CASTLE Point Borough Council introduced a new customer contact system in October 2008.
In its first three months, the First Contact team dealt with over 23,000 enquiries, achieving an impressive 90 per cent satisfaction rate.
The new system is designed around the customer. First Contact advisers are highly trained and have information on a wide range of Castle Point Borough Council services, enabling them to answer a number of different questions in one call instead of passing the caller from department to department.
This leaflet is designed to explain how First Contact works, why it was set up and how the council hopes to continue its improvement.
Castle Point Borough Council provides services to around 90,000 residents, across four different towns.
The council has been improving since 2004, including improvements to its customer service culture. However the council believed it could be doing more to help residents access services and further improve customer satisfaction ratings. This desire to improve led to a strategic initiative being kicked off in 2007.
The council began work with its IT partner Steria, looking into the feasibility of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) approach. This showed that Castle Point would be able to improve its customer service levels with a new system of customer contact, which later became known as First Contact.
The council began by looking at the three departments dealing with customers the most - Revenues and Benefits, Planning and Environmental Health.
For each of these areas, a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) were developed with the help of staff members. This work showed that a large number of calls received by the council cover a relatively small number of different issues, often with quite simple answers.
These answers were entered on to a new software system - Lagans Enterprise Case Management – which could be accessed by the main reception staff and the customer services team.
This system was linked into existing software, so existing information could be retrieved. New information can also be logged into the system, making it easier and quicker for staff to access a customer’s history – and in turn helping the customer get a more relevant and rapid response.
This also ensures that residents get a consistent service, because whoever they speak to – whether in person, by email or over the telephone – will have access to the same information.
Results so far
The First Contact team is now able to deal with approximately 85 per cent of enquiries at the first point of contact, resulting in a much better service for residents.
The system also means that First Contact advisers are able to deal with enquiries without referring to staff in the back office. This frees up time, allowing staff to concentrate on delivering high quality services without interruption.
The answers to Frequently Asked Questions, which were developed for First Contact, are now open to anyone to view through www.castlepoint.gov.uk This means residents can choose whether to call up or to seek the answer for themselves online. It also has the advantage that, being online, answers can be found 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The First Contact team are also working closely with the borough’s libraries to develop and improve Community Information Points.
As part of this project, all four of Castle Point’s libraries have trained staff who can help residents access online services.
This means residents can make payments, report problems, access planning applications and much more without having to travel to the Council Offices in Thundersley – making the council’s services as easy to access as possible.
The aim of First Contact is to give customers the best possible service. So Castle Point will be listening carefully to feedback from the public on future improvement.
Current plans include:
• Incorporating the remaining service areas into First Contact, allowing advisers to deal with an even wider range of enquiries at the first point of contact
• Continued improvement of the website, making electronic access to information and services as simple and convenient as possible
Council Leader Pam Challis said: “First Contact is delivering a high quality and responsive service, which is improving the customer experience.
“We will continue improving the services on offer to make sure customers get the fast, accurate, consistent and helpful response they deserve.”
Strategic Director Devinia Board, added: “The enthusiasm and commitment shown by all of the staff involved and the Steria team has been magnificent.
“It has been such a smooth introduction, developing a service which reaps real benefits for our community. Our thanks go to everyone involved for making this fantastic service a reality.”