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Using behavioural science to optimise all contact channels in local government

Hermione Regan

We recently had the pleasure of hosting a networking event bringing together representatives from eight authorities’ customer service centres. The focus of the event was on sharing improvement journeys towards optimising all contact channels, especially digital channels, sharing what worked and what didn’t. This critical interface between residents and councils is only set to become more important as local authorities support residents experiencing financial hardship over the coming months.

All attendees recognised the importance of maximising the use and ease of digital options to benefit customers and staff. This allows for greater flexibility and enables councils to respond more efficiently to resident needs in times of rising budgetary pressures. By encouraging and enabling residents to self-serve online, other channels can be kept open for vulnerable residents with the greatest need.

At IMPOWER, we believe that behavioural science can be applied in new and innovative ways to effectively manage customer contact demand, harnessing ‘nudge theory’ to encourage those who can go online to do so. There are five things to remember when using behavioural science:

  • Knowing your audience is essential. Many of the authorities we spoke to have invested in focus groups and developing customer personas to test changes against. Different resident groups will have different capabilities, opportunities and motivations for going online, and different preferences depending on what they are getting in contact for. Treating them all equally will result in a ‘one size fits no one’ approach.
  • Content is king. For residents to be effectively directed to the website, the website needs to be a single source of truth with up-to-date, relevant and well-ordered information. Before additional digital channels can be added, web content needs to optimised to ensure that it is not creating inadvertent additional failure demand.
  • Setting clear expectations will reduce demand. Proactively communicating with residents around when they can expect to hear back, and being upfront about processing delays, will reduce additional chasing. This can be done across all channels used to communicate with residents: via interactive voice response (IVR) on the telephony systems, through social media campaigns, in website copy, and in email and postal correspondence.
  • Getting the right measures of success in place. All too often, it is easier to focus on what is easier to measure, resulting in key performance indicators that are not useful to staff or managers. By ensuring that key performance indicators (KPIs) are relevant to each channel and measuring trends over time, a clearer picture of service demand and opportunities for improvement can emerge and more open conversations can be had with services.
  • Being proactive in signposting towards digital channels. Behavioural science tells us that people will do what is easiest and most appealing for them. Simple tweaks to existing web pages, letters and recorded messages that inform people of the benefits of going online, mention the numbers of people in their area who do so, and reduce the visibility of contact centre numbers or email addresses (or remove them altogether if the process can be completed digitally) can have huge impact.

If you want to find out more about how IMPOWER can support your organisation, get in touch.

Written by

Hermione Regan

Senior Consultant, IMPOWER

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