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Agenda item

Customer Experience Strategy

Report of the Director of Human Resources and Customer Services



The Committee received a report of the Director of Human Resources and Customer Services on the Customer Experience Strategy, which focused on delivering the part of the Council’s Corporate Plan which refers to the Council being ‘an in-touch organisation’, and set out the Council’s intentions and direction to achieve an improved customer experience.




The report was supported by a presentation from Tina Keyworth, Business Change Practice Manager, and Sue Palfreyman, Head of Customer Services. 




Ms Keyworth reported on the aims of the Customer Experience Programme, the key aim of which was to help the Council become ‘an in-touch organisation’, which would help the Council deliver a consistent customer service, and making it easier for customers to access the various Council Services, using more up to date means, such as smartphones and other similar devices.  Reference was made to the background in terms of the need for a new Strategy, together with the progress made to date.  Ms Keyworth reported on the reasons for change, referring to the current elements of the Programme, together with feedback from customers.  At this point, Members were shown a video clip of a Sheffield resident trying to perform a task on the Council’s website, which highlighted some of the difficulties currently facing customers when trying to find information on the Council’s website.  Ms Keyworth referred to a specific example where improvements had been made to the Council’s systems in terms of members of the public registering deaths.  Members viewed a further video highlighting the benefits of the new service to register a death – “Tell Us Once”, which had gone live in July, 2016, where the Head of Adults Social Care Access talked about the benefits of the new service to both the families of individuals and to service providers, in terms of both resources and efficiency.  Reference was also made to proposed changes to the process for applying for residents parking permits, which it was hoped would go live in the new year. 




Sue Palfreyman reported on the process with regard to embedding the Strategy, referring to a new set of commitments which would replace the Council’s existing Customer Service Charter, and concluded by referring to the consultation on the new Strategy, which would take place during December 2016 and January 2017.




Members of the Committee raised questions and the following responses were provided:-




·                A considerable level of research had been undertaken in connection with looking at a new design for the Council’s website, which had included engaging a specialist organisation to undertake this piece of work.  As part of this work, a number of different Government websites had been reviewed.  This had included, the main Government website, which was considered, by some, to be one of the clearest and simplest websites to use.  As part of this work, officers had also looked at the clear principles for designing public service websites, provided by the Government Digital Service – clear, simple and focused. 




·                It had been decided to use the term customer, as opposed to another term, such as citizen, as customer was deemed more holistic in that the Council was there to assist everyone.




·                It was still the intention to keep all the usual access channels open for those people who either did not have on-line services, or chose not to contact the Council in this way.  As more and more people were using on-line services, this provided the Council with more capacity to operate, and assist customers using the other access channels. 




·                It was accepted that the wording in terms of the new set of commitments, which would replace the Customer Charter, was fairly similar.  This document was more about making a public statement rather than specifics in terms of its wording.  It was also considered important that the language of the document was refreshed every few years in order to remind both new, and existing, staff of the Council’s commitment to customer service.




·                Around 300 on-line responses had been received as part of the consultation, which officers were pleased with, and which provided a representative sample of the City’s population, as well as a good baseline in order to make improvements.




·                Customers would still be able to call into Howden House and speak to a Council officer if they chose to do so.




·                Whilst there would be initial costs in terms of the redesign of the website, it was considered that the improvements made, together with an expected increase in the number of customers using the on-line services following the improvements, would result in savings being made in the long-term.




·                There was a need to manage expectations in terms of the redesign of the website, as well as ensuring that there were clear messages with regard to exactly what was going to happen, and why.  It was appreciated that not all the improvements will be visible from day one, with the majority of the improvements being visible over time.




·                Officers would ensure that the recorded message used on the telephone service was user-friendly.  Every effort was always made to ensure that telephone enquiries were either resolved, or action was taken to start resolving the issue raised.  One method used to save customers waiting on the phone would be including a recorded message, indicating that they could leave a message, and an officer would ring them back.




·                As part of the redesign of the website, one of the planned improvements was to limit the number of clicks required by a customer when trying to find what they were looking for.




·                In terms of timescales for the redesign of the website, whilst it was accepted that it would be a major piece of work, specifically in the light of the number of pages of content on the website, and the fact that the last time it was updated was 2010, considerable progress had been made to date, and it was hoped that improvements would start to be made from April 2017.  It was still envisaged, however, that work would continue after this date in terms of improving the Council’s on-line services.




·                Work in terms of publicising the proposed improvements would commence early in the new year, with increased publicity prior to the launch.




·                There was a robust testing regime in place in order to ensure, as far as possible, that the proposed changes to the website will be successful. There was now more capacity, in terms of personnel, working on the planned improvements and redesign.  If it was found that something wasn’t, or wouldn’t work, it would not go live on the website. 




RESOLVED: That the Committee:-




(a)       notes the contents of the report now submitted, together with the information reported as part of the presentation, and the responses to the questions raised;




(b)       welcomes the Customer Experience Strategy, as detailed in the report now submitted, particularly that element regarding the redesign of the Council website, and requests that officers note the points and suggestions now made; and




(c)        thanks Sue Palfreyman and Tina Keyworth for attending the meeting, and responding to the questions raised.


Supporting documents: