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.

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Linking Information and Processes

Working with service provider and systems integrator Vangent Limited, we set out to examine solutions for automating client-service workflows. Beyond handling a variety of service requests, several other challenges became immediately apparent.

As is the case in most government organizations, our systems have evolved over time. That meant that any front-end system put in place would have to integrate seamlessly with multiple legacy systems, including our SAP ERP system and Oracle databases. Equally challenging, any system we deployed would have to be flexible enough to support future activities.

With Vangent, we devised an intranet-based system called One Touch, an application that links information and processes while meeting the borough’s need for flexibility. Integral to the success of One Touch was building a rich-client interface that ran in Adobe Flash Player, which was already installed on the desktop computers of customer service representatives. Taking advantage of Flash Player ensured that CSRs could review and capture information reliably on screen while talking with residents.

We outsourced some delivery of our services to Vangent, which staffs the Customer Service Call Centre and three One Stop Shops for face-to-face citizen meetings. The service model enables CSRs to quickly identify the types of services an applicant needs and complete the application process without requiring our IT managers to spend time and limited resources updating client software on employee desktops. Once entered, an applicant’s details are saved automatically to back-end systems and are combined with existing data to expedite processing.

In December 2007, the Vangent CSRs started using One Touch to handle citizen requests. Now, when calls come into the service center, CSRs determine the type and extent of services a citizen requires. If he or she needs multiple services or help with a complex application, a CSR routes the call to the One Touch team or uses our online scheduling system to arrange a follow-up meeting with a One Touch representative. The representative uses interactive PDF forms to enter a resident’s background information in order to initiate services.

The One Touch system helps my office identify “avoidable contact” as outlined in government initiative NI14, while enabling us to serve customers better and faster. Service requests that used to take a resident five calls to initiate can now be handled in one. In the case of housing benefit applications, forms that can take other local authorities up to 36 days to process can be completed by the One Touch staff in a day.

In just over a year, more than 20,000 service requests were handled through One Touch, with CSRs using the system for as many as 1,000 calls per month. What’s more, 74 percent of the citizens whose services were handled by the system received at least three services, instead of only the single service they thought they were entitled to receive. We’ve taken the government indicator of “avoid(ing) unnecessary contact” and converted it into better services for our customers.

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

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