Cornwall Council: Developing a Single View of the Citizen for a Local Authority

Local authorities provide a wide range of services to a population with diverse requirements, and this leads to data from a range of sources, held in disparate locations in legacy systems, and often on paper, email, or cumbersome spreadsheets.

Such processes are potentially vulnerable to error or loss, and may lead to duplication, inefficient handling, and inconsistency.

Likewise, where a resident needs to contact a council about its services or to make a report or a change, this may require a phone call, email, or completion of a form, and there is typically no mechanism for the resident to keep track of progress in their case or to add an update. This may mean a follow-up call to the call centre who may be over-stretched and unable to give the resident the time required. In turn this can negatively impact the experience for both the resident and call centre staff.

Contact Centre CRM

The Single View of the Citizen aims to replace such processes, bringing data sources and services together for efficient handling and secure access via the local authority Contact Centre’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, which, in the case of Cornwall Council, is Dynamics 365 Customer Service. 

In the background, Dynamics 365 Customer Insights, running on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, can be responsible for cleaning the data, for example employing multiple validation criteria to resolve any duplication from the assorted services’ databases.

Agile software delivery starts typically with an MVP (minimum viable product) that meets the requirements and is then improved upon with subsequent releases. To that end, and to maintain service continuity, it was appropriate at Cornwall Council to integrate initially with the outgoing CRM via API and then to gradually replace its functionality with the new Dynamics-based system. 

Where API interaction is limited or not available, this can require manual entry of email-based information, for example, into the new CRM in the short term, until integration of the service with Dynamics is complete. Such work to integrate more functionality is on-going, based on the priority of the affected services.

Other services might have their own CRM and specialist back-office case management tools that are well suited for their specific purpose. Again, their data can be pulled into Dynamics via an API and displayed as part of the Single View but there are not always plans to replace such systems.

On the other hand, services that are new, such as the Cornwall Council’s new waste management model, have had their back-office processes built from scratch in Dynamics and integrated with the subcontractor’s own CRM.

With the relevant information quickly to hand in the Dynamics CRM, which has improved integration with the telephony service, Contact Centre staff can deal with cases and create service requests efficiently and effectively. When a resident calls, their information, and the status of any on-going cases or requests, is quickly retrieved, and existing reports, of an abandoned vehicle or fly-tipping for example, will be easily identified to prevent duplication.

Furthermore, certain actions, such as closing resolved cases and sending subsequent notification to the appropriate residents, can be automated to save time.

Implementing the Dynamics CRM has enabled the team to take the opportunity to re-design and improve the way the Contact Centre interacts with residents. The new system is flexible enough to handle cases where the resident needs to be identified, such as when making a service request, or where a call can be anonymous, such as when reporting something and not requiring a follow-up notification. In the case of Cornwall Council, the outgoing system required resident details to be added or retrieved, and then confirmed, for each call, which lengthened each interaction.

All this improved efficiency means more time is available to deal with cases effectively, thus improving the experience of the resident and reducing operator workload in an otherwise often overstretched environment.

Field staff

Functionality for field staff to interact with, and update, cases in the Single View system is planned to be available soon for Cornwall Council, through use of the Dynamics Field Service module on an iPad or smartphone. This is possible once the case management functionality of the service has been transferred to Dynamics and is one of many potential ’add-ons’ that can be utilised once the core case management has been developed.

By replacing a manual process where a paper form is completed in triplicate and information copied to the system once back in the office, this will save time and reduce the risk of human error.

Business Information Reporting

The consolidation of data from various locations and apps to create the Single View of the Citizen also improves data visibility and consistency for business information reporting, utilising tools such as Microsoft Power BI to look at such areas as debt and demand as a Single View.

Such analysis can be used to identify potential savings, where more income may be available for the council to help support their service provision, or where particular demand exists for adult or children’s social care services for example.

Resident Portal

Most consumers now expect products to be available online, 24/7, and council services are no different. 

The Single View will also provide a portal where the resident can access multiple services via SSO (Single Sign-on). In the case of Cornwall Council this portal is “MyCornwall.” The aim is for residents to be able to make a service request for bulky waste collection, start a garden waste subscription, submit a report, or respond to local planning applications, for example, through one portal without having to remember multiple sets of login credentials.

Future development of the portal will also enable the resident to keep track of cases and requests they have made, to check whether something they need to report has already been reported, and to sign up as an interested resident for automated notifications of progress on something reported.

This not only improves the resident’s user experience, but also minimizes the number of calls they may need to make to the Contact Centre, thus reducing Contact Centre workload. In turn, as with the Single View CRM, this allows Contact Centre staff to allocate more time where required to resolve the residents’ issues effectively.

Though some less tech-savvy residents may prefer to make a phone call rather than use an on-line portal, they still benefit from the Single View through efficient call handling, enabled by Contact Centre use of the centralised Single View CRM to access information rapidly on cases, residents, and services.

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