Members gave consideration to a report which presented the Customer First Programme – Strategy, Ethos and Transformational Journey, for endorsement.
In presenting the report Officers explained that the Council faced twin pressures to continually improve the services it offers to residents, businesses and visitors whilst at the same time trying to reduce its costs as budgets become tighter. In order to do this it was proposed that two principal methods were adopted. Firstly, that the council transformed the services which dealt directly with customers so that they put the customer at the heart of everything the Council did (the “customer centric organisation”) and secondly, where appropriate, it utilised technology to improve the overall speed and accuracy of the service the customer received at a cost that was sustainable and affordable in the long term.
This would be a major transformation programme and had the potential to deliver significant savings over the long term as well as greatly increase the levels of customer satisfaction with the Council.
Technology alone would not deliver the changes required, and work would be undertaken to address the culture of the organisation, including increased Leadership around the importance of the customer and investing in staff training. A clear understanding of what the customer wanted would be established through the Customer Insight work being undertaken, and processes would be re-designed based on customer requirements.
Customers receiving consistent service delivery, every time they contacted the Council, regardless of how they made contact was also important. Comments, Compliments and Complaints received would be made greater use of as a learning tool and used to improve processes.
Debate ensued and in responding to a Member’s comments all were in agreement that communication was key. The Strategy which sat behind the Executive Summary contained much more detail. Establishing regular communication points was a strategy to be employed and would avoid customers having to re-contact the Council for an update.
Members welcomed the Strategy and in doing so welcomed the fact that customers would be at the heart of service delivery. It was commented that currently this was not the case for all teams across the board.
The need to include Elected Members in their Ward Councillor capacity and capture the information they gained and enquiries they dealt with was accepted and could be built into the Strategy as part of phase 3. The technological solutions would also assist with this.
In responding to Member’s comments regarding ensuring Council priorities aligned with Customer priorities and that consultation on any matter was undertaken in a meaningful way, Officers advised that a lot of work had been undertaken through the Customer Insight programme and data collected directly from the customer as to how they would wish to receive a service. Staff’s operation and delivery knowledge had also been utilised to redesign processes but with the customer at the heart. It was accepted that historically processes had been set around a service’s priorities, they were now being designed around the customer’s priorities using the information gained directly from them and long term would result in better engagement all round.
The setting of Council priorities in the wider sense, was established through the Corporate Plan. The ways in which Elected Members could engage in its development and raise community priorities was outlined.
In response to further comments Officers confirmed no additional permanent staff would be required to deliver the programme, but staff would be utilised in a more efficient and effective way. Homeworking for customer service staff, and web based on-line chat systems, regardless of location were being considered and investigated. The website was due for renewal over the next two years and it was intended to establish a customer focus group to assist with this, ensuring pages were logical to navigate and contained information relevant to the customer in a style and language that met their needs.
The Government had recently announced it would be establishing a Digital Enabling Fund to help Local Authorities finance such initiatives, this would be by way of bids and all digital services established needed to demonstrate they meet the customers’ needs rather than the authority’s, customer engagement was a national focus too.
RESOLVED that: -
(a) having reviewed and analysed the Customer First Programme, the programme be endorsed; and
(b) regular updates on the progress with the implementation of the programme be received by the Committee every six months.