Having spent most of my career working in the public sector I am all too familiar with the many challenges it faces. Budget cuts year after year have led to drastically reduced headcounts, depleting reserves and leaving management teams constantly searching for new ways to find savings. Any slush in the budget has long gone and low-hanging fruit has been picked, leaving many seeing no option but to reluctantly cut services in an attempt to balance budgets.
With national debt soaring, it is unlikely that public sector budget reductions will stop any time soon. So where will these savings come from when many critical departments are already cut to the bone with staff working under increasing pressure? Is there an untapped goldmine that not only delivers substantial savings, but also increases the quality of service to customers and increases staff morale?
Focusing on efficiency is the wrong place to start.
In an attempt to “do more with less”, many organisations focus on how they can deliver the service they provide more efficiently. This often involves streamlining processes, setting and monitoring KPIs, introducing new technology, carrying out restructures to reduce headcounts, and ensuring they have the right staff that are skilled and motivated.
Whilst seeking to make a service as efficient as possible is important, it is the wrong place to start. There is little benefit in providing an efficient and technologically advanced service if it does not deliver what the customer needs.
A common consequence of services not being designed around its customers is they don’t meet the customer’s requirements, which leads to high failure demand. Failure demand is contact that could have been avoided if something hadn’t gone wrong or the customer didn’t feel the need to make contact. For example, a council tax letter that gets sent out and is hard to understand leading to hundreds of avoidable calls from customers. It is not unusual for failure demand in public sector organisations to be over 40% of all customer contact. When you consider it often takes longer to correct something that has gone wrong than to do it right the first time, this is a significant amount of time and money wasted.
From experience of studying the types of customer requests made to organisations it doesn’t take long to spot failure demand. The key is understanding what is causing this preventable demand and then designing it out. As I’ve worked with staff from across a service’s delivery chain to unpack what is really happening in a service, it is always a delight to see their relief as together, we identify changes that resolve long standing issues and cut out this avoidable work.
Surprisingly, a frequent source of failure demand is badly designed, top-down efficiency targets. These targets that were put in place to improve efficiency often have the opposite effect by taking the focus of staff away from the customer. Staff striving to meet their targets by rushing calls or completing jobs quickly, often leads to the customer getting a bad service or not receiving what they needed. This is not only demoralising for staff but frequently will result in additional work when the customer recontacts the organisation to try again.
As a leading technology business, we know how technology can radically transform services. But if the technology is introduced without the service being designing around the customer, the organisation misses an opportunity to maximise on its investment and risks locking in failure demand and waste.
Focusing on the Customer.
At risual we have launched a new service specifically targeted to support the public sector drive out costs from services whilst radically improving customer experience and staff morale.
Our Digital Service Designs reimagine the future of public services. They provide a holistic, end to end review of a service that an organisation provides to its customers. Redesigning services around customers, they empower organisations to provide joined up and efficient services – driving out failure demand, streamlining processes and eliminating waste.
As part of the offering, we identify opportunities to utilise technology to transform how the service is delivered. Amongst other things, this includes:
- Identifying opportunities to automate processes and maximise customer self-service.
- How technology can support services to move from scheduled based working to demand driven. For example, litter bins that communicate when they need emptying.
- Providing mobile technology to support staff who are out and about, to maximise their productivity.
- How data is managed along with dashboards and reports to monitor meaningful measures, supporting continuous improvement and empowering organisations to proactively manage services rather than needing to respond to unnecessary escalations.
risual’s Digital Service Designs provide public services an opportunity to drive down costs whilst ensuring customers get what they need. If you relate to the challenges I’ve discussed in this blog, why not get in touch to discover more about how we can help you transform your services?