Agenda item

Customer Service Review

Report of Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Customer, Digital and Performance.



The Executive Member for Customer and Performance, Councillor Robinson was pleased to introduce to the Commission the report on the Customer Service Review that had taken place. The new structure would support the Council’s approved Customer Access Strategy and enable the Contact Centre to continue to work remotely and for the team to be fully supported in their day-to-day roles.


The Customer Experience Manager, Adele Newsome, explained the report in further detail stating that during Covid customers had been forced to contact the Council in different ways thereby accelerating channel shift. As part of the Covid response and recovery they had reviewed how the customer service had adapted and responded to the challenges, how they had changed the way they worked, what they had learned from this and how to adapt it for the future. To do this they felt that they would need to change the team structure and ways of working that would enable the team to effectively manage change in demand and optimize productivity. The new structure would create more leadership capacity and attract and retain high calibre staff.


The aim would be to make services available 24/7 through a variety of channels, improve the on-line experience by improving forms and using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a new Digital Assistant, which was hoped to be available from early 2022, yet still offer customers the opportunity to talk to or see an officer face to face if that was their preferred method. For customers who did not have access to, or struggled with online services, or struggled to contact during normal office hours, they would be supported with some dedicated evening appointments.


The Customer Experience Manager explained the proposed structure including a new senior lead role and allowed capacity for the lead roles to effectively and consistently manage performance. It was designed to encourage a culture of high performance and excellent customer service. It was felt that by creating more leadership capacity the service would be able to pro-actively support and provide a positive working environment.


Cllr Jermy asked about the AI and the costs for implementation and the flexibility built into the structure to cope with peak times during the year.


The customer Experience Manager said that she would get the full financial breakdown and provide this outside of the meeting. With regard to the flexibility, the support roles would not only assist the lead roles but would also support officers and be pulled to provide assistance to the Contact Centre Officer role to whichever channel showed peak and demand.


Cllr Birt suggested that the wording on page 13, paragraph 3.3 of the report was not clear – ‘residents would not always be able to talk to a person without delay’ and asked for clarity. He also asked for evidence that the AI was fit for purpose and how the Council could ensure it would be secure.


The Customer Experience Manager explained that the Service review was currently in two phases and was mainly focused around creating the senior leadership capacity to support the team to remain a remote working environment and provide the customer service. The AI savings were not currently within the review and this would be reviewed in the future. Additionally, work was still on-going with the Data Protection Officer to look at GDPR as well as options for storage of data or where possible no data being stored.


The Assistant Director for Customer and Performance, Jason Cole suggested it might be prudent to bring an item back to the Commission at a future date to discuss AI and security in more detail. It was agreed to include AI in the work programme for a future meeting.


Cllr Kiddle-Morris suggested Members should consider the finance set aside for AI working and that this should be included in the Risk Register.


Cllr Bushell asked if the Contact Centre staff were happy and fully supportive of the review and structure. Members were informed that the team were happy with the suggested new structure, particularly with remote working and the added senior role for support and felt it would also benefit residents. They were also working with staff around any issues and preferred times of working.


Cllr Jermy said a main selling point currently for the Contact Centre had been the amount of in-depth knowledge and the quality of the service once you got through to an officer and that it should be considered when moving to AI that this service was retained and welcomed the suggestion by the Assistant Direct for Customer and Performance to bring this item to a future meeting to investigate further.


The Chairman asked Members to indicate their opinions and whether they were supportive of adding a Risk Register item, specifically on the point previously mentioned of putting the AI Finance on the Risk Register. This was proposed by Cllr Wilkinson and seconded by Cllr Wickerson and Cllr Robinson agreed to take this forward.


Members of the Commission approved the implementation of the revised staffing structure for the Customer Services Team as detailed in the report.

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