Against the backdrop of tightening budgets and increased demand, can Local Authorities learn from the private sector to better meet Citizens’ needs?
Nearly everyone living in the UK accesses their Local Authority’s services. We rely on them for everything from social housing to swimming lessons. In recent years Local Authorities have been facing a ‘perfect storm’ of increased costs, unprecedented demand and reductions in funding1.
In the customer-centric world of tomorrow, our engagements with our Local Authorities will be simpler, more connected experiences. App-based technologies will ensure that routine interactions, such as paying Council Tax, are conducted like mobile banking; safe, secure and simple. Local Authorities will take advantage of big data to provide smarter solutions to meet their Citizens of Tomorrow’s needs; enabling customer service savings that allow the redirection of funding to the frontline services that need them most.
As customer services quickly evolve in other industries, Local Authorities can adopt new principles and technological solutions to ensure they better meet the needs of their Citizens of Tomorrow.
Digital where possible
Roughly 88% of Local Authority service users have a very transactional relationship with their Council 2. This group wants to be able to set up a Direct Debit, find Christmas refuse collection dates and report pot-holes in the most efficient way possible. To achieve this, Citizens are increasingly seeking a digital solution with humans providing a second line of support. Although this is still some way from being common practice, Enfield Council’s AI chatbot ‘Amelia‘3, which can help with routine queries and permit applications, proves that Councils are beginning to innovate. One quick and cost-effective way of enabling greater digital engagement between Citizens and Local Authorities is to create interfaces with existing third party technologies such as FixMyStreet4, an online tool that the public can use to raise and track geo-tagged issues with their Council.
Joined up data
For the majority of people, this transactional relationship with their Local Authority meets their needs. The needs of the other 12%, however, are more complex. They can require intensive support from one or more service areas simultaneously, and it is in these interactions that the Local Authorities can occasionally reveal themselves as internally disjointed. To address this, Councils have historically implemented Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. One benefit of this is that Local Authority data sets are now increasing in breadth and consistency. To ensure that the value of this data is maximised, Councils could consider establishing an Office of Data Analytics (ODA). Born in the Office of the New York City Mayor, the ODA brings together data from multiple services or organisations to maximise its power. The initiative is now championed in the UK by Nesta5 and front-runners are beginning to see the value that collaborative analytics can bring. In London for example, the Greater London Authority’s (GLA) Office of Technology and Innovation is using cross-organisational algorithms to identify unlicensed Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO)6. This is enabling Councils across the capital to improve the safety of local housing whilst simultaneously generating additional revenue from licensing.
Know the population
Customer segmentation is used widely by private sector organisations to understand the needs and behaviours of consumers; helping them make better marketing decisions and develop more relevant products. As Local Authority data sets become more joined up, Councils are beginning to adapt this thinking to develop their understanding of their Citizens. In Hull, the Local Authority has worked with partners to develop their own customer classification tool7. One of the tool’s potential uses could be to create an effective means of following up with those who fail to frequently pay their bills8. Segmentation can also be used predictively to identify the population’s future needs; for example Newcastle City Council’s Family Insights Programme aims to predict the future adult population’s needs by understanding its present children9. This level of foresight can enable Councils to put in place preventative services, thereby improving the quality of life for Citizens and reducing future care costs.
While rising demand and tightened budgets will continue to challenge Councils’ customer experience offerings, being open to innovations from both within the sector and wider industry will present Local Authorities with innovative opportunities to improve. Continuing with the digital by default agenda, taking a collaborative approach to data analysis and making a step change in understanding the population will ensure that Councils can meet the needs of their Citizens of Tomorrow whilst simultaneously redirecting costs to the frontline services that need them most.
Moorhouse has a proven track record of turning customer strategy into action for major private and public sector organisations. Whether it’s identifying emerging customer trends, optimising the customer journey, or developing business models that meet customer needs – we help our clients understand and serve the Customer of Tomorrow.