Southend-on-Sea Council transforms IT support with self-service portal
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, a unitary local authority in Essex, England, spends £450m a year and employs around 1,900 staff to provide a huge range of services to over 175,000 residents. Though affected by national austerity measures, it strives to protect front-line services by “working smarter, harder and better”. In 2012 it was named Council of the Year by the Local Government Chronicle, and subsequently was asked to share its experience of improving services while driving efficiencies with many other organisations.
Southend-on-Sea Council’s ICT service desk implemented Supportworks in 2010, quickly realising significant improvements over the previous in-house system. However, there were persistent issues with manual processes – unsurprisingly given that cost pressures have left ICT short-staffed. A service desk team of six, including two apprentices, supports all aspects of ICT for an expanding user base that currently comprises around 4,000 internal and external users. Staff used to be constantly on the phone and, of an average 4,500 calls each month, around 1,400 were abandoned.
In 2013, the team successfully turned this situation around by adding a web-based self-service portal. Fully integrated with Supportworks, MyICT allows customers to log their own calls online and automatically routes them to the right analyst, relieving service desk staff of the need to record and triage calls – and so removing a potential bottleneck. Customers can view the latest status of a call online.
As a result, the number of calls to the desk reduced by 50%. With service desk staff focused on solving customer issues, the call backlog dropped from 330 to under 50 within three months. Customer experience was transformed. As Nick Corrigan, the Council’s Head of Customer Services, says, “The changes implemented on the service desk have produced a highly professional and efficient service team and an accommodating support system.”
Supportworks, with the addition of the self-service portal, is helping the ICT support desk team achieve the Council’s strategic aim of “working smarter”. The team now provides an outstanding service to its large user base by making the best use of the skills and knowledge available. Manual tasks are automated, workflows streamlined and calls prioritised to give customers the service they need to do their jobs efficiently. The 99%+ customer satisfaction rating speaks for itself.
The portal was designed for maximum simplicity and convenience (see screenshot), but nonetheless some users were initially suspicious, viewing it as extra work or a barrier. With senior management support, the team managed the business change, overcoming resistance by promoting the portal and explaining its benefits via posters and emails, and on calls. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system was introduced for urgent issues, with a message recommending MyICT for the rest.
Now users realise that the portal empowers them, allowing them to raise and categorise their own calls and monitor progress, round the clock if they need to. “It’s easier to monitor open cases and to see the history of what is happening. It’s also simple and quick to use,” says one manager. “The emails I receive giving me updates on my calls save me time and having to chase,” says another.
Efficient, focused support staff
When customers do need to call, they are assured of a positive response from service desk staff, who are no longer fire-fighting all the time and have the capacity to deal with problems systematically and thoroughly.
Apart from the self-service aspect, their efficiency has been helped by the flexibility of Hornbill’s workflows. Standard processes can be modified to suit the requirements of the organisation – routing certain specialist calls to bypass the service desk, for example. Supportworks’ searchable knowledge base is used to share fixes between technicians.
Prioritising work to reflect business importance
The team have tuned the use of Supportworks, and of the portal and IVR system, to ensure that each call gets a priority that reflects its business importance. Users assign an SLA to their own calls when logging them on the portal. On the IVR, issues that stop work, like loss of internet connectivity, are put straight through to the service desk. Calls from “VIPs” such as councillors are also prioritised. Because the priority given to calls now matches their importance to the Council’s business, ICT can readily demonstrate that it is creating value.
Full integration for a streamlined process
The MyICT portal was developed as a separate application but it is fully integrated with the Hornbill system via web service technology. When a call is logged, the asset number is retrieved from Supportworks, and all the call details are fed straight into the Supportworks workflow. Supportworks’ configurability made it easy for the team to implement the features that they wanted, for example in terms of allocating priorities to calls.
The team are planning to release a further version of MyICT to cater for its expanding external customer base. They will consider working with Hornbill to incorporate the latest Supportworks features into future versions of the portal.
At a glance
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
Supportworks ITSM Foundations
Self-service portal keeps users informed and frees staff from clerical work to focus on problem-solving.
- Support desk staff have far fewer calls to answer and triage so can focus on problem-solving
- Customer satisfaction is now consistently over 99%
- Call abandon rate is down from almost a third to under 5%
- Call backlog has reduced from 330 to less than 50
- These and other service targets were met or exceeded within three months of implementing the portal
- Calls are prioritised according to the type of problem and customer, enabling ICT to demonstrate business value