Aylesbury Vale District Council has reduced calls from the public to a range of its services by 22% with the launch of a new website and platform, part of its wide efficiency programme to automate services and introduce more digital self-service.
The council’s transformation programme has seen the relaunch of its website and the introduction of an IT platform to automate processes and deliver digital services more efficiently, save money and improve customer experience.
“We have started with the website, and are building a platform with a customer portal and using APIs to link to back office systems to automate as many transactions as possible” said Jim Dickson, IT & Business Project Manager.
The mobile-responsive website was built according to the results of resident testing workshops and open standards (“so we’re not handcuffed to a supplier,” said Dickson). Since launch, it has since seen a 33% reduction in calls to waste services alone.
Aylesbury Vale District Council is located in a largely rural area of around 80,000 households and many residents used to come in to the council office when they had a query. “We’re trying to get people off the phone or use webchat,” said Dickson.
To answer the call, the council’s recently launched cloud-based Salesforce IT platform will enable the digital delivery of several services through application programme interfaces (APIs): single person’s Council Tax discount, Council Tax, Business Rates services, taxi driver licensing and garden waste collection, including the ability to fill in forms, and set up a direct debit and pay directly online.
The council now claims to be ‘cloud only,’ apart from its Revenues & Benefits system, with 80% of its server environment hosted in Amazon Web Services and organisational use of Office365 for email.
“We’ve been operating in a departmental manner. Historically we’ve been very siloed. If you had a Council Tax query, you’d call the Council Tax department. With the platform, it files a single customer record and cuts across barriers,” he told Local Digital.
Now, a new multi-disciplinary Customer Fulfilment team helps customers who contact the council to “break internal silos,” said Dickson.
“This means that the customer doesn’t have to know who to contact. We realised that this was how we used to operate. They simply call and their question will be answered, and they will be assisted in transacting on the web wherever possible.”
The council aims to improve communication via the platform by using it to broadcast messages to residents if there are changes or disruptions to services. For example, if an area has not had its bins collected, the council can easily send a single message to multiple affected households in the medium of residents’ choice.
Dickson said the organisation also aims to save £455,000 by implementing more up-to-date digital forms to open and update claims. The move follows research that found of the 50 forms available on the council’s website, 73% related to just two services, Revenues and Benefits and Waste Management. The new ‘intelligent’ forms have since seen an increase in take-up of around 300%.
The council has other strands to its digital transformation programme. By signing up for a new personal online account, residents can also choose online billing to cut down on traditional and costly postal communication. There are also plans to save money by removing IT licences and software support costs.
“In a year’s time we want to win awards,” said Dickson.