One-Stop Service for Citizens

By Dominic Cain  |  Posted 2009-09-29 Print this article Print

To provide better, faster service to its residents, Southwark automated its client-service workflows.

Every year, the London Borough of Southwark receives more than two million service requests from its 256,000 residents and offers more than 230 services to citizens. The former paper-based system was slow and time-consuming, and the borough wanted to give its staff a more automated, reliable approach with which to evaluate resident needs and fulfill requests.

Dominic Cain, head of client services, worked with a systems integrator to devise an intranet-based system called One Touch, an application that links information and processes while meeting the borough’s need for flexibility. The system now provides Southwark citizens with fast access to the critical services they need.

As head of client services for the London Borough of Southwark, I regularly face the challenge of providing more people with access to more services, often with limited resources. Managers at governmental organizations around the world recognize this dilemma—and, in today’s economic climate, so do corporate executives.

With more than 256,000 residents in our borough, my actual day-to-day responsibilities are broad. The U.K. central government is driving an efficiency agenda and recently introduced a national indicator, NI14, for “avoidable contact.”

This doesn’t suggest that we avoid serving customers, but it does urge local authorities to reduce “failure demand”: customers contacting us more than once about the same issue. The indicator encourages agencies to find ways to offer multiple services at the initial point of contact, either by developing technological solutions that empower front-office staff or through further development of online and self-service solutions.

Each year, our borough receives more than two million service requests from the area’s residents, some as simple as requests for library cards, voter registration and parking permits. But we also help to satisfy more complicated requests for social, housing and employment assistance. In total, we provide citizens with more than 230 services. In some cases, it makes sense to put materials online and ask citizens to serve themselves. However, this approach doesn’t address the need to deliver our borough’s more complex services.

Southwark manages one of the U.K.’s largest housing assistance programs and also supports extensive employment and social services. Each year, more than 40,000 residents move in or out of Southwark, creating high demand for new or changed services. In addition, longer-term residents continue to seek out new services. Applying for benefits-related services can be complicated, since a standard public assistance application is 45 pages long.

When we relied on manual, paper-based processes to capture customer information and complete forms, errors on forms delayed processing, or clients might have provided inconsistent information when applying for multiple services. We wanted to give our staff a more automated, reliable approach with which to evaluate resident needs and fulfill requests.

Dominic Cain is the head of client services for the London Borough of Southwark.

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