Curated Excerpts From Our Local Government CX Roundtable: Managing the Economic Crisis

Curated Excerpts From Our Local Government CX Roundtable: Managing the Economic Crisis

Published 26/10/22 under:

To misquote Shakespeare, in opening the fifth Kerv Experience local government forum, Mark Adams-Wright might well have said, “Now is the winter of our discontent.” That’s because he mentioned negative factors affecting the UK such as energy shortages, their effect on household budgets, increases in the cost of living, food banks, refugee crises, and the possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the coming winter. Not only are such things deeply occupying the minds of the population at large, but they’re also impacting the people who serve them like agents in local government contact centres.

Organised by Kerv Experience, an invited audience from 16 councils took part in the forum along with specialists from Genesys who brought their experience and expertise to bear in discussing how local authorities are dealing with such developing issues. The following are keynote comments from the forum rather than a record of the entire conversation.

Turning clean and green

The first council spokesperson described cost-of-living pages on their website as part of Digital Support in the Community. Meanwhile, the effect on mental health is being triaged by adult social care services to assess what at-risk citizens are going through. Agents are being psychologically supported and provided with relevant scripts and prompts to help develop skills and knowledge to help respond to citizens calling in. Kerv is providing help with the necessary scripts as well as URLs taking agents to intranet pages.

‘First point of contact’ is prioritising financial or wellbeing issues like council tax, housing benefits, adult social care, and schools’ admissions. Also, as part of clean and green initiatives, citizens are being directed to cost-of-living pages on the website when, for example, they can’t afford to pay for new or replacement bins. For citizens without online skills or resources an outreach programme covers things like energy rebates.

Managing demand more effectively

The next council participant talked about managing demand more effectively, where double handling can be a problem. Analysis of 150 separate service lines showed that only 31 of them drove 80 percent of demand into the organisation. A combination of diverting such traffic to digital channels, while integrating a new CRM system with the website, has introduced automation while removing duplication. The effect has been to release agents to deal with more pressing citizen issues.

For any council, such mapping practices can spot high-volume, easy-to-deal-with ways to digitise and automate, simultaneously saving money while improving services. One example is making sure scripts on the end of calls have signposting to a cost-of-living webpage for the customer to be referred to and also the agent.

Smart city ideas are being run in parallel. Way beyond fitting sensors to rubbish bins, measuring footfall in council premises is informing some 30 business cases, with 16 of those already supported by quantifiable financial data. For example, what’s the point of heating empty buildings or even unused rooms within them? When it comes to deep-rooted issues like poverty and homelessness, causes rather than symptoms are being inspected and considered as candidates for IoT solutions. The use of healthcare and genetic data could have positive effects on hospital admission rates, for instance.

Introducing greater intelligence

Our next speaker described the effect of introducing a chatbot in front of a live chat channel. The intent was to identify automation opportunities to not only replace live incoming calls, but also introducing greater intelligence into the council’s IVR system e.g., routing the caller to fast online information sources rather than unnecessarily tying up agents. Using classification codes, the team is building new processes for high volume traffic. For example, filtering out council tax reminders for people who’ve made payments within the last three days.

Such techniques, not only release agents for higher-value tasks, but also save time for citizens too. Another council is looking to reduce demand by 30 percent while introducing a case management system (CMS) to replace a legacy CRM platform that wasn’t fit for purpose. That bespoke CMS will proactively contact citizens, check their problem’s been resolved, and build a constantly-refreshed knowledge bank to inform future processes.

Buzzing contact centre

Another theme was the motivational aspects of process improvement and the effect of ‘doing what you say you’re going to do.’ A specific case in point was the introduction of AI-powered web chat, targeted for a 24-hour deployment window. A few hours later the job was done and, although the web chat changes only initially affected six agents, the whole contact centre was buzzing. The positive-change ripples created throughout the whole workforce set the scene for further improvement.

Concluding comments

Mark Caldwell of Genesys rounded off the conversation by talking about reviewing the length of IVR messages and looking to transform the citizen experience so they’re not necessarily spending unnecessary time there. Then, looking at services that can be automated, and probably front-end some of them with bot-powered triage.

Also, considering specific use cases so the customers can self-serve, to deflect the volume of calls arriving at the contact centre. Then using the saved time to manage the more important calls about, say, poverty and homelessness. Genesys is seeing a lot of clients look at how they can leverage solutions to provide a better experience for citizens. In terms of the agent side of things and looking after their wellbeing, it’s sometimes about how they can put the right schedule in place, so they have the respite to recover.

Jeremy Curling of Kerv Experience explained they had been working with a county council that was really struggling with its IVR. They were having issues with high abandonment rates from a citizen engagement perspective. That was down to having far too many options within the IVR. They’ve been able to rectify this by removing IVR complexity and replacing it with self-service using AI, voice, and chatbots.

Summing up, Mark said it was great having scripts, but even better to be able to use technology to assist them in real time. So, when citizens are calling in, for example, it’s about surfacing the information there and then to help provide an instant response to guide them straight to the information they need.

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