How DVLA is using Salesforce to modernise customer service and break away from legacy

Profile picture for user Mark Samuels By Mark Samuels May 30, 2019
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is leading the way when it comes to creating an operationally efficient contact centre.

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The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is using Salesforce technology as a platform to boost customer service operations in its call centre through the smart use of emerging technology.

The implementation of Salesforce is part of a long-term insourcing strategy at DVLA. As the organisation’s technology lead John Bramer explained to diginomica in 2016, DVLA has worked hard to extricate itself from legacy outsourcing deals and to in-source its IT capability.

Bramer said that – whilst DVLA has managed to in-source its IT capability and is now creating some very useful online services for users – it’s still restrained by its legacy architecture and systems. He said the next phase involves moving away from these older platforms to create new, digital services.

At the recent Salesforce World Tour in London, Bramer’s colleague Rob Holohan, who is product owner for DVLA's Contact Centre Modernisation Project, detailed how a move to Salesforce is helping to support both the growth of retained IT capability and to provide a platform for new front-end services.

Holohan outlined three key gains since Salesforce was first brought into the DVLA contact centre in 2016: self-sufficiency; the development of modern services; and the introduction of web chat. In terms of self-sufficiency, Holohan referred to the desire to replace heavy-duty IT contracts, with long development times and expensive professional services, with a nimbler approach:

Although we were bringing Salesforce in to help us build the system initially, we wanted to skill our guys up and make them self-sufficient. This meant or admins and our developers could, after six to nine months, do everything relating to development internally. We were starting to do things in days, rather than weeks and months. It was a very different approach and we were also able to get input from the advisors and to build stuff in good time.

In terms of service benefits, Holohan said Salesforce provides modern customer service tools to help contact centre workers do their jobs. Staff are directly involved in project delivery, so the technology meets their service requirements. Holohan said proof comes in the form that DVLA has 73 per cent staff engagement, which is a high rating for a contact centre.

Holohan said the implementation of web chat technology – as the final key benefit of the move to Salesforce – has helped sponsor a new way of working. Web chat has become the DVLA contact centre team’s most efficient customer service channel. It receives satisfaction scores of over 90 per cent, while traditional telephony channels tend to rate in the late seventies:

We were able to develop quickly, our customers were getting better service and our staff engagement went up because we were providing modern tools to our advisors.

Breaking away from old legacy

Holohan, who explained the implementation process as part of an expert panel on the use of Salesforce in the public sector, said the move to a new digital platform is a clean break from old, legacy methods:

We really needed to modernise. We had a number of key issues, such as unmet demand for customers, multiple screens for advisors, and a non-holistic view of the customer journey, so every time we answered an enquiry, it was like the first time we’d ever spoken to that customer. And while DVLA was moving to online systems, there was no online support for customers, so if something went wrong, advisors had no context.

Holohan said the shift towards a new, integrated approach to customer service through the use of Salesforce has taken place across a number of stages and multiple channels. He said DVLA focused first on improving email communication, before turning to online support through web chat:

That was completely new – our staff and customers hadn’t used something like that before and we were one of the first in government. That’s been a very effective delivery – about 10 per cent of our interactions with customers are currently through web chat and we’re looking to increase that in coming months to 20 per cent. That will really change the model of how we operate.

The contact centre has also used Salesforce to introduce social media as a service channel and is answering enquiries via Twitter and Facebook. Finally, Holohan’s team integrated Salesforce with its existing telephony network.

The aim of the integration process across all channels was to give DVLA advisors much more context about customer requirements. By migrating a knowledge base from its existing intranet, DVLA was able to push contextual information onto the screen of its telephone-based advisors.

Further work on providing context to contact centre staff continues. Holohan says DVLA is currently exploring how to use chat bots. Salesforce released its Einstein chat bot technology last year and DVLA has piloted the technology with the Salesforce product team.

The chat bot – which works alongside the web chat channel –  allows the IT team to start automating elements of the customer service process. Holohan says DVLA’s initial deployment was based on a menu-based bot, where web chat helped gather simple data, such as registration numbers and enquiry details:

It sounds really simple, and it was, but the key was that it provided the advisor will all the information they need prior to their chat with a customer, without them having to capture it. Automation created some big increases in chats per hour; we went from 14 to 19. We also saw the average call-handling time drop by two-and-a-half minutes.

DVLA is now thinking beyond the original menu-based trial. Holohan says the next step is to use the natural language processing in Einstein to develop conversational chat bots for general enquiries:

That might allow us to deflect some of the basic context we get, and the general enquiries that an advisor has to answer, but which a bot could deal with. And it would also allow us to run 24/7 operations – 96 per cent of our transactions are online but we close at 7pm as a contact centre. Rather than having to open later and employ more staff, a bot could answer some of these questions. So, that’s a big delivery for us and, hopefully, we’re only weeks or months away from delivering this and it could dramatically change the shape of our contact centre.