- Customers are now able to self-serve, reducing unnecessary contact with the Council using IEG4’s online low-code form builder, eDesigner and OneVu citizen engagement platform,
- The Council has seen a rise in customer signups with in excess of 60,000 accounts
- Time savings and cost efficiencies for the Council with £553,000 projected on eforms alone due to the low code nature of the platform and the streamlined forms process
Southwark Council is the local authority for an area of south London, in total it has 23 wards. The Council services around 317,256 residents in the region.
Within the Council sits its Exchequer Services division, which include services such as Council Tax, Business Rates, Rent Collection and Benefits. The department has been focused on digitally transforming its services for a number of years.
By driving customers towards an easy-to-use digital route, the Council has created a modernised and streamlined service for residents by allowing them to self-serve; whilst also creating cost efficiencies and reducing its carbon footprint by utilising paperless options.
Automating ‘high volume’ transactions
In order to drive efficiencies further and free up staff time, the Council wanted to automate transactions including Change of Address, Direct Debits and Single Occupier Discounts. This would not only create a fully automated service to allow customers to engage with the Council online, but also give them the opportunity, with a modernised forms solution, to not only save money due to ongoing budget cuts, but to also provide a more efficient service for customers.
The Council’s key objective was to deliver fully integrated and automated transactions with as much automation as possible, resulting in minimal manual intervention. Customers would no longer have to wait for the Council to manually update records with information from newly submitted forms – instead, they could be updated instantly.
This project was supported by the Service Development team at the Council. They chose to partner with IEG4, a provider of software solutions for public sector organisations to deliver better, faster, and more cost-effective seamless online services for citizens.
The Council use a combination of complementary modules including IEG4’s unique Revenues Process Automation (RPO), that automates transactions using bi-directional APIs. Alongside this, eDesigner, a low code platform that allows business-users to build and deploy online forms, seamlessly integrates with key council services and provide easy to use adapters for e-payments and other revenue generating systems. The platform also comes equipped with access to IEG4’s collaborative community hub which offers customers access to a vast library of forms that can be shared between authorities.
Since go-live of the initial services, IEG4 and Southwark have continued to work in partnership to innovate and design new digital services. The most recent of these is an intelligent Special Arrangement form that guides customers who find themselves in arrears, through a considered approach to help them through the process. Council Tax refunds are also an area that will deliver significant savings as these are automated.
Laurence Fleming, Service Development Officer at Southwark London Borough Council said, “It’s very much a can-do culture with IEG4, which is exactly what we were looking for, a partnership where we can work together to improve things. We’re talking to IEG4 all the time about which of our forms we could automate next, because we’re keen to move the time and cost savings of this into other areas of the business as well.”
With the use of automated forms the Council has projected that it can expect to save £553,000 over four years, based on current performance. It is hoping to increase this figure as the product develops.
A dynamic, more modern and flexible customer portal
In parallel to delivering fully automated transactions, Southwark has worked with IEG4 on upgrading to OneVu, IEG4’s citizen engagement platform. During September 2020 Southwark performed a general review of its previous infrastructure for its ‘MySouthwark’ customer portal and concluded that the incumbent was not the right system for them.
It was keen to push the boundaries of its system and work in a collaborative way with a supplier, to create a truly progressive portal that would improve the customer experience.
The Council undertook an options appraisal, where it looked at three different suppliers. It selected IEG4’s OneVu citizen engagement portal and the implementation began in November 2020.
Grace Warr, Project Manager at Southwark London Borough Council says, “We were looking to move forward with our system. IEG4 really has a proven track record in local government and working with other suppliers that we use such as NEC, previously known as Northgate. The low code nature of the offering and the fact it was an out of the box solution meant we could implement quickly. Really the potential for future development with this is what sold it to us.”
The new system went live in May 2021. In their previous system, over 60,000 accounts were registered to use the portal, and the Council was concerned about retaining those accounts when they went live with the new portal.
However, through a considered marketing and comms campaign undertaken with IEG4 - which targeted existing users and encouraged them to re-register to the new service, sign-ups continue to rise.
The new system is much more collaborative; previously the Council had one team that dealt with any customer issues related to the portal. Today, every team across their services now has access to Customer ServiceVu, OneVu’s CRM Lite platform. Access is now given to all its contact centre and council tax staff across the department which has increased the level of customer care and support that can be provided to ensure their digital offering can be reached by all.
Now when they are engaging with a customer over the phone or via email, they have a single view of a customer’s timeline and can sign them up to an account there and then, or try to resolve any problem they may have, without referring them to another team, and therefore dealing with the issue at the first point of contact.
A continued journey
Going forwards the Council is looking to continue to work in partnership with IEG4 to create a pro-active communications offering to customers. This will be enabled by IEG4’s Broadcast platform, which will allow Southwark to send messages to customers via various channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and GOV.NOTIFY.
This tool will help them to reach new demographics and improve accessibility as the options for contact are increased.
Further cost efficiencies will be realised as the low code aspect of the platform reduces the need for budget to be spent every year on ad-hoc requests for basic updates to the system. Now minor changes can easily be made by the team without the need for additional support or resource.
John Jervis Sales & Marketing Director at IEG4 says, “We are incredibly proud of our work with Southwark, largely because the Council has improved its customer service, and managed to reduce avoidable contact by offering customers the ability to self-serve. By accessing forms, information, and services online, they no longer need to phone the Council to ask for an update if they’ve put in a request, or if they need to set up a direct debit. This also provides time efficiencies for the customer.
“At IEG4 ‘We do tricky’ and it is our aim to work collaboratively with our customers to create unique and innovative solutions which are also simple to update, install and use. We look forward to continuing to work with Southwark to digitally transform its services.”