Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council helps 220,000 residents in Stockport and Greater Manchester - help it says is only going to get better thanks to a new cloud-based service desk to improve citizen services.
That’s in the shape, its service desk manager, Dan Hollands, told diginomica government of a system that can capture all the information needed in the first contact with a customer - information that is then categorised so as to manage service requests way more efficiently than before, and which now means:
We’re able to put requests through the service catalogue so they go directly to the right team or person, speeding up service. We also now have a new service level for each request which we can track more accurately and use to manage priorities.
The work is also a big part of a wider digital transformation project Stockport is running with local partners around social care, he adds, as well as underpinning what he dubs a “full change of approach around digital services”.
This includes developing a platform of reusable digital capabilities to help deal with the volume of queries and involves collaboration between Stockport MBC, NHS Stockport Clinical Commissioning Group, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, Stockport NHS Foundation Trust and Viaduct Health (a federation representing GPs in Stockport).
This initiative, named Stockport Together, aims to improve health and social care services for the 300,000 people living in the region. Stockport MBC is supporting this programme’s IT service requests using Freshservice. Recently, this collaboration led to Stockport being ‘Highly Commended’ in the category of Digital Council of the Year Awards tun by local government press site LGC.
‘It was time to change our approach’
Let’s back up a little and see why Hollands and his team feel they needed such a system in the first place. Stockport provides a range of services to constituents, including community support, education services and business support, as well as managing the approval of planning proposals and checking building regulations. Like most local authorities, it also manages the collection and spending of council tax revenues to deliver these services.
The problem: it had a complex set of services to deliver and support, and did not have the right tools in place to help the team manage that workload. Hollands admits that,
Our previous IT service management platform had gone out of support, so was not up to date or working very efficiently. On top of that, it was very difficult to pull out the management data that we could use to demonstrate that we were working efficiently around the problems we did have to solve.
Hollands decided it was time to change its approach to service by orchestrating a move to a new platform, a plan he thought would at a strike both reinvigorate the team internally and provide better service to everyone.
The partner Stockport chose to go with was Freshworks, a vendor of customer engagement solutions. Hollands explains why its bid was so attractive:
We liked Freshworks’s Freshservice IT service desk solution cloud-based service because it was really easy to use and far more cost-effective than the other solutions available on the market, and the intuitive User Interface was an instant plus point for the team.
Secondly, a cloud-based approach meant that it was easier for the platform itself to be kept up to date and available:
We then worked directly with the company to implement the final system, which it was very keen to help us make this project a successful one, from running workshops and sessions ahead on implementation through to providing a dedicated account manager if we had any queries or problems. I genuinely felt they were invested in our success.
Great - but the proof is always in the pudding, of course: how has the new approach worked out in practice? Hollands says things have started very positively:
The portal has allowed customers to be more self-sufficient, enabling the council’s service desk agents to spend more time on more valuable tickets, but also support bigger projects with the council’s IT team.
Since going live a year ago, we got over 60,000 tickets to the service desk team in six months; of these, 85.9% were resolved on first contact, and 94.8% were dealt with within the team’s service-level agreements:
This is a huge improvement on what we were capable of delivering previously, while over 70% of tickets now come through the portal rather than over the phone.
Given that Hollands was interested in trying to see if the project could change internal attitudes to service, has this worked? He says:
One of the biggest changes as a result of this project is definitely in terms of how we work as a team. We had to change the dynamic from the classic ‘first’, ‘second' and ‘third’ line support model to one that included a first line support team, an incident support team and a service fulfilment team.
In practice, that means that rather than having first line staff focused on routing requests through to the right people, we were able to automate a lot of this process. This meant people could take a lot more ownership of issues, and demonstrate that they were delivering good service. We could also use analytics to prove this to our managers and directors.
One part of this is that we could see common problems that were affecting people, and then target training to those common problems. In other words, we did not have to wait for official requests or flagging from other team members - our analytics can help us stop those problems and help people faster.
As to where Stockport MBC sees itself in six months, Hollands says:
What I have seen is that the implementation has really helped collaboration across teams – the product is simple to use and has been so well received that Freshservice has now been introduced into other teams across the council, such as our User Experience teams, our Business Intelligence teams, and some of our education support teams as well. It’s moved from being a simple service request product to being one that more and more people want to use.