Socitm briefing shows scope for councils to save through channel shift and improved handling of customer enquiries
Published Tuesday 29th May 12
Data published in the latest annual Customer Access Improvement Service briefing from local authority professional association Socitm shows the scope for councils to save money through more efficient handling of customer enquiries.
The briefing publishes data collected by Socitm Insight about customer enquiries for all types of services coming in to councils through different channels (principally phone, web, and face to face). The data was collected from around 200 councils during 2011.
The figures highlight the difference across participating councils in the average cost of servicing enquiries through the different channels. Based on cohorts of councils completing Channel Value Benchmarking (CVB) in 2011, costs are £8.62 per visit for face-to-face, £2.83 per call for phone, and £0.15 per visit to a council website.
These cost differentials, which have been similar for all Socitm CVB cohorts since the service started in 2009, underpin the opportunity for councils to save significant sums of money by 'channel shifting' enquiries from phone and face to face to the web and other self-service options.
The briefing points out that increasing 'self-service' is one of three main ways of reducing call and face-to-face volumes without reducing customer satisfaction, the others being more enquiries resolved first time and fewer 'avoidable contacts'.
The briefing also shows that these issues are all connected, by providing data on the volume (and cost) of avoidable contacts arising from failed web enquiries. These occur when people attempt self-service, but cannot resolve their issues online because information is missing or hard to find, or transactions cannot be completed.
Data from the Website take-up service, published in the briefing shows that in 2011 average web visit failure was more than 20% with another 20% failing to find part of what they were looking for. This level of average visit failure equates to between 19,000 and 37,000 unique visitors in single-tier (or county) councils failing to find what they are looking for. For the sector as a whole the total cost of 'web failure' is estimated at £21m per month or £252m for the year. Web failure is reducing, compared with 2010 figures, but the improvement, at 3.35%, is modest. The range of web failure is significant, with the best council averaging just over 11% and the worst, nearly 35%.
As well as reducing volumes of contacts, the briefing highlights scope to reduce the cost of servicing the higher cost-to-service enquiries coming in by phone and face to face. Data from the Channel Value Benchmarking service shows wide variation between similar councils in both the number of enquiries per head of population, and in the costs per head of population and as a percentage of the council's revenue budget. Among the councils in the 2011 cohorts, the highest number of face-to-face enquiries per head is more than three times higher than that in the lowest. For phone enquiries the highest is nearly four times higher than the lowest.
'The key to reducing the cost of handling customer enquiries is to focus on reducing volumes of phone and face-to-face contacts' says Martin Greenwood of Socitm Insight. 'But this can only be done by councils committed to a sustained, corporate-wide approach to the issue as we demonstrated in our 2011 publication Better served: customer access, efficiency and channel shift.'
'A key starting point is to collect customer access data across all channels and all main services, to identify priorities. The data then needs to be monitored, analysed and reviewed to see whether programmes are working. Collecting and monitoring customer contact data is a significant challenge, as Socitm's work on benchmarking in this area has shown, but it cannot be avoided if progress is to be made on channel shift', he said.
Customer Access Improvement Service Briefing Issue 6 is available now to Socitm Insight subscribers to download free of charge from the Socitm website www.socitm.net/downloads/download/546/customer_access_improvement_service_briefing_issue_6
Printed copies are available to non-subscribers and can be ordered from the Socitm website at the following prices: Socitm members who are not Insight subscribers: £65; other non-Insight subscribers: £75
There will be a half-yearly workshop for Website take-up service customers (non-customers welcome) on 15 June in Manchester. Further details at: www.socitm.net/events/event/283/
The launch workshop for Channel value benchmarking - Group 8 will be on 3 July in London. Deadline for applications to join the group is 27 June. Further details at: www.socitm.net/info/165/services/24/customer_access_improvement_service/3
Better served: customer access, efficiency and channel shift is a 96pp report, and can be downloaded from www.socitm.net free of charge by Socitm Insight subscribers. It costs £295 for others (£275 Socitm members) and can be ordered from www.socitm.net
Vicky Sargent, Socitm Press Office
Tel: 07726 601139 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Martin Greenwood, Programme Manager Socitm Insight
Tel: 01926 498703 email: email@example.com