Unified comms enhances council service

West Berkshire District Council is on target to meet ambitious service levels following a project to unify its communications capabilities and improve the quality of its customer contact.

With a population of about 145,000 citizens, the council has had to improve the management of limited customer resources to take on new services delegated to it by central government. At the same time, the authority's workload has increased to accommodate 500,000 calls, 24,000 emails and 20,000 face-to face-visits every year, in addition to postal enquiries.

For the last six years, West Berkshire has relied on combination of voice-based telecommunication and separate data network, backed up by investment in customer relationship management (CRM) software.

But West Berkshire head of customer services, Sean Anderson said further central management capabilities to match the best skilled person to each enquiry. "We had a consolidation of three separate contact centres already," Anderson told IT PRO exclusively for National Customer Service Week. "But each was siloed, offering us no flexibility to route calls across all three."

The council implemented Siemens HiPath ProCentre software earlier this year to enable customer services to handle voice calls and emails more efficiently by pre-determining caller options depending on which service areas are experiencing high demand and routing calls to appropriately skilled staff.

"The transition was seamless, done over a couple of nights," he added. "And now we are driving towards the overall target of 80 per cent of enquiries resolved at first contact. We are also achieving an 80 per cent satisfaction rating in the local community satisfaction surveys, which bucks the trend of declining approval levels for local services nationally."

Anderson said the management software has enabled customer services staff to take calls on a wider range of council services, including council tax, benefits and streetcare and add some internally facing functions, like its property helpdesk, to their remit.

Contacts can now also be monitored to meet demand and up-skill customer service staff in more specialist areas of council business, while the council is looking at using the new software to drive costs out of its infrastructure base by facilitating more flexible working.

"Despite ever-tightening financial resources, the software has allowed us to be passionate about our innovation around customer service," Anderson added.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.