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East Hampshire plans commercial push with CRM



District council aims to use customer relationship management system to raise revenue in campaign for zero council tax

East Hampshire District Council is planning to use a new customer relationship management system (CRM) for commercial operations aimed at raising revenue to replace the need for its share of council tax.

It has taken on CRM consultancy Optevia to support its use of a Microsoft Dynamics system as part of its strategy to become “council tax free” by 2024.

The council also plans to use the CRM in a more targeted personalisation of services to ensure they will be delivered when and where they are needed.

East Hampshire currently takes 9% of the council tax it collects, passing on the rest to other local public authorities, and is aiming to reduce the figure to zero. Dawn Adey, the council's head of research and marketing, told UKAuthority the CRM will contribute to this by cultivating fresh areas of revenue.

“One of the unique things we want to do with MyAccount (the council's online customer account) is to push and sell on it, as well as pull people in and let them access their accounts,” she said. “We want to use the CRM like a retailer would and pull from it what our customers are doing, when they're doing it, what processes they're finding easy, and East Hants has a strategy to generate income, but not by charging for statutory services.”

Music precedent

She said there is already an example in selling ticket for a music festival it stages, but that it could go further into areas such as obtaining commercial sponsorship for targeted messages to groups of its residents. This could be for purposes such as providing advice on flood protection for those who live in the relevant areas.

“We want to use the marketing side of (the CRM) with a vengeance, and the Microsoft product with its background in being used as a commercial CRM, not just for efficiency, was attractive to us. Optevia understanding that and how important the marketing is was one of the key reasons for us choosing them as preferred supplier.”

Adey acknowledged that the council will have to pay careful attention to the legal restraints, but said it has a good idea what products and services would provide benefits.

“It gives us a strong ability to reach people with the right message at the right time,” she said.

She added that the full details of the strategy will take time to work out, although another possible strand is for the sale of advertisements on relevant pages of its website.

East Hampshire is also developing an online customer account, My East Hants, to run alongside the My Hants account provided by the county council. It will apply to the services offered by the district council as part of its channel shift programme, which is aimed at getting more people to deal with it online rather than by phone or face-to-face.

The first to be shifted to the new channel will be complaints, freedom of information requests and the Rural AreasPlay Project, followed by pest control and planning.

Agile approach

“We're aiming to have a good offer for customers by autumn of this year,” Adey said. “We're going to launch with a few products then iterate, taking an agile approach. We'll keep adding for at least a couple of years.”

The move towards greater use of online services is designed to release resources and use the CRM to focus them more on where they are needed.

“All of the data we have points to our local residents wanting more services to be available online,” she said. “Our website analytics show that we have more contact from London IP addresses during the day than we do from within our district."

She said the council is aiming to reduce face to face and telephone contact to free up resources and give staff more time with people in more need of its help.

Picture from Flickr, Public Domain Mark 1.0

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