West Norfolk Council’s digital system up for award

Honor Howell, assistant director, Central and Community Services, West Norfolk Council.
Honor Howell, assistant director, Central and Community Services, West Norfolk Council.

A new digital system introduced at West Norfolk Council to reduce avoidable contact and make it easier for customers to follow up on queries has been shortlisted for a national award.

OneVu gives customers access to data that the council holds on them but also the council can send messages to residents requesting or providing further information.

For example, if a resident needs to submit further evidence to support an application, OneVu sends a message requesting them to do so.

The customer can upload evidence, such as a photo or a payslip, so that there’s no need for postal exchange, saving time and money. It means people will also get a better idea of how long it’s likely to take to process a request.

Five thousand digital accounts have been opened since February and the council has also been shortlisted in Best Customer Experience category at the Paperless Awards

The council worked with IEG4, a digital transformation services supplier for local government to develop the system.

Honor Howell, assistant director, Central and Community Services at the council, said: “We needed something very mobile friendly – 43 per cent of traffic to our website comes from mobile devices.

“We did an analysis of phone calls to the council and about 40 per cent were about process chasing, for example, asking when a benefits claim will be processed.”

The main “front facing” services have been identified as planning, housing, licensing, environmental health and waste and revenues and benefits.

In a bid to further reduce calls, emails and face-to-face contact, Honor and her team will use OneVu to resolve another inefficiency.

She said: “We receive lots of emails. It’s very difficult to manage. If we don’t get the right information from residents, you get ‘email ping pong’ - it could take two or three goes to get the data we need.

“We’re looking to use intelligent forms integrated with the back office systems to make emails easier to respond to. The idea is that these forms will pre-empt the users’ needs and present only the most pertinent questions to gather just the data the council requires.”

To encourage residents to create a OneVu account users will be able to log in via their social media account or register using their email address, for an immediate start.

Said Honor: “Interestingly, many accounts were created out of office hours, 43 per cent in fact.

“This says a lot about how and when people want to engage with council services. And, of those that have opened online accounts, a quarter are over 55 – an encouraging statistic for us when much of the news around digital transformation refers to the younger generation.”

Although OneVu has reduced the pressure on the Council’s contact centre, Honor recognises the need to balance self-service with allowing queries in from some residents down traditional communication routes.

The winners of the Paperless Awards will be announced on July 6 in London.