SOCITM (Society of Information Technology Management)
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New service from Socitm Insight will provide information to manage access to services and make business case for ‘channel shift’

Service now open to subscribers: launch workshop 17 September

Local authorities will be able to identify the costs of providing access to services through their web, phone and face-to-face channels and identify potential savings from shifting customers to ‘self-service’ via the web, thanks to a new service from the Society of IT Management.

The Channel Value Benchmarking Service, which will launch formally with a workshop in London on 17 September, will enable councils to see whether their ‘costs-to-serve’ are in line with those experienced by other, similar, councils, and to assess whether active channel management – for example encouraging customers to ‘self-serve’ via the web – could save them money.

The Channel Value Benchmarking Service will bring groups of councils to together to:

• identify cost of provision of customer services through different channels including phone, web and face-to-face
• identify costs associated with ‘avoidable contact’
• compare costs of providing access to services from different channels
• identify scope for savings by individual councils, from channel shift and reducing ‘avoidable contact,
• generate evidence, for Best Value reviews, that a value-for-money framework for customer access is in place, or is being developed.

>From this October, Councils will be required to collect data on ‘avoidable contact’. Having collected such data, joining the Channel Value Benchmarking service will allow councils to realise benefits from the NI 14 activity to support their efficiency, transformation and customer services agendas. It will also provide participating authorities with an excellent opportunity to share ideas and experiences around these activities with those of other, similar councils.

A pilot workshop for the service, held in June and attended by representatives from 25 local authorities, indicated a high level of interest among all types of council and highlighted many common issues around customer access strategy and planning, the NI 14 (avoidable contact) indicator, challenges associated with identifying costs-to-serve for different channels, and difficulties with engaging service managers and other colleagues with these issues.

The service will run to a similar methodology as that of Socitm’s other benchmarking activities, such as the long-running Benchmarking the ICT Service series. Following a workshop to agree the initial KPIs and supporting survey, participants will be asked to collect specified data from their organisations, and complete a return by a specified date. During this process they will have access to support from the channel value benchmarking team. The Socitm team will then prepare a report and analysis of the results, and hold a workshop (in December 2008) covering key findings and lessons and drawing out management implications. All subscribers will receive their own results and see them benchmarked against results from other participating authorities.

‘The discussion at our pilot workshop in June revealed that most local authorities are in the early stages of developing strategies for customer access or channel management’ says Martin Greenwood, programme manager for Socitm Insight. ‘Many are still trying to overcome channel ‘silos’, and those in England are anticipating the new challenge of NI 14, the ‘avoidable contact’ indicator. The Channel Value Benchmarking Service will provide an invaluable network of people, coming from a rich variety of backgrounds (web, e-government, customer service, ICT, performance) for participants to network with around a common set of issues.’

The Channel Value Benchmarking Service is a standalone service within the Customer Access Improvement Service (CAIS). Other components of CAIS are GovMetric – an automated method of capturing and reporting the quality of customer interactions with a local authority across web, phone and face to face channels - and the Website Take-up Service., that collects information on usage of and satisfaction with council websites. It does so through a web exit survey incorporated into participating authorities’ websites.

Between them, these three components will enable councils to measure and benchmark their performance on customer satisfaction and value for money across a range of different channels, principally web, phone and face to face. In doing so, the service will help councils manage customer access efficiently and enable them to achieve the goal of delivering a better service to the customer and a better deal to the taxpayer - a goal that underpins the Service Transformation Agreement published in October 2007.

Each organisation that subscribes to the Channel Value Benchmarking Service will also be entitled to send two representatives free of charge to the one-day Customer Access Improvement workshops held twice a year. These popular events include presentations on innovation and best practice in the areas of website take-up, channel management and customer access. They provide an excellent opportunity to network with other professionals involved in the areas of customer access, customer service, contact centre and web management.

Notes for editors

A description of the Channel Value Benchmarking Service is available at: http://www.socitm.gov.uk/socitm/Services/Customer+Access+Improvement+Service/Channel+value+benchmarking.htm A brochure for the Service can also be downloaded here.

Places at the launch workshop on 17 September (in London) will be limited, and allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

A brochure for the service (pdf version) is available on request

Further information

Vicky Sargent or Rob Adams, Socitm Press Office
Tel: 0845 094 5641 e-mail: vicky.sargent@socitm.gov.uk or rob.adams@socitm.gov.uk

Martin Greenwood, Programme Manager, Socitm Insight
Tel: 01926 498703 or 07967 383755 e-mail: martin.greenwood@socitm.gov.uk

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