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Why investing in technology is essential for customer service within local government

Customer service within local government remains a priority as councils aim to meet the changing needs of their citizens. However, data from the Local Government Association suggests that councils will need to spend an additional £2.6 billion per year just to maintain services at their current level of accessibility and quality.

This enormous funding shortfall potentially impacts everything that local authorities do. However, it cannot deflect from the need to focus on customer service. Ultimately, councils are there to serve the public. If they don’t meet expectations, it undermines their entire reason for existence. That means that investing in customer service technology is vital, enabling councils to reduce costs, increase efficiency and strengthen public trust.

The key issues impacting local councils

Local councils play a critical role in people’s lives. However, budget constraints, limited resources, and outdated technology often lead to slow, disjointed, poor service.

At the same time, today’s local authorities are grappling with six key challenges:

  1. Doing more with scarce resources
  2. Addressing technology barriers that prevent effective operations
  3. Delivering a compelling experience across a wide range of services
  4. Meeting customer needs in multiple languages
  5. Becoming more sustainable
  6. Complying with regulations such as the GDPR, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOI)

Five ways that technology investment increases efficiency and improves service

To optimise budgets for customer service technology local authorities should focus on these five key areas:

1. Going omnichannel

People today prefer to interact with companies and organisations digitally and through mobile channels. It is crucial to provide them with this choice and convenience, particularly as it is more efficient and cost effective for councils. Therefore, prioritising on omnichannel strategies can help drive savings and improve citizen satisfaction.

2. Embracing automation

Automation and AI can make service processes seamless for customers while increasing efficiency for councils. For example, whether paying council tax bills or registering for services it’s easier for citizens to do it online or via IVR than by post or telephone. It’s also cheaper for local authorities. Moreover, AI-powered automation helps simplify the agent’s role by enabling automated translation and automated wrap-ups after calls have been completed.

 3. Moving to the cloud

Switching to Cloud Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) platforms frees local authorities from paying for, installing, and maintaining their own hardware. It also means they can replace software licences with a single monthly bill, paying only for what they use. There’s additional flexibility because it’s easier to scale cloud capacity up or down to meet demand.  For agents the cloud enables access to applications from anywhere, fitting in with the increase in hybrid working.

4. Rolling out self-service

Embracing self-service technology will empower citizens to effortlessly find answers to queries themselves. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it also helps cut costs by reducing calls coming into the contact centre. This frees up agents to focus on more complex queries. Ideally, local councils should provide self-service through their websites, chatbots and via IVR. For consistency and efficient management implement a single knowledge base to underpin all channels.

 5. Integrating disparate systems

Nearly half (45%) of public sector organisations surveyed by ContactBabel admit that their agents spend more than 30% of their time moving between different applications and screens. This slows performance and frustrates agents and customers.

Integrating solutions, rolling out unified desktop technology and increasing collaboration through Microsoft Teams is therefore a win-win for councils. Agents have a better experience, can work seamlessly with colleagues and efficiency increases. All of this results in a better experience for customers, boosting satisfaction.

Today local authorities face multiple challenges, especially around tightening budgets. This is exactly why they need to invest in customer service technology. Not only will it provide ROI by increasing efficiency and cutting costs, but it will also help them meet changing customer needs. Find out more about how to transform local government customer service in our new guide “Transforming Local Government Customer Service Technology for the Digital Age”.