Why the public sector needs to focus on customer services

Andrew leads the Automation Solutions practice in Agilisys which specialises in applying new technologies to the task of improving customer service whilst reducing transaction times and cost.

Why is it becoming increasingly important for the public sector to focus more on delivering good customer service?

Customer service is fundamental to every successful organisation regardless of the sector they operate within. As consumers, we receive increasingly sophisticated levels of customer service from private sector companies as they strive to differentiate themselves. As a result, we expect public sector bodies to deliver the same standard of service, despite budget limitations, headcount freezes and the challenges imposed by the presence of inflexible legacy systems and processes.

It’s no longer enough just to provide simple utility based services to citizens these days. Our expectations have grown and are now irreversible. What’s more, with salaries broadly static and the economy refusing to grow, we all want better value for money from everyone we deal with.

In an increasingly saturated consumer world, simplicity holds the greatest appeal. The public sector generally provides services that are not only mandatory but often perceived to be mundane. By improving the way in which they are delivered, it’s possible to meet our expectations as both citizens and consumers. This may not turn our experience of paying personal taxes, applying for benefits or taxing our cars into joyous ones, but it can make them considerably easier.

What’s being done to address the increasing demands on public sector organisations?

Public sector organisations are not only expected to offer better, more accessible, digital services, but they are being asked to provide these whilst saving money. Although things may improve in future, the current government has signalled “there’s no more money for now”.

So how is it possible to cope? Working harder and longer hours is not sustainable, neither is it possible to simply recruit more and better people. Budgets simply won’t allow this. The increasing workload may seem overwhelming; but there is an alternative.

New forms of technology are now available to help ensure that limited budgets stretch further. In doing so, they can enable frontline staff to deliver essential services more efficiently and effectively as well as improving customer service.

How is Agilisys helping public sector organisations to deliver enhanced and improved customer service?

At Agilisys we focus our efforts on automating work and humanising jobs. We do this by carefully implementing new tools and technologies, within the public sector, that really make a difference to millions of citizens across the UK.

To start with, we establish a clear baseline on current service delivery levels. We then work out where new tools can help and then use them to deliver results. Examples include our Automate software which can read, understand and process documents, reducing the need for people to do this work themselves.

Effectively, the intelligent software completes mundane tasks leaving staff with more time and capacity to apply judgement and make decisions, dealing with real issues as experienced by members of the public.

We have used our automation tools to help government departments and agencies improve levels of customer service whilst increasing processing efficiency by up to 75%. However, our implementations have not only improved levels of service, they have reduced errors, transaction times and most importantly cost.

What would your advice be to public sector organisations wanting to integrate digital platforms?

Nobody likes change, but everyone likes progress. Making progress is now allowing the public sector to take advantage of private sector innovation to deliver similar levels of customer service. This is taking place despite the burden of inflexible legacy processes and systems which make it hard to change. Although it may seem hard to get things moving, it often helps to “think big, start small and scale fast” when it comes to implementing digital change.

Maximising the benefits afforded by digital technology can make a real difference not only to customers, but to employees as well. Who wants to come to work to sift through large piles of applications, claims and supporting evidence when they could be applying judgement to important decision based tasks? We’re also finding that new digital technologies are enabling citizens to do a lot more themselves through self-service portals. The best organisations support these with help, via email and web chat, enabling users to complete transactions themselves. Service improves; workloads decline.

It bringing innovation to its customers, Agilisys has taken a look at a wide range of technologies, some of which will stay for the long term, others that will disappear. Our job is to keep abreast of what’s changing, pick the best out there and understand how to deploy new tools to deliver the best results for the organisations we work with. This approach enables us to ensure that our clients are protected from making the ‘wrong choices’ and benefit from the best that’s available.

In every case, it’s important to ensure that it’s the humans that are in control. Technology must work for us; not the other way round. At Agilisys, we use software to carry out routine, repetitive administrative tasks freeing up people to do the more interesting work including applying judgement, making decisions and providing additional front line services. That’s where the real value lies.

Does the use of automated or artificial intelligent platforms for customer service potentially risk the personal touch or remove the human element?

As with anything digital, integrating a new platform holds the risk of removing the human element that consumers often desire. Customers are habitually sceptical about new systems until they are proven..

Whilst technology helps to speed up processes and complete mundane tasks, we do not believe that digital platforms will replace humans entirely. The idea is that these platforms help people save time, leaving them with the opportunity to get on with the real work – serving customers. It’s in this way that intelligent automation technologies can help us deliver better customer service at significantly reduced cost.

Andrew leads the Automation Solutions practice in Agilisys which specialises in applying new technologies to the task of improving customer service whilst reducing transaction times and cost.