Tewkesbury puts its customers in control

By Graeme Simpson | 02 December 2020

For a small council, we’ve got a lot going on – we’re the fastest growing district outside of London, and with growth comes more demand on our services. More and more of our customers want to interact with us online, and while our digital offering was acceptable, we wanted to push it further. We want our customers to have the very best online experience – something they already enjoy when dealing with big retailers and banks.

Added to this, the current pandemic means the pressure for us to deliver well online continues to grow. Our transformation team is ambitious, energetic and keen to try new things – and our decision to invest in a new digital platform is a sign of their enthusiasm to ensure Tewkesbury BC’s customers get the best council experience.

Our residents can already pay their council tax, sign up for our garden waste service, report missed bins, complain about noise…but not only do we want to add to this (with paperless billing, online bulky waste, antisocial behaviour, planning and licensing), we also want to improve the customers’ experience.

We want a customer to feel in control of their requests and interactions. The processes behind the scenes need to be as simple as possible and integrate into our back office systems – so, if a customer needs to report a missed bin, they can, but they will also be given options for real-time updates and status reports, including what action has been taken as a result of the missed bin.

Behind the scenes, the platform will allow our contractors to manage their missed bin process more easily and more transparently, and the ability to pull off easy-to-interpret reports will mean we can review the service to ensure it’s shaped around customer demand, expectation and available resource.

As part of our procurement process, we carried out a lot of market research. We were quite clear on what we wanted from a digital platform, and Liberty Create hit the mark for us. Its excellent reputation for providing technological solutions for businesses so they can interact more easily with their customers was a big pull.

We haven’t had to invest in a development team to deliver this. Because the platform is low-code, we are able to create applications quickly and easily, and then refine and improve them on an ongoing basis so we can meet the ever-evolving needs of our customers. If we introduce a particular process to the platform and then realise we need to add additional functionality to improve it, Liberty will allow us to do this quickly and simply.

Because of this, our new platform will be noticeably more user-friendly and faster, with simple online forms which integrate into our existing systems or are sent to our services for action, and automated messages informing customers of status updates.

Our technical team (one lead digital officer, one digital developer, one web and digital officer and a part-time business analyst) can deliver the entire technical side. The technical team is also greatly supported by two project management specialists, and together they form our Business Transformation team.

An example of how a particular service will be improved is that currently our bulky waste removal system requires customers to phone our customer services team to book an appointment. Our new digital platform will allow customers to book a time slot online whenever is convenient, and automated communications will keep them updated throughout the process – from when the booking is confirmed, when the items have been collected, and if there are any issues causing delays. We also want our customers to be able to amend their bookings online.

Liberty Create will also change how we work with our contractors. For example, it will allow real-time updates about missed collections. Using the platform, crews will be able to update their rounds on the go, and will know immediately if any missed collections need to be responded to. Currently, we would need to wait until the end of the day to receive reports on any missed collections that need to be dealt with – something that’s frustrating for our customer services team and our customers.

In terms of when our new digital platform will be launched, our business transformation team is working hard to get our existing online offering off our current platform and onto our new one. As part of this work, we’re going through each process to make sure it works for the customer and for our business need. This work will be completed by April 2021. Following that, we’ll be introducing new online services such as paperless billing, online cemeteries, and planning admin processes. We’re excited!

Graeme Simpson is head of corporate services at Tewkesbury BC

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