On 24th August, iNetwork held a roundtable discussion focussed on customer service delivery, the session brought together senior customer service representatives from ten member organisations. The discussion covered a wide range of challenges facing customer service professionals including increases in complexity in queries, encouraging customers to use online systems and developing customer portals.

The session did not have a formal agenda, but rather encouraged participants to speak openly about current and pressing challenges affecting the sector. The conversation, which was chaired by TIPS stakeholder engagement manager, Tom Hindmarch, began with a short survey asking participants about their most prominent channels of communication with customers, what has changed as a result of the pandemic and the proportion of staff either working remotely or in a hybrid mode. The survey set the scene and identified a number of key discussion points and commonalities between the councils.

The first discussion point focussed on telephony, which was identified as the predominant channel of communication with customers by the majority of participants. Various aspects were debated including automated telephony and how telephony links with online and face to face services. Participants also discussed which platform they used, sharing opinions and discussing the pros and cons of each system. Attendees also compared approaches in delivery face to face services post pandemic, with many mentioning that they offer in person services on an appointment and referral based only.

The discussion naturally moved on to digital service provisions, specifically, customer accounts and portals. Many on the call mentioned there were particular challenges in setting up effective user friendly portals as well as encouraging customers to use them regularly. Additional digital innovations were discussed including apps providing essential information on services such as bin collection.

It was great to see member organisations engaging in a varied discussion, sharing ideas, knowledge and research to support each other with challenges in their practice. The group of customer service professionals are keen to reconvene and tackle specific areas of customer service in further roundtables. If you are a customer professional and would be interested in sharing knowledge and ideas with peers please get in touch with our Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Tom. The next roundtable focusing on customer services will take place in late October.