CUSTOMER SERVICE STRATEGY

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1 CUSTOMER SERVICE STRATEGY Table of contents: 1. Executive Summary 2. Introduction 2.1 Background 2.2 Purpose of this document 3. Aims 4. Objectives 5. Principles 6. What our customers want 6.1 Initial Consultation - Customer Service: A Green Paper 6.2 Building on the initial consultation 7. Overview of our strategy 7A Delivery channels 7B Use of enabling IT 7C Excellent service delivery 7D Value for money 7E Ensuring alignment 8. Action Plan 8.1 Annual review of Customer Service Strategy 9. Glossary

2 1 Executive Summary 1.1 Introduction Everything that we do at Newcastle City Council is about providing services to customers. Few organisations provide such a diverse range of services from such a variety of locations, so it is a real challenge to ensure that we provide excellent customer service. Our Customer Service Strategy was developed in 2000 and provided a firm foundation for the development of Customer Service Centres and other initiatives. However, it is now an appropriate time to review and refresh the Strategy. This document (together with supporting appendices) outlines our strategic approach, progress to date and how we plan to continue the delivery of the Strategy. 1.2 Aims We will continue to provide community leadership in the provision of: Responsive services that meet peoples needs and demonstrate that we have understood their demands. Quality services which are efficient, cost effective and delivered through a highly trained and skilled workforce. Accessible services that provide people with a choice about how and when to access services. 1.3 Objectives The objectives of the customer service strategy describe the main ways in which we will achieve the overall aims of the Strategy. We will use a selection of delivery channels so that people have more choice in how and where they access services. Please refer to section 7A. This means: Delivering a citywide network of Customer Service Centres providing a range of public services as close as possible to where people live. Developing contact centre technology to respond to the demand to contact the council by telephone. Making effective use of appropriate new delivery channels to encourage all sectors of the community to access our services. We will make use of relevant enabling IT technology to deliver joined up services. Please refer to section 7B. This means:

3 Using IT systems which help us to understand our customers and meet their requirements (customer relationship management system). Designing and implementing systems which help us to provide better quality, joined up and accessible services to our customers. We will ensure that our service delivery is excellent. Please refer to section 7C. This means: Understanding the nature of demand and what matters to customers. Consulting with our customers to ensure we understand their individual needs and preferences in order to give them a good experience. Creating a culture of customer service within the organisation. Delivering a comprehensive customer service training and development programme. This will include staff dealing with both external and internal customers. Changing the way we deliver services and redesigning our processes to deliver continual improvement in our performance and customer service. We will deliver cost effective services which provide value for money. Please refer to section 7D. This means: Effectively managing and prioritising our investment, assets and revenue. Establishing effective performance management. Driving out and capturing the anticipated financial benefits. We will ensure alignment of our customer service strategy with national, local and council initiatives. Please refer to section 7E. This means: Taking a strong community leadership role to join up and promote access to services. Recognising and reinforcing relevant strategies, projects and initiatives. It is equally important that we seek to achieve the right balance in terms of effort, timing and presentation. For example, offering a wide range of methods by which customers can access our services is of little value if our staff have not all been trained to deliver excellent customer service and access is not presented to the customer in a logical way. 1.4 Principles Our Customer Service Strategy is underpinned by the following principles and values: Being open, honest and communicative Working in a collaborative way

4 Focusing on delivery Providing good stewardship Valuing diversity Being progressive 1.5 What our customers want One of the main reasons we are reviewing our Customer Service Strategy is that we now know more about how customers are using our current services and what their views are. We have developed a programme of consultation including: Customer Service: A Green Paper (2001) Customer Service Centre research and surveys Community Focus Groups Research into customer expectations of a Contact Centre Some of the key findings in terms of strategic development have been: The majority of non-users of Customer Service Centres (70%) indicated they would use a Customer Service Centre near to where they live. Customers would like to access a range of public services in these centres Just under 80% of residents anticipate using a new Contact Centre. 1.6 Overview of our strategy At this point in our continuing journey, our overall customer service strategy can be summarised as follows: We know (from consultation) that our customers want to contact us in ways that are convenient to them - using an increasing number of delivery channels. The only way we can understand and efficiently address our customers requirements is by continuing to use enabling IT and applying it across all delivery channels to provide a high quality joined-up service. It is vital that we continue to translate this into excellent service delivery by consulting with customers, creating a customer service culture, and training and developing our staff. At the same time, we must ensure that we prioritise and manage our investments, assets and revenues to deliver cost effective services which provide value for money. We can continue to maximise opportunities and realise synergies by ensuring alignment of our customer service strategy with relevant national, local and council strategies, projects and initiatives.

5 1.7 Key messages We need a co-ordinated and joined up approach across the council and with partner organisations if we are to benefit from efficient resource utilisation and deliver real benefits to our customers in the form of improved service delivery. This requires that we move to a model where services are built around customer needs and not organisational structures. We need to work within the council and with partner organisations to establish the most appropriate and cost effective configuration of locations and means of service delivery. We will need a mix of delivery channels into the medium term. Research shows that customers place importance on accessing local government services in a number of different ways. The channel mix will change over time with increased acceptance of electronic self service channels and it is important to anticipate future tactical shifts. The major elements of the council s user-led customer service strategy are the Customer Service Centres and the Contact Centre. Co-located services in convenient locations can be expected to result in a significant up-take of services (for example, increased footfall in a library colocated with a Primary Customer Service Centre). The Contact Centre will reflect on and build upon the council s experience to date with call centres. It will consolidate services and use enabling technology to ensure a corporate and consistent high quality approach to handling customer contacts. Enabling technologies can provide us with the capability to understand customers and deliver high quality, joined up and accessible services across multiple delivery channels. It is important that customer requirements drive IT developments rather than IT developments determining how services are delivered to customers. We must ensure that we have the underpinning principles, people and processes in place to enable us to follow through and provide excellent service delivery. We need to understand who our customers are and what services they need and want. We need to know how and when they want to access these services. If we understand our customers, we can work within the council and with partner organisations to put together bundles or clusters of services that a customer is likely to seek at the same time. A culture of excellent customer service is required throughout the organisation. Staff are our most important and valuable asset. We must continually train,

6 develop and support staff. We can provide community leadership in service delivery, working in partnership to provide customers with joined up and integrated services. Our locations (especially the Primary Customer Service Centres) and activities can become focal points for regeneration and creation of community networks. We need to take a comprehensive and consistent business case based approach to our investments. The primary driver for investment in customer services has been to improve the quality and accessibility of services we provide to customers. Economies of scale and efficiencies will follow as the entire council becomes more customerfocused and directorates reconfigure themselves accordingly. Finally, it is important to recognise throughout delivery of the Strategy that the council has wider social responsibilities and our developments need to embrace issues such as social inclusion and equalities.

7 2 Introduction 2.1 Background Every local authority should have a living Customer Service Strategy at the centre of the organisation. An effective Customer Service Strategy should not sit on a shelf until its next review. Its purpose is to: Recognise and support political and management objectives; Respond to the changing needs of customers Set out a clear vision for the development and delivery of services to customers Aid decision making Deliver real benefits to customers, and Incorporate mechanisms for implementation and review. Newcastle City Council s Customer Service Strategy was developed in 2000 and has provided a firm foundation for much of the work since then (particularly in relation to the development of Customer Service Centres). However, it is now an appropriate time to review and refresh the Strategy for a number of reasons: We have made a good start on the journey and need to assess our experience to date. We know more about how our customers are using our current services and this can help to inform our future decisions. We have built a modern customer service infrastructure in terms of people, buildings, technology and knowledge, and we need to ensure that we maximise the delivery of benefits from these assets. There has been a change in political leadership and the Customer Service Strategy must help to deliver political objectives. There have been a number of national, local and council developments with which the customer service strategy must remain aligned. 2.2 Purpose of this document This document reviews the high level aims and objectives of the Customer Service Strategy. It details the overriding principles which govern how we will develop and deliver services. This is followed by an evaluation of what we now know our customers want. Improving access without the ability to deliver an effective response ( building a motorway to a dirt-track ) is a recipe for disappointment for customers and staff.

8 An effective Customer Service Strategy must therefore be underpinned by a realistic assessment of the delivery capabilities, skills and finance available. The section entitled Overview of Our Strategy outlines the elements which we must proactively manage to ensure that Newcastle City Council is successful in delivering excellent and efficient customer service. A significant amount of progress has already been made. The journey to date is briefly reviewed and recommendations for the way forward are documented. The main body of the document contains key messages with supporting information contained in appendices. The strategy concludes with an action plan which sets out how we will implement the strategy and achieve our vision Terminology This document seeks to provide full definitions throughout. A glossary is also provided in section 9. One important point of terminology to note is that the term customer is used throughout the strategy rather than citizen or client. We have deliberately not used these words interchangeably because they have different meanings. Citizen implies a resident of the city and someone exercising their statutory civil rights. Client refers to professional services and a person dependent on the protection of another. Customer can be defined as a person, company or other entity which obtains goods or services from another person, company or entity. Our Customer Service Strategy applies to people who live, work, visit or study in Newcastle. It applies to businesses and other agencies. It also covers our internal customers (e.g. members of staff) in addition to our external customers. This is why we have chosen to use the widest possible definition by using the term customer. Newcastle City Council will seek to apply the same high standards of customer service whether someone has no choice but to use our service (e.g. payment of council tax by citizens) or whether we are encouraging people to use optional services provided by ourselves or a co-provider of services.

9 3 Aims The high level aims of the Customer Service Strategy remain largely unchanged. We will continue to provide community leadership in the provision of: Responsive services that meet peoples needs and demonstrate that we have understood their demands. Quality services which are efficient, cost effective and delivered through a highly trained and skilled workforce. Accessible services that provide people with a choice about how and when to access services. The ongoing achievement of these aims will make Newcastle upon Tyne one of the most satisfying and attractive places in which to live work, study and visit.

10 4 Objectives The objectives of the customer service strategy describe the main ways in which we will achieve the overall aims of the Strategy. We will use a selection of delivery channels so that people have more choice in how and where they access services. Please refer to section 7A. This means: Delivering a citywide network of Customer Service Centres providing a range of public services as close as possible to where people live. Developing contact centre technology to respond to the demand to contact the council by telephone. Making effective use of appropriate new delivery channels to encourage all sectors of the community to access our services. We will make use of relevant enabling IT technology to deliver joined up services. Please refer to section 7B. This means: Using IT systems which help us to understand our customers and meet their requirements (customer relationship management system). Designing and implementing systems which help us to provide better quality, joined up and accessible services to our customers. We will ensure that our service delivery is excellent. Please refer to section 7C. This means: Understanding the nature of demand and what matters to customers. Consulting with our customers to ensure we understand their individual needs and preferences in order to give them a good experience. Creating a culture of customer service within the organisation. Delivering a comprehensive customer service training and development programme. This will include staff dealing with both external and internal customers. Changing the way we deliver services and redesigning our processes to deliver continual improvement in our performance and customer service. We will deliver cost effective services which provide value for money. Please refer to section 7D. This means: Effectively managing and prioritising our investment, assets and revenue. Establishing effective performance management. Driving out and capturing the anticipated financial benefits. We will ensure alignment of our customer service strategy with national, local and council initiatives. Please refer to section 7E. This means:

11 Taking a strong community leadership role to join up and promote access to services. Recognising and reinforcing relevant strategies, projects and initiatives. It is equally important that we seek to achieve the right balance in terms of effort, timing and presentation. For example, offering a wide range of methods by which customers can access our services is of little value if our staff have not all been trained to deliver excellent customer service and access is not presented to the customer in a logical way.

12 5 Principles Our customer service strategy is underpinned by the following principles and values which govern how we set about meeting our objectives. Being open, honest and communicative We will be open and honest with our customers and staff. We will recognise and reward success and will tackle problems in a constructive no blame manner. We will keep our customers and staff advised of developments and initiatives and give them opportunities to provide feedback. Working in a collaborative way Service users will be involved in identifying, shaping and monitoring the Customer Service Strategy and service delivery. We will maximise opportunities to work in partnership with other organisations and agencies to deliver cost effective and joined up services. Focusing on delivery Wherever possible, customers should have their needs met at the first point of contact. Services will empower rather than devalue individuals and give them the maximum possible control. Providing good stewardship Services will be designed to achieve environmental, economic and social sustainability. The council will comply with all relevant legislation and best practice. Highest standards will be followed in managing authentication, security, privacy, confidentiality, and the use of ownership of information. Everything we do should contribute to building trust in the competence, propriety and authority of Newcastle City Council. Valuing diversity Services will be designed and delivered to provide equal access to all sectors of the community. They will respect cultural and community diversity and be antidiscriminatory. Being progressive Where appropriate, services will be personalised and built around an understanding of the customer and their life events (e.g. moving to Newcastle). We will be innovative in how we continue to exploit new technology and new ways of working to enable us to deliver improved services.

13 6 What our customers want One of the main reasons we are reviewing our Customer Service Strategy is that we now know more about how customers are using our current services and what their views are. We have consulted widely with customers over the past four years. Some of the important activities and findings are summarised in this section. Please refer to Appendix 1 for more information. 6.1 Initial Consultation - Customer Service: A Green Paper A Green Paper was published in 2001 in order to communicate and consult on the Council s customer service strategy. This is attached at Appendix 25. The overall aim was to assess customer satisfaction with services currently provided and to obtain views to inform future service development. Some of the key findings from this research were: Phone is the most common method of contact with the council, and is expected to remain so in the future. People wanted more Customer Service Centres provided locally in council buildings such as libraries and leisure centres as well as shopping centres. It was felt that the council should provide other services at Customer Service Centres such as banking, utilities, information on welfare benefits and health. Respondents also reported an increase in the use of new technologies such as digital TV and the Internet. 6.2 Building on the initial consultation The Green Paper provided us with the foundation to establish an ongoing programme of consultation. It is essential to engage with non-customers to find out what they perceive to be barriers to accessing our services. We have used a number of methods of consulting with customers and non-customers including: Customer research Comment cards corporate and service specific Elected Members workshops Road shows/open days Mystery customers Switchboard survey Customer Service website Union consultation Residents newsletters Area Committees

14 Staff focus groups Community focus groups The Communication and Consultation Framework is attached at Appendix Customer Service Centre research We have an ongoing programme of surveys. The Customer Service Centres have provided a very effective way of getting close to our customers and finding out more about what they want and what they think of our services. Some of the key findings from recent surveys are detailed below: Many non-users of the Customer Service Centre indicated a willingness and likeliness to use a local Customer Service Centre, with a broad swell of opinion that neighbourhood provision was preferable to its city centre equivalent. Almost 70% of respondents indicated that they would use a Customer Service Centre if there was one near to where they live. Word of mouth continues to be the most frequent method of finding out about Customer Service Centres (especially in relation to the East End where almost 70% of users had found out about the facility in this way). The percentage of customers who were very or quite satisfied with the overall service they received at the 3 Customer Service Centres were 94% at the Civic Centre, 95% at the Outer West and 100% at the East End Community Focus Groups Community focus groups were established in the early stages of development for the Outer West and East End Customer Service Centres to ensure that the development of the new centres was customer-led and reflected community priorities. They have also provided a valuable channel of communication back to the wider community. The intention is to follow this same model for future Customer Service Centres Research into Contact Centre expectations Research into public expectations of a new Contact Centre was undertaken in May Some of the key findings from this recent research are: Two-thirds of residents (65%) usually contact the council by phone, while 33% contact us in person and 2% by letter. Just under 80% of residents anticipate using a new Contact Centre. The main

15 reasons for not using a new Contact Centre were no need to contact council (31%), preferring face to face (21%) and using a Customer Service Centre (17%). The research also investigated customer preferences in terms of the times they would use a Contact Centre, call routing options, acceptable waiting times, listening preferences and so on.

16 7 Overview of our strategy We need to manage five distinct components as key objectives of the Strategy if we are to achieve our aim of delivering excellent and efficient customer service. We must continue our development and management of: Delivery channels Use of enabling IT Excellent service delivery Value for money Ensuring alignment It is equally important that we seek to achieve the right balance in terms of effort, timing and presentation. For example, offering a wide range of methods by which customers can access our services is of little value if our staff have not all been trained to deliver excellent customer service and access is not presented to the customer in a logical way. At this point in our continuing journey, our overall customer service strategy can be summarised as follows: We know (from consultation) that our customers want to contact us in ways that are convenient to them - using an increasing number of delivery channels. The only way we can understand and efficiently address our customers requirements is by continuing to use enabling IT and applying it across all delivery channels to provide a high quality joined-up service. It is vital that we continue to translate this into excellent service delivery by consulting with customers, creating a customer service culture, and training and developing our staff. At the same time, we must ensure that we prioritise and manage our investments, assets and revenues to deliver cost effective services which provide value for money. We can continue to maximise opportunities and realise synergies by ensuring alignment of our customer service strategy with relevant national, local and council strategies, projects and initiatives. These five components are illustrated in the diagram on the next page. By taking this approach, we will ensure that we build the right thing once and use it many times rather than building more or less the same thing (or conflicting things) many times.

17 7A Delivery channels 7A.1 Overview A delivery channel can be defined as a method by which customers can access our services. The main delivery channels which we have in place (or plan to develop) are categorised below: Face to face (the customer coming to a council location to access services) o Primary Customer Service Centres o Satellite Customer Service Centres Remote mediated (the customer dealing with a person but not face to face) o Contact Centre o Freephone o Video conferencing Self Service (the customer accessing services by themselves) o Internet / intranet o Digital TV o Kiosks Mobile Services (face to face but with the service taken to the customer)

18 7A.2 Our approach We need a co-ordinated and joined up approach for the development and use of delivery channels if we are to deliver real benefits to our customers in the form of improved service delivery and efficient use of resources. Otherwise there is a risk of a multitude of different services being delivered in an inconsistent way and to varying levels of quality. This requires that we move to a model where services are built around customer needs and not organisational structures. It means that we need to look at the end-to-end costs of delivering services to customers across multiple channels rather than take a silo snapshot view based on outdated and unrepresentative costs. A joined-up approach adds value for the customer and the council and delivers savings. For example, sharing a Customer Service Centre also means sharing the costs of building maintenance and upkeep, compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and health and safety legislation, security and facilities management and IT and telecommunications networks and equipment. It also develops a culture where behaviour is focused on the customer. A joined-up approach can also assist with issues such as fraud prevention, data protection and social inclusion. The move to join up services and seamless service delivery leads us to expect that intermediaries will play an increasingly important role. An intermediary can be defined as a third party service delivery provider (or even a different directorate). For example, a council may provide services on behalf of a voluntary sector organisation, or one directorate may provide services on behalf of another. The question to be addressed in each case is whether an intermediary can provide improved customer service and value for money for the services being delivered, based on an understanding of the customers needs. It should be noted that customers place importance on accessing local government services via a mix of delivery channels. This is supported by a survey by a leading industry consultancy (Gartner May 2001) which found that 73% of respondents attached great importance to the ability to access services through a variety of channels. The majority of respondents also indicated that they would be likely to use different channels for the same transaction, for example initial information via the internet, further details from a Contact Centre, and completion of the transaction in a Customer Service Centre. Experience from the private sector has shown that customers still want to use traditional delivery channels (e.g. face to face) to support them in using

19 automated channels and for more complex transactions. A portfolio of delivery channels will therefore be required into the medium term. The channel mix will change over time with increased acceptance of electronic channels and it is important to anticipate future tactical shifts within the Customer Service Strategy to reflect this. The role of providing strong community leadership can be effectively enhanced in a face to face environment such as a local Primary Customer Service Centre. We need to understand our customers requirements, preferences and abilities. An important part of this is identifying our different customer segments and how we need to respond to (or indeed can influence) their changing preferences in terms of the channels they use. We need to recognise that it is necessary to spend time building customers confidence and trust in using new delivery channels. This can mean publicity, reassurances about privacy and security, and access to sources of assistance. The council should have a common look and feel to help the customer access services as well as the same high standard of quality service across all the delivery channels. Finally, the council needs to lead the drive to social inclusion. This means ensuring that services are available through delivery channels where lack of skills or confidence and cost are not impediments to their use. 7A.3 Delivering the strategy 7A.3.1 Primary Customer Service Centres A major element of the council s Customer Service Strategy is the user-led development of a citywide network of six Primary Customer Service Centres. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 2. The aim of Primary Customer Service Centres is to provide communities across the city with a face-to-face facility that can provide a high quality, seamless and consistent approach to the delivery of council and other public services. We will make best use of staff and information technology to ensure that the majority of enquiries are resolved at first point of contact for the convenience of our customers. By November 2003 we had three Primary Customer Service Centres: Civic Centre (opened July 2000) East End interim centre (opened August 2003)

20 Outer West (opened November 2003) We will deliver four further Primary Customer Service Centres through the Newcastle and North Tyneside LIFT (Local Improvement Finance Trust) initiative: Phase 1 Kenton (summer 2005) Phase 2 Benwell, Gosforth and Shields Road (replacing the interim centre) by A.3.2 Satellite Customer Service Centres Supporting the Council s network of Primary Customer Service Centres is the development of Satellite Customer Service Centres. These will make best use of existing council and partner facilities which are accessible and in key neighbourhood centres across the city including libraries and Your Homes Newcastle offices. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 3. We currently have plans to open four Satellite Customer Service Centres: Walker (co-located with health care services, welfare rights and Your Homes Newcastle) mid 2005 High Heaton, Fenham and Fawdon (within refurbished branch libraries) from 2006/07 We are taking a co-ordinated and joined-up approach to developing these and further Satellite Customer Service Centres. Where we identify that there is a requirement for customer services at an existing location, we will review the requirements to understand if it should be staffed by customer service officers or whether access to services should be provided by technology such as freephones, video conferencing and the Internet. We will also undertake an analysis to understand the impact on the network of Primary and Satellite Customer Service Centres. 7A.3.3 Contact Centre The purpose of a contact centre is to handle many different types of customer contact (unlike a call centre which is limited to telephone calls). A contact centre will potentially handle telephone calls, fax, , instant messaging, text messaging, digital television, video conferencing and textphone (Minicom). More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 4. The development of the Contact Centre will reflect on and build upon the council s experience to date with call centres. It will consolidate services and use enabling technology to ensure a corporate and consistent high quality approach

21 to handling customer contacts. A roadmap is shown on the next page. A significant amount of planning and preparatory work has been completed. We are currently addressing accommodation and funding issues. The Contact Centre will initially focus on Revenues and Benefits but will quickly expand to offer a wide range of services for internal and external customers. It will ultimately mirror the range of services offered in the Customer Service Centres, our aim being to ensure equal access to services via all channels. 7A.3.4 Provision of mediated delivery channels freephone and video conferencing Many customers will access Contact Centre services from their own phones. However, we recognise that not everyone has a phone or can afford to make calls, and these people may also not be able to travel to Primary Customer Service Centres to access our full range of services. The drive towards social inclusion and equitable access requires us to provide the means for customers to access our services in a convenient way. We already use freephones and video conferencing and will continue to deploy these as appropriate in council and partner locations to provide customers with convenient ways to access our services. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 5.

22 7A.3.5 Self Service delivery channels The council has developed a number of self service delivery channels. These can be defined as ways for customers to access information and services by themselves without dealing directly with a member of staff. These complement, rather than replace, traditional methods. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 6. Our range of self service delivery channels currently comprises: Computers (Internet and intranet) Digital TV Kiosks Video Conferencing A project (E-government Phase 2) is underway to improve the quality and accessibility of our internet and intranet services. The council is also working to provide access to the internet through the provision of computers in Customer Service Centres and initiatives such as the People s Network (computers in libraries).

23 We have been working with the other Tyne and Wear councils to develop a digital TV service which is now available over Telewest, NTL and Sky. We have also worked together to establish a network of forty on-street information kiosks across Tyne and Wear. 7A.3.6 Mobile Services Mobile or outreach services can be defined as those which are taken out to customers who are unable or unwilling to access our services at Customer Service Centres. Mobile services may be provided in peoples homes or in a van or in a local community location. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 7. The council and partner organisations currently offer a number of mobile or outreach services which have tended to be developed in isolation. Going forward, we will seek to identify customers unable to access our services and consult with them in order to understand the range of services they need to access. We can then work as a council and with other organisations to provide appropriate bundles of services. 7B Use of enabling IT 7B.1 Overview The previous section discussed the delivery channels which we have established and/or plan to develop. However, delivery channels are of little use if an organisation lacks the technologies which provide the capability for it to understand customers and deliver high quality, joined-up and accessible services across these channels. Another way of viewing this is to see delivery channels as the building blocks and the enabling IT technologies as the tools we use to help deliver services to customers. We can identify a range of enabling IT tools which can help us across all of the delivery channels. Some of the key components are: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Corporate knowledge management / knowledge engine Core line of business systems Middleware Payment engine Document Management System (DMS)

24 Geographical Information System (GIS) Content management Portal development Smartcards 7B.2 Our approach It is important that customer requirements drive IT developments rather than IT developments determining how services are delivered to customers. This requires IT to be customer-focused and develop close relationships with departments dealing directly with customers. City Service brings IT and Customer Services together and this enables more effective demand-led IT development. See Appendix 0 for an outline of the functions within City Service. In addition, the restructure of IT to include a team of business consultants (or account managers) reflects an increased focus on aligning technology to customer requirements. We need to provide a consistent quality of service regardless of what delivery channel a customer chooses to use. This means that integration of enabling technologies and applications is key. 7B.3 Delivering the strategy 7B.3.1 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System helps us to understand our customers and provide high quality, joined up and consistent services across a range of delivery channels. Staff are helped by scripting within the system to resolve a wide range of straightforward transactions at first point of contact. We have implemented the Lagan Frontline CRM system in our Primary Customer Service Centres. In the future we will further expand the number of services offered through the CRM system in addition to developing the system for use in the Contact Centre and through other delivery channels. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 8.

25 7B.3.2 Corporate knowledge management / knowledge engine An organisation s ability to function efficiently and effectively depends on its ability to gather, manage and share information and its knowledge base. Technology is an important enabler and can provide mechanisms to harness and utilise information and experience through creation of a knowledge engine. A project has been established and work is underway to create a corporate knowledge engine which joins up information from various sources. This will be supported by a corporate knowledge management framework comprising policies and procedures for accessing and maintaining data and information. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 9. 7B.3.3 Core line of business systems Core systems are those that provide key business functionality e.g. Council Tax. In the past, many core systems have been developed around silo functionality rather than based on customer-focused requirements. The council s established vision is to move to a modern and efficient information and communications technology environment. We are buying new best of breed software packages off the shelf and implementing them with minimal customisation. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 10. 7B.3.4 Middleware Middleware is a general term for software that connects (or serves as the glue between) two or more otherwise separate applications. Introducing middleware into our technical architecture will enable us to manage integration much more efficiently on an ongoing basis. We are establishing a project to procure and implement the appropriate solution. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 11.

26 7B.3.5 Payment engine A payment engine can be defined as the technology and processes which enable customers to pay for services using different types of payment and across delivery channels. It also enables more efficient back-office processing and reconciliation of payments. We have established a project to modernise our ability to take and process payments from customers. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 12. 7B.3.6 Document Management System (DMS) A Document Management System is a system which manages the documentation received and handled by an organisation. Documents are scanned, indexed and stored electronically. The system incorporates a workflow function so that transactions and the relevant documents are directed to the appropriate member of staff and dealt with quickly and consistently. We are implementing a new Document Management System in Revenues & Benefits and Planning initially. However, we have procured a solution which can be grown to provide a solution across the council. This will contribute greatly to providing integrated and joined up services. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 13. 7B.3.7 Geographical Information System (GIS) A Geographical Information System (GIS) enables the storage, retrieval, mapping, and analysis of geographic data. It can help answer fundamental policy and service delivery questions relating to land, property, people and services. Future priorities will be driven out of the Corporate Knowledge Engine project. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 14.

27 7B.3.8 Content management Content management covers the creation, management, distribution and publishing of information, potentially across a range of delivery channels.. The council currently uses Lotus Notes for content management on the internet and intranet sites. The user interface is being improved and future content management system requirements will be considered in due course. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 15. 7B.3.9 Portal development A portal provides a single, centralised point of access for all content and services relevant to the audience. A portal may be accessed across multiple delivery channels (e.g. internet, kiosk and digital television). The council is involved in a number of portal projects. The council is participating in the development of the Tyne & Wear Community Service Portal which provides content to the on-street kiosks and digital TV service. (Please refer to section 67A.3.5). The council is also partnering to develop the newcastle.com Digital City portal. This is focused on small and medium sized enterprises. The E-Government Phase 2 project Building a world class portal is focused on improving the quality of and access to electronic services. Portals will be developed for customers, staff and specialised sub-groups within these larger groups. For example, a schools extranet will be created for school staff and community portals will be created for specific wards or communities of interest. More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 16. 7B.3.10 Smartcards A smartcard can hold multiple value added applications, and can provide convenient and secure access to electronic services over multiple delivery channels.

28 Newcastle City Council is the lead authority in the North East Regional Smartcard Consortium (NERSC). NERSC has implemented a number of smartcard pilots in schools and leisure. The current focus for NERSC is obtaining funding for the development of a regional platform of trusted services, needed to operate any identity management scheme, known as the Trusted Services Network (TSN). More information on the vision, progress to date and way forward can be found in Appendix 17. 7C Excellent service delivery 7C.1 Overview The two previous sections discussed the delivery channels and the enabling technologies that we can use to help us deliver joined up and accessible services. However, there is little value in having these components in place if we do not have the underpinning principles, people and processes in place and cannot follow through to provide excellent service delivery. There are a number of factors which contribute to excellent service delivery: Understanding customer demand, requirements and expectations o Customer segmentation o Managing demand life events, cyclical, latent o Managing expectations Culture Staff training, development and support Communications Consultation Performance management, change management and continual improvement Community leadership and social contribution 7C.2 Our approach Our starting point is understanding who our customers are and what services they need and want. We need to know when and how they want to access these services. We can use this information to put together bundles or clusters of services that we know are likely to be sought at the same time. This means we need to work together across the council and with partner organisations. For example, a high proportion of Your Homes Newcastle customers are entitled to claim Housing Benefit.

29 Customers benefit from accessing all the services they want at one convenient point. Previously they would have had to travel physically between locations, or by having their queries redirected. Understanding our customers helps us anticipate and manage the demand for our services. A culture of excellent customer service is required throughout the organisation. Everyone needs to recognise that they have customers (whether they are internal or external customers). The culture should reflect our desired behaviours and principles (please refer to section 5). Staff are our most important and valuable asset. We must continually train, develop and support staff to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver quality services and meet the expectations of our customers. We need to make sure that customers and staff are aware of the full range of our services. Targeted and effective external and internal communications is vital. An ongoing encompassing programme of consultation provides us with essential information and feedback. We need clear targets and a performance management framework to lead us into a cycle of ongoing change management and continual improvement. We can provide community leadership in service delivery, working in partnership to provide customers with joined-up and integrated services. Our locations and activities can become focal centres for regeneration and creation of community networks. 7C.3 Delivering the strategy 7C.3.1 Understanding customer demand, requirements and expectations This section outlines what we need to do to understand and manage customer demand, requirements and expectations. More information can be found in Appendix 18. Customer segmentation means analysing our customers and identifying groups

30 of individuals with similar requirements, preferences or competencies. We need to understand the bundles or clusters of services that customers will frequently want to access together. These can be driven by life events such as having a baby or moving home. We need to work across the council and in partnership with other organisations to meet the full range of requirements of our mutual customers Understanding the cyclical nature of demand helps us to anticipate the level of customer requirements over time and undertake the necessary capacity planning. We also need to take account of any latent demand which might be unlocked when we offer a new service. The proactive management of customer expectations is important if we are to satisfy customers. We must clearly convey what is to be delivered and when. 7C.3.2 Culture We can provide staff with the tools, skills and experience to provide excellent customer service but this is not enough. We need to create a culture of customer service throughout the council. In particular, everyone needs to recognise that they have customers (whether they are internal or external customers). We have produced a number of tools which are helping us to develop a culture of customer service excellence. These include the Customer Service Charter, Staff Charter and Customer Service Handbook for Staff. More information can be found in Appendix 19. 7C.3.3 Staff training, development and support Staff are the organisation's most important and valuable asset. The Council, in striving for continuous improvement in customer service, recognises and values the contribution that its staff makes in delivering quality services. Ensuring staff are well motivated and equipped with the right skills and knowledge is therefore an integral element of the Council s Customer Service Strategy. In 1998/99 it was recognised that as part of the Council s commitment to improving customer service there was a need to invest in a comprehensive training programme, which would not only provide a corporate approach to customer service but respond to the different needs of staff delivering services

31 across the organisation. A number of programmes were developed which have been continually reviewed and built upon in the last 3 or 4 years to now provide a comprehensive Customer Service Pathway programme for staff at all levels of the organisation (see Appendix 29). A corporate Customer Service Training Programme is now developed and delivered annually across all Directorates and monitored by the Council s Corporate Customer Service and Training and Development Teams on a regular basis. Within the Council s Corporate Training and Development budget an allocation is provided to assist Directorates annually to specifically deliver their Customer Service Training programmes. A corporate target for Customer Service Training has now been established as part of the portfolio balanced scorecard; our target being 20% of appropriate council staff to be trained in customer service annually. From 2004/05 each Directorate is required to develop an annual Customer Service Training plan which documents the number of staff to be trained, the courses required and it will identify the mandatory and optional training in customer service for specific staff. This will allow for better forward planning and cost projections on Customer Service Training in the future. It is important to maintain the momentum on Customer Service Training. It can be further embedded in the Council by including Customer Service Training in Service Plans and Personal Development Appraisals, and specifying training/qualifications in job specifications for key front line posts. 7C.3.4 Communications We need to tell customers about how they can access our services. It is important to be socially inclusive and so we need to identify hard to reach groups and communicate appropriately. Staff also need to be kept up to date with our services and facilities so they can provide the best possible customer service. By having a good understanding of our customers, and working across the council and with partner organisations, we can target our communications to be appropriately focused and efficient. A customer services communication and consultation framework and action plan has been produced and a variety of activities have been carried out or are in hand.

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