Chorley Council in north-west England is one of three local authorities that have embarked on a radical project to transform service delivery to residents and businesses. Chorley is replacing its existing customer services management software with the Asidua Customer Contact Platform, which is built on the Microsoft Connected Government Framework. Although the rollout is in its early stages, the three councils expect to reduce staff by 20 full-time equivalents as manual processes are replaced by automated business workflows. The local authorities are on target to save around £2.6 million (U.S.$4.2 million) over four years—a major bonus in the current economic climate. They envisage further savings through using the Asidua solution, in line with government policy set by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.Situation
Chorley Council is a local authority in Lancashire, in the United Kingdom (U.K.), serving a population of 105,000 people. It is a top-performing council—recognised by the Audit Commission for making effective use of its data—that has received national recognition for delivering high-quality customer-centric services.
||Finally, we wanted to exceed the expectations of our customers by offering improved performance and responsiveness in the contact centre. We were also determined to provide greater opportunities for citizens to access services on a self-service basis.
Head of Customer, ICT and Transactional Services, Chorley Council
Chorley Council will soon be in an even stronger position to transform the delivery of public services. Working with two other local authorities, it is in the first stages of a far-reaching project to replace its current customer services software, creating more streamlined business processes. The key to this is the integration of front-office activity with the back office. This will not only result in greater efficiency and better customer service, but will also reduce the need to support some of the back-office software. The development comes at a time when local authorities in the U.K. are being urged to consider sharing back-office services to help cut costs, reduce waste, and increase efficiency.
Asim Khan, Head of Customer, ICT and Transactional Services, Chorley Council, says: “Chorley was at a cross roads. The cost of continuing to use the existing application was no longer sustainable or affordable for us unless we acquired specialist knowledge. To meet our budgetary challenges, we also needed to increase efficiency by reducing the number of systems related to front-line services. Finally, we wanted to exceed the expectations of our customers by offering improved performance and responsiveness in the contact centre. We were also determined to provide greater opportunities for citizens to access services on a self-service basis.”
Team Lancashire—15 Lancashire councils committed to working together—and the North West Improvement and Efficiency Board for the public sector are both supporting Chorley as the lead council for the customer services transformation project. The aim across the three councils—Chorley, Blackburn and Darwen, and Rossendale—is to achieve a reduction of 20 full-time equivalent staff, and a significant reduction in operating costs. Solution
Chorley Council—the first of the three to go ahead with the customer services transformation project—considered several alternatives to Microsoft. It eventually chose the Asidua Customer Contact Platform (CCP) built on the Microsoft Connected Government Framework (CGF) because it presented the best value for money.
Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and systems integrator Asidua is playing the key role in achieving major operational savings, delivering customer-centric services, and supporting more shared services between councils. The Asidua implementation of CGF uses key Microsoft technologies such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the latest Microsoft SharePoint technology, Microsoft Silverlight, the Microsoft .NET Framework, and Microsoft SQL Server data management software to deliver efficient integrated business processes. Specific features of the Asidua solution will include:
The Asidua CCP Internet Portal—built using Microsoft SharePoint Server and Microsoft Office InfoPath technologies to help citizens access council services through an intuitive interface. It uses features such as geographic information system mapping, citizen accounts, online payments, and social media to deliver the best self-service experience.
The Asidua CCP Desktop—built using Microsoft Dynamics CRM and user interface integration, it delivers unified smart desktop workflow, dynamic information access, and case work and master data management to customer service agents in Chorley alone.
The Asidua CCP CRM—provides an implementation of Microsoft Dynamics CRM customised for local authorities, including extensions to deliver key services such as waste and street-care services. This has cut the need for separate back-office systems at Chorley Council.
Steve Sheppard, Managing Director, Asidua, says: “It was important that the solution delivered major efficiency and customer experience improvements across services delivered by these councils. To do this, we looked at all business processes—from initial customer contact to final service delivery. With its willingness to transform how the council deliver services, Chorley was the lead council, helping us work together to implement a solution.” Benefits
Chorley Council is in the forefront of customer-centric service delivery with the Asidua Customer Contact Platform built on the Microsoft Connected Government Framework. The council estimates that it will make savings, together with its partner local authorities, of around £2.6 million over four years—a major bonus in the current economic climate. The solution ensures that the councils can maximise the reuse of current assets and consider more shared services in future.
Councils Save Around £2.6 Million Over the First Four Years
||Customer service requests—whether they come through to the call centre or one-stop shop—can now route directly to mobile devices in the field.
Managing Director, Asidua
The Asidua Customer Contact Platform is still in its early stages of rollout, but is on target to achieve around £2.6 million savings across the three councils during the first four years. Khan says: “As more automated business processes are introduced, we’ll need fewer back-office staff, resulting in staff reductions of 20 full-time equivalents. All local authorities are under pressure to cut costs and increase efficiency, and the Asidua solution is already making a huge contribution to meeting budgetary targets for Chorley.”
Sheppard says: “The solution is central to how the council provides services. It directly supports customer contact and service delivery through the contact centre, one-stop shop, and self-service portal. CCP has also cut the need for a separate back-office system for the waste and street-care services, delivering improved capabilities to the council back-office teams and third-party suppliers, such as Veolia, which provides waste management services for Chorley.”
Integration Gives Customers and Council Officers Dynamic Access to Data
In challenging economic times, local councils need customer service solutions that are fast to implement, flexible, and affordable. Sheppard says: “Integration has also helped to join up service delivery. Customer service requests—whether they come through to the call centre or one-stop shop—can now route directly to mobile devices in the field. This has avoided rekeying of information and manual handling, ensuring greater accuracy and immediacy of response.”
Managers Gain Better Insights into Service Performance
The performance and responsiveness of local authorities needs constant monitoring to satisfy the demands of citizens and elected members. In the past, this depended on manually created reports that were often out of date by the time they reached managers or councillors.
Sheppard says: “Management information is now gathered and recorded within Microsoft SQL Server. In addition, the power of Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services helps ensure that business reporting within Microsoft Silverlight delivers real-time graphical dashboards.”
Automated Responses Help Customers Track Service Requests
The burden of calls to the contact centre is on course to meet its 20 per cent reduction target because agents use text and email messages to keep customers informed about the progress of service requests. Khan says: “By using these channels of communication, we can significantly reduce unnecessary customer status calls and demonstrate greater efficiency and responsiveness. Agents can now concentrate on more complex service requests where personal interaction is required.”
Asidua Platform Paves the Way for Expansion of Shared Services
Chorley Council and its two partners will have a reliable technology platform on which to cooperate with shared services in the future. Khan is adamant that this would have been impossible with the previous customer services system. “The future for local government is in shared services—it’s a highly effective way of reducing costs,” he says. “Now, Chorley is in a strong position to explore this further. Without the Asidua platform running on Microsoft CGF, this would not be on the agenda.”Microsoft Server Product Portfolio
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