Salford City Council’s digital first approach is providing popular with customers.
New scan stations in Gateway centres allow customers to scan and submit documents themselves, rather than waiting for an advisor to do it for them. The stations have already been used 55,000 times in the first few months. Live web chats and a dedicated customer service Twitter account have also proved popular, quickly resolving simple questions.
It’s all part of a redesign of customer, council and business rates collection services to better meet customer needs and increase collection of council tax and business rates to bring more money into the council and protect front line services and jobs.
Since 2010 Salford City Council has lost 54% of its central government funding and is looking at ways of doing thing differently, scooping overall winner of DL100 awards.
The new services creates council teams with expertise in benefits, council tax, business rates and inspections to rate new commercial and domestic properties, providing a more responsive service able to deal with enquiries at first contact.
“Our employees and trade unions have been fully involved all throughout and their extensive help in re-shaping the services they know so well has been invaluable,” said Councillor Bill Hinds, lead member for finance and support services.
“There is a role for everyone in the new service and temporary roles will be made permanent, which brings stability. There is a potential pay increase for 31 employees, new training and development opportunities and four new apprenticeships. Backlogs are also being cleared with extra help to benefit customers and reduce pressure on our workforce.
“The council budget will also benefit from increased business rates and council tax collection which are projected to be £1.8 million in 2019/20.
“Our approach to council tax – being firm on those who can pay – and supporting those who genuinely struggle with face to face discussions about managing debt has recently been recognised nationally by the Money Advice Service as good practice.”
Councillor Hinds said other digital changes – which have been based on customer feedback and requests have been brought in.
“We’ve had a dedicated council team from council tax, business rates, benefits, face to face services and our telephone contact centre working to fast track these changes.
“We’re enhancing our customer account so people can easily request services and we’ve introduced online applications for services, including pest control and the registry office. We’re using text messaging to remind customers about bill payments and encouraging people to sign up for e-billing to save paper and costs.
“We recognise that digital works for most people but not everyone. The digital first approach frees up our face-to-face and telephone services to help people who need that extra help. And customers can get support until 10pm in their local Gateway centres.”
The council has also launched a ‘Better Off’ website to help residents check what benefits they are entitled to and apply for them directly as well as easily finding and applying for jobs and childcare, along with Better Off coffee and chat sessions to help residents discuss any money concerns they have.