be necessary to invest in upgrading the technology at Farnham Locality Office. The estimated cost is as follows:

Upgrade of cash receipting terminals 4,800

Customer-facing PC in reception area 1,700
Networked printer 400
Reception Furniture 1,500
Visitor statistics software 3,500
Hub switch and cabling 3,800
Upgrade communications link 7,000
27. In addition, a figure of 3,500 has been identified to cover the cost of obtaining resource and assistance in developing “scripts” and placing them on the website.
28. The annual rental for the upgraded communications link (kilostream line) would be 8,746, compared with 8,431 at present.
29. The total capital cost, of 26,200, will be found from within the IEG Capital Programme provision of 15,000 for “One-Stop Shops” and 20,000 for “Public Service Screens”.
30. The appropriate training will be identified and financed from the IEG Capital Programme provision of 5,000 for “Training”.
31. Your officers will also be investigating other potential external sources of funding to assist the Council in delivering its vision for e-Government. As part of the Surrey Local Authorities “2010 Group”, Waverley has been involved in submitting a joint bid for Local Government On-Line (LGOL) Partnerships Funding for the Surrey-wide development of contact management. Waverley has also submitted a bid in partnership with other Authorities for LGOL National Project funding for local planning services. Both projects encompass e-government for customer service. The Invest to Save Budget (Round 5), which looks to support joint public sector e-Government projects, will also be investigated. The Executive will be informed of the results of these investigations.

Timetable

32. The development of the “scripts” will involve a significant amount of the service provider and front-line officers’ time. This must be recognized in setting out the timetable for the pilot.
33. It is therefore proposed that work on developing the “scripts” begins immediately, with the pilot services becoming available from 1st October 2002 and the pilot running for a maximum of six months.

Environmental Implications

34. There are no environmental implications in this report.

“Opportunities for All” implications

35. There are no implications in this report with respect to “Opportunities for All”.

Recommendation

It is recommended that:-

1. the Council undertakes a pilot, at Farnham Locality Office, to assess the viability, efficiency and effectiveness of providing front-line staff with immediate access to the information necessary to resolve customer queries at the first point of contact;

2. the estimated cost of the pilot of 26,200 be found from within the IEG Capital Programme provision of 15,000 for “One-Stop Shops” and 20,000 for “Public Service Screens”;

3. the cost of any training required be found from the IEG Capital Programme provision of 5,000 for “Training”;

4. officers report back to the Executive within six months of the start of the pilot on the findings of the report and any consequent recommendations; and

5. reports be prepared for the Executive with respect to the Council’s investment of the DTLR’s capital grant, its investigation of potential external sources of funding, its progress towards delivering its e-Government vision and the revision of its IEG Statement.

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Background Papers (DoF)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.

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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Lawrence Heath Telephone: 01483 523084
E-mail: lheath@waverley.gov.uk

comms/executive/2002-03/110 29000