• Elmbridge manages around 130,000 residents
  • Over 90% of Benefit related enquiries are managed online
  • Digital Vision 2030 is underpinned by four themes: Community, Technology, Processes and Colleagues

Dawn Crewe, Head of Customer Operations and Transformation - Elmbridge Borough Council

Elmbridge Borough Council is an authority managing around 130,000 residents. We cover some of the most affluent areas of Surrey, but we never forget that there are also areas of deprivation within the borough, individuals and families that require our help and support.

Our Elmbridge residents are at the heart of how digital services are designed and drive usage to achieve quick, easy and seamless digital solutions that will become the preferred choice when interacting with the council. Our customer experience is shaped using intelligent insight with an ethos of continuous improvement and technological advancement.

Our ICT Digital Vision 2030 is underpinned by four themes: Community, Technology, Processes and Colleagues. This has been designed to help empower our community, councillors, and colleagues through technology. Ensuring our ICT digital offering is inclusive, resilient, and sustainable will add value to our community and align to the ethos of our Elmbridge 2030 Vision.


Creating a digital first approach

Early in 2021, the council took the challenge to enhance its ways of working and drive a ‘digital first’ mantra to achieve a significant step change across council services.

We wanted to adopt a new platform that had ‘low-code’ features and the capability to automate end-to-end to drive efficiencies. At the time, we were operating technology that was restricting the pace and momentum of our workflow. This included a CRM system and a legacy online account, as well as on-premises solutions for Revenues & Benefits that required dedicated teams to maintain.

In parallel to the technology, the processes at the council were very much focussed on key personnel having to assign work manually and ensure team members completed work packages within SLA guidelines. The council also managed customer transactions by re-keying data captured on online forms, which led to a huge amount of skilled resource being tied up.

Providing a wide range of digital services greatly reduces the need for residents to travel to meet face to face, supporting the reduction of our carbon footprint within the borough.


Creating efficiencies with low code

To address these needs, we implemented IEG4’s low code citizen engagement platform. The key benefits of using a low-code solution like OneVu is that all the user interfaces are designed with a mobile first approach, bringing accessible and clear user experiences, even for complex requirements.

The service is designed for customers in an intuitive way where they are not expected to be trained on ‘how’ to use the system. The customer service staff also use a similar interface, albeit with additional functionality via the CRM. This means that training is minimised and that within half-a-day one of our customer team can be fully up to speed and handling customer enquiries.

Compared to previous ways of working where staff were put through formal training on several systems, it delivers significant additional cost savings to the council. We have regular service review calls with our provider where any new features are discussed, and new versions of our platform are available.

It also encourages collaboration, an additional feature is its online forms platform, eDesigner, which comes with over 1,500 ready to go forms, so there’s always a start point for any new ideas we have, again without any training overheads required. The Council can also use eDesigner to create their own online forms; they can be enabled to quickly design and publish their own forms which has been paramount in responding to government initiatives for cost of living as well as their own continuous improvements; this makes the customer experience as easy and as efficient as possible.


A new Operating Model for Services

The priority services for the initial phases of the project were Revenues and Benefits and Waste. The council didn’t have a customer facing portal for their Benefit customers, so this was an ideal starting point to deliver a radical change to both front and back-office services. Today, over 90% of Benefit related enquiries are managed online via the customer portal and the remaining ‘assisted digital’ service requests use the same underlying digital processes.

The council has adopted a ‘cloud-first’ approach and is transferring systems, where possible, to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model.

The next phase included Council Tax which was under time pressure as we were approaching the ‘year-end’ billing process. It was also a great opportunity to promote the new digital service, which has now over 55,000 registrations and processed nearly 100,000 online transactions since early 2021.

The programme of work has continued to deliver innovation and recently launched new fully integrated Waste services for Garden Waste, Missed Bin and Bulky Waste collections. The 2024 Garden Waste service is expected to exceed last year’s subscription levels which saw over 22,000 residents register and subscribe.

The day-to-day culture of how the internal teams operated quickly changed. The Customer Operations team at the council now have a totally new way of managing their workloads and communicating with customers using IEG4’s Open Process workflow and case management platform. The need to re-key high-volume transactions has been eliminated, in turn helping free up staff time to deal with more complex customer service requests far more effectively. The throughput and quality of work has improved dramatically along with much improved customer experiences.


The right platform for continued transformation

The Elmbridge 2030 Vision is far reaching across all service areas. The council has delivered a step change to how internal teams operate and support residents that is fully supported by Councillors and senior stakeholders. To undertake such a radical change with existing resource is a brave move, alongside maintaining excellent service levels for customers.

The team at Elmbridge have really come together to deliver this strategy and change working practices. This has demonstrated the benefits and efficiencies on offer from a digital approach and instils confidence in the platform and new ways of working. We are continuing our digital journey to help transform other service areas over the next 12- 18 months.