Rotherham residents can expect council services to move increasingly online in future following a review aimed at bringing about “significant efficiencies” in the way the local authority operates.
Residents will be told the system will offer advantages, such as 24 hour access, and steps will be taken to improve the council’s website and offer support to those who need it to make the change from traditional forms of contact to using electronic systems.
A Customer Service and Efficiency Board was set up in the autumn to find ways to make “significant efficiencies” and has now come up with a strategy the council is being asked to adopt.
The recommended focus on digital contact will mean new “underlying technology to enable improved and extended digital capabilities and greater use of automated self-serve channels,” councillors have been told in a report.
Different council departments will lose their independent customer service contact points under the scheme, to be replaced by a single version, which is expected to offer both value for money and what officials describe as “customer centred council services”.
At the same time residents are being encouraged to use online contacts for the council, there would also be a reduction in the amount of printed material produced by the council.
A ‘digital champion’ programme is also expected to be launched, to help promote increased use of the internet, along with an increased internal emphasis on customer service which the council wants to be good enough to get ‘recognised’ accreditation.
It is acknowledged the new system would involve “changing customer behaviours and expectations” but adds: “
It is important that all customers continue to have access to the services they need irrespective of their personal situation, and that the information and advice they receive is simple and easy to understand, joined up, reliable and right first time.”
The council’s current policy on customer access expired in 2015 and it is believed the new arrangements would bring improvements for those who need contact with the council.
The council wants to involve residents in designing and testing any new systems before changes are introduced, to provide: “Im
proved customer experience with new and redesigned services delivering a customer journey that is as short and simple as possible.”
A ‘digital champion’ approach would work through a collaboration with Rotherham’s population, the voluntary sector, charitable organisations and other partners to help improve residents’ skills and confidence in tackling council related contact online.
It is also hoped that more people can be lured into using computers because of the benefits they can bring with, examples such as convenience in looking for jobs, saving money and finding more about personal interests being flagged as examples.
The outcome is expected that those who use the system will become advocates who will encourage family members and others to use the internet for council business.