Management > Identity

East Hampshire embarks on a culture change journey

Published 16 May 2016

East Hampshire District Council has had to embrace cultural change in preparation for its biggest digital transformation project yet. Dawn Adey, responsible for service transformation at the authority, explores the changes that were needed to ensure EHDC's service redesign was a success


At East Hampshire District Council (EHDC), the customers (our residents, businesses and visitors) are at the heart of all our decisions. Most recently, we decided to redesign and transform the service provision and customer engagement across the authority. This was driven, in part, by the financial pressures all local authorities find themselves in resulting reductions in grants from central government. It was only through fresh ideas and doing things differently that we will meet the challenges we face.

The project is part of the authority's personalisation programme, which will personalise services so that residents and businesses can be offered an improved level of service that suits their specific needs.

Today, we estimate that the majority of our services are only used by 20 per cent of residents. Based on this statistic and the continued funding pressures faced by the authority, we reviewed our customer management strategy and service provision. Rather than providing a one size fits all service, we moved customers to the centre of service design and are looking to provide services that customers need, when and where they need them.

The first thing we did was look at customers as individuals, rather than a collective with an aim of achieving a 'single-customer view'. For example, what does the individual use, what don't they use, which channels do they prefer and so on. While this is the aspiration of many larger private sector organisations, it is still quite rare culturally for a district or borough council.

Take 'Steve'*. He's 44, a director at a design agency in Bordon and lives in Liphook in a 4-bedroom house with his wife and two children. By using this data and combining what we know we can build a picture and provide products and services that suit 'Steve'. For example, as a resident, would he prefer e-billing for his council tax? As a local business would he want to join Business East Hants? And, as a family man, would he like to take his children to Butserfest music festival? It's finding ways in which to appeal to our residents as shareholders and ensuring that they are satisfied with what's on offer. By applying a shareholder value approach, we can tailor unique services for each shareholder, as not all shareholders need all the services we provide.

All of the data we have points to our local residents wanting more services to be available online.

The authority will be using the Optevia Local Government Essentials solution - from Optevia, an IBM company - which is in use across dozens of other local authorities and includes a range of specific features and processes designed to save customers time and money whilst also delivering best practice. In addition to the standard set of features and functions of the solution, the authority is adopting agile development methodologies to further tailor Microsoft Dynamics CRM to its specific needs. The 19-strong customer service centre team will lead on the design and project sign off.

There are upwards of 50 services that can now be moved for access online including: environmental health, waste, Freedom of Information, complaints, fines, and revenues and benefits.

So now we can approach 'Steve' with analogies in line with say, his online banking experience, that he will understand creating a picture of how he can log on and what he can now do, i.e. find out when the bin collection day is and when his council tax is due.

The key is to provide streamlined, easy to use services that can be accessed through the customer's personal or business account, making interacting with the council possible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

By making more of our services available and easy to use online, we expect a significant reduction in face-to-face and telephone contact. This will free up resources and give our staff more time to spend on customers who really need our help. However, a worry amongst staff was, that if we became Digital by Default, then we would alienate the less digitally literate population we serve so we still need to keep multiple communication channels open to appeal to everyone.

So let's look at 'Steve' again. Previously, whether he called by phone about pest control, contacted us online for planning permission, sent us a letter about council tax or came to the offices to query business rates, it looked like four people contacting us instead of one. Now with our new CRM system, it enables us to show 'Steve's' every interaction, whatever the communication channel, and it'll also show our customer services team relevant information so they can be more useful to him.

In the current economic climate, understanding more about the people who use our services is key to enabling us to transform. In order to be as efficient as possible, we will assess the needs of residents, businesses and visitors using customer insight and design services to meet those needs. This will ensure our resources are focused on the priorities of the people we serve. East Hampshire District Council was one of few, if not the only, authority to announce a Council Tax reduction for our residents this year and this project will help us continue to save costs for our residents when and where we can.

The personalisation project is key to helping the council become Council Tax-free by 2024. The authority currently collects council tax on behalf of itself, town and parish councils, Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority and the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner. The Council's share of the total collected is 9% and by 2024 it is aiming to reduce that 9% share to zero.

We're getting there; it's all about changing mindset with staff and extending the way the community interacts with us. We've made the strategic commitment now so it's having the conviction to say let's not talk about it anymore, let's just get on with it.

* Steve is fictional. Any similarities to anyone actually called Steve are purely coincidental.

Dawn Adey is head of research and marketing at East Hampshire District Council

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