Agenda item

Local Government Reorganisation - Customer Overview


Considered – A presentation by Theresa Dykstra, Senior Project Manager, into the work undertaken towards the new unitary council as part of the Customer LGR workstream.


Some of the key points highlighted in the report are as summarised below:


·       One of the defined customer principles is that the experience for citizens will be at least as good across the three primary contact channels (phone, face to face and web) on day 1 and where possible it will be better.

·       Work on establishing the ‘One Front Door’ approach for the new council is ongoing. It is hoped that the customer experience will not change and be as seamless as possible. Under the new authority, one of the key assumptions is that customer services will be delivered by the same staff teams, in the same locations as currently and using the same IT systems. This has been made clear at an early stage to give assurance to those staff affected.

·       It is expected that a single website will be created, to replace the current eight sites with a new design. The content from the district and borough council websites needs to be migrated across so that it looks and feels like one organisation. As part of this migration process, content is being reviewed as it is moved across. It is also hoped to make more use of chatbots as part of the single website, as well as ensuring that website accessibility requirements for public sector bodies are met.

·       A single phone number is also key, with the use of a natural language Interactive Voice Solution (IVR) is under consideration. This automated telephony system is able to intelligently direct queries to the appropriate team. However, a safety net staff team will be in place, particularly on day 1 and during the first few months, to act as a fall back for any calls where they cannot be directed correctly, to avoid any poor customer service complaints.

·       The key main customer access points at the district and borough council offices will remain as they are. It is hoped that these access points will rebranded by day 1 but this may not be possible. There is a concern of a person walking into a customer access point in one part of North Yorkshire and requesting information or asking a question regarding a service provided by another district or borough in the county. This is likely to lead to training implications to bring all staff up to speed with what is going on in the other district and boroughs. It is also planned to align the opening times across all of the customer access points to try and ensure consistency across the main access points.

·       In order the avoid situations like the example above, it was noted that one of the key early transformation projects that needs to be ready for day 1 is the creation of a location search tool for users to be able to select/choose their location to ensure that they are provided with the correct information for where they live.


There followed a discussion with the key points as summarised below:


·       It was suggested that the new website and automated telephony system should be in place at least a week ahead of day 1 to ensure it is robustly tested and working properly, as there would be significant reputational damage if there are issues. A glide path approach was suggested to introducing new systems ahead of day 1, rather than going live for the first time on 1 April 2023.

·       It was raised whether ‘customers’ was the correct terminology given there was no element of choice for residents in North Yorkshire choosing a local authority from 1 April 2023.

·       It was asked whether the customer service teams currently working on the frontline across the districts and boroughs were to be given the opportunity to suggest service improvements. It was confirmed this was taking place through workshops with customer service team managers. It was felt that front line staff had lots of good ideas for service improvement and that these needed capturing through consultation with the local teams by those involved in setting up the new unitary authority.

·       The aging population in North Yorkshire was highlighted and the ability of elderly residents to be able to easily access services online as part of the new single website. In particular, the need to be signposted and helped to find the right content to answer their queries. It was comforting to note that the existing phone numbers and website links for the district and borough councils will continue to be active after day 1 and be retained to redirect customers to the new North Yorkshire Council sites and phone numbers as required.

·       Telephony would be a key contact channel, particularly for those residents who don’t have the internet and for those customers who like to speak to a person to resolve their queries. It was asked if a performance target has been set yet for answering calls at the new council. In response, it was noted that a set of performance standards are to be worked up and will be considered by the LGR customer service member working group in due course.

·       Support for the use of chatbots and the ‘One Front Door’ approach was expressed, with agreement of the idea of using a glide path approach to launch rather than a sudden change in April. The example of the 8am rush to call GP surgeries to book appointments was an approach to avoid for the new unitary authority when thinking about customer service standards.

·       Data control was also discussed and whether consent was required to transfer from the district and borough council databases to the unitary authority. This was also under consideration as part of the LGR customer service member working group.


The Committee thanked Theresa for coming along to the committee and answering questions.


Resolved – To note the presentation and for the feedback received to be taken onboard.


Supporting documents: