Many local councils are driving forward with digital transformation to improve customer service. However, they’re faced with many challenges. In this blog, I look at how understanding your customers through customer profiling can help you provide better customer services.
In comparison to the private sector, customer service in local government comes with its own challenges. The biggest is the constant pressure on budgets, resulting in an ongoing need to reduce costs and find new areas for savings. But this is complicated further by additional challenges:
One area that many councils are looking at to reduce costs is interaction handling. Currently, a telephone call can cost the council £8 per interaction. To meet their targets, they must reduce this by 50%. Where is that reduction going to come from? There are two areas to focus on here:
It’s quite possible to move these interactions online and use a self-serve model. Instead of calling, customers must go to the council’s public-facing website. Through an online portal they can submit a request, report an issue, request information, etc. – everything they would have previously done over the phone.
In many ways, this is a win-win situation. On one side, for most customers online interactions are their channel of choice. Many already want to be online, as most use these kinds of channels everyday – from online banking to e-commerce. The council also wants these interactions to take place online, as this will cost next to nothing compared to the cost of a call.
Both consistency and context are key to making the most of customer data. Whether interactions are online or via telephone, you must use the same process of managing and capturing customer data and it should all be stored in the same place. This way customer information can be accessed quickly and easily – council employees won’t need to search across multiple content management systems or browse through filing cabinets depending on the type of request or the channel of interaction. Everything is saved consistently in the same place.
Not only does a consistent approach make the whole process more efficient, but it also encourages you to collect the right data about your customers, i.e. their interactions and behaviours. In an increasingly digital world, this is a key driver in success. There’s a lot of discussion about how data is an organisation’s greatest asset. But, crucially, unless you put your data into the right context, i.e. using it at the right time and in the right way, it becomes a useless asset.
For councils, this could lead to intelligent decisions driving personalised services for individual customers. You could look at a customer’s history, work out how best to solve their issue, predict what problems they are likely to get in contact about in the future, etc. This way you can reduce the time spent on calls and ensure that a resolution is found at the first attempt, so customers don’t have to call again.
Years ago, I worked on a project with one of the largest local authorities in London. We started a customer profiling piece to understand the people who lived in the area better, and we analysed every single interaction. We wanted to find out:
The insight we gained was that 86% of customers made four or less enquiries a year. The remaining 14% is what we call the ‘high interaction customer group’. These customers create the demand for 60-70% of the actual work the council does.
This narrowed down our targets, as it was this 14% that we needed to shift to online interactions. But the next question is: can those people go online and self-serve? This is where doing the data work is essential.
Important questions included: is it an aging population? How many customers do not have internet access at home? And then, if online interactions simply aren’t possible for these customers, how do we design the process so that it is streamlined and consistent and reduces the time and cost of all interactions?
The project was a success. We managed to help the council understand their customers and reduce the cost of interactions.
Dynamics 365 provides councils with a flexible platform to design and manage the process of tracking and managing data. At the same time, it provides a unified experience, joining up all the dots so that the processes are consistent across the organisation. What’s more, you can further analyse that data with modern applications like Power BI and apply artificial intelligence.
There’s so much that you can achieve by knowing who your customers are, and customer profiling can play an important role.