Industry voice: County council follows contact centre upgrade by using digital platform in early step to find savings on more business processes
Local authorities are like any public sector organisations in needing to develop a sharp focus on which of their customers require specific services, and ensuring that the interactions between them are carried out as smoothly as possible.
They face the demand of getting this right for a range of services, the success of which depends on fully exploiting a technology platform with sufficient capabilities.
Cambridgeshire County Council has begun to harness the CRM element in Microsoft Dynamics 365 to take on a series of demands, beginning with a service that comes around every five years for every local authority – the renewal of concessionary travel cards.
John Platten, the council’s digital strategy manager, says the issue was one of its pressing demands after it had upgraded its contact centre by implementing the CRM with the support of Pythagoras, a Microsoft Gold Partner that helps organisations to deliver business critical solutions across the platform.
He says the initial implementation began last year, was carried out successfully and established a strong working relationship that has provided the foundation for further developments in the system’s capabilities.
“Pythagoras worked with us on our implementation of Microsoft Dynamics 365, mainly supporting our in-house team as a ‘critical friend’, and helping with the configuration and development work where needed to ensure we met the tight timescale for the project,” he says.
“We were extremely pleased with how the arrangement worked, our in-house team learnt lots from the Pythagoras consultants/experts, and we actually went live with Dynamics 365 earlier than expected.”
The need to manage the renewal of concessionary cards more efficiently derived from the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme, which came into force in 2008 and requires that anyone eligible – largely senior citizens and disabled people – renews their eligibility every few years.
“We’re in a different place to when we did it the last time,” Platten says. “Last time about 25% did it online, but this time we wanted to be proactive in getting everyone possible to do it digitally.”
It has found the solution in the form of ClickDimensions, one of the plug-in tools available for the Dynamics 365 platform. It is one of the highest rated marketing solutions on Microsoft’s Dynamics Marketplace, providing functions such as email marketing, web intelligence, lead scoring and form capture.
Cambridgeshire has achieved the digital shift in its concessionary travel process by using just a handful of ClickDimensions’ functions, drawing on the information in the CRM to identify around 80,000 people to be contacted – by email, phone or post – and directing them towards renewing online.
There has been an extra barrier in the fact that the small print on expiring travel cards directs holders towards using a phone number, but over the first three months the council succeeded in increasing the proportion doing it online to close to 70%.
One of the main advantages of this has been that applicants have been able to upload their ID photo to the online form, which cuts out a significant amount of work for staff in receiving the picture, scanning and uploading it onto the system.
Platten says this has saved close to £10 per transaction, and with the council handling thousands of renewal applications this way it amounts to significant savings for a single process. It also promises more to come in taking a similar approach to other processes.
Six figure savings
“If a single campaign results in £20,000 of cashable savings, and we have instances of where else we can utilise these going forward, we only have to rack up five campaigns and we’re saving a six figure sum,” he says, adding that savings for a complete campaign are likely to be higher than the £20,000.
One of the benefits of Dynamics 365 is that it opens up a market of tools to support organisations in their digital transformations. Cambridgeshire took the first step with the upgrading of its contact centre, and is now looking at how it can use ClickDimensions and other plug-ins to support other interactions with the public.
This combines with the more familiar advantages of the platform in providing a single view of a customer with an improved interface – for themselves and council employees – which in turns provides a foundation for better transactions. Platten says this makes it a core element of the council’s transformation plans.
“It’s about placing the system at the heart of what we’re doing, and giving people a ‘digital front door’ that’s as easy to use as possible.
“We’ve refreshed our vision recently, and it’s about having tools such as Dynamics 365 at the heart of what we’re doing, with a single view of the customer for themselves and us internally, and to better identify ways we can talk to the customer. At the moment we have bits and pieces all over the place, and by unifying the customer records it will give us that opportunity.”
The next steps for Cambridgeshire are to look at its line of business IT systems and assess how it can better manage the customer records they provide on the Dynamics 365 platform, and to develop more website transactions and mobile apps to give its residents new options in interacting with the council.
It is relatively early days in the journey, but the success of the concessionary travel project demonstrates the potential of the CRM, especially when working with an expert partner such as Pythagoras, to improve processes and provide savings – which in the current climate is a necessity for any public authority.
Cambridgeshire’s experience so far is one of the small steps forward that ultimately lead to a more streamlined and cost-effective approach to delivering services.