Wigan Council

Highway Customer Engagement Transformation Project

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

A key strand of Wigan Council’s Corporate Strategy – The Deal 2030 and Digital Strategy (2021-25) is that the Council willfully enable digital access to all of our services that will also embrace digital to our people, our place, and our future and allow them to ‘Get On-line’. The Council’s delivers over 700 different services, and our website gets an average of 450,000 visits each month and over 2million page views. There are over 60,000 active ‘My Account’ users and our residents have achieved over 26,000 iDEA learning badges. And whilst accessibility for our website is measured as being the 2nd best in the UK, our ambition is to further improve this.

As a part of this approach, we have corporately procured a new customer contact system (Jadu) that will significantly improve the customer facing digital online offer by making all of the Council’s service accessible through a single point of access. The Council’s Highway Services receive one the highest levels of contact from our residents (typically over 15,000 enquiries each year) and this service was therefore selected as a priority to be migrated into using the new system, which would also give better analysis on monitoring customer contact performance. The Highway Services Business Support team were fully engaged in this process and rather than simply rewriting what was already on offer to our residents, used lessons learnt from previous customer annual survey feedback to re-design a new process that would provide a true ‘end to end’ digital journey.

Another key reason for selecting this service, was the fact that our Highways Technical and Operational staff all work with hand-held tablets, that already allow them to record highway inspections and generate and complete work tickets directly from site, but it never allowed them to update customer enquiries from site, due to the limitations in the previous customer enquiries systems. With the new Jadu system, API functionality and additional system intelligence, this gap could be closed.

From scoping out the requirements of this new process, it was clear it would benefit our residents, our officers and the Council. By allowing digital innovation to drive the business workflow, it was assessed that this would achieve reduction in duplication of handling the same enquiry, dealing with customer contact, back-office chase ups and improve our ability to better inform customers on dealing with their enquiry. Digitisation of the process now means that Customers are kept updated by a ‘robotic’ process that is following workflow logic to create updates via an API checking for updates in our back-office system workflow.

This new integrated process allows residents to be kept updated at the key decision-making stages of dealing with an enquiry. The officer does not now need to create an update to the resident, they just need to make the decision on how the issue needs to be dealt with, so it follows the correct workflow in the highway asset management system (Mayrise). When the status changes in Mayrise it will push a new status change to Jadu that automatically updates the resident and keeps them updated on the progress until the work is completed on site. Where the service receives ‘duplicate’ enquiries on the same issue, a Jadu enquiry can now be linked to an existing Mayrise workflow, which now allows multiple ‘duplicate’ enquiries to be updated ‘once’, via one service workflow. This saves significant officer time, cost and complaints in managing duplicate enquiries.

When creating this new workflow, the service also reviewed the process to the way they use and store customers personal data regarding GDPR Regulations. The new process keeps personal data in the front-end system only. This means that no resident data is now being stored in our back-office systems or shared throughout the back-office process. This significantly reduces the opportunity for data-breaches and the cost of storing duplicate date in multiple systems. Not only have we created improvements back office in dealing with customer contact, but each enquiry into the system is now audited and triaged before it is created for the service. This is done by asking the residents to complete a set of filter questions, that is ensuring that enquiries are allocated to the correct team on submission and minimising ‘avoidable’ contact for other services.

Another key strand of ‘The Deal 2030’, is that our residents use digital mediums to become self-reliant on dealing with many issues. The new customer enquiry system has been designed to sign post customers to the self-help information that they can access directly on-line, which again minimises the level of avoidable contact that the services need to handle. Within the Jadu System we have also built-in ‘service standards’ performance timescale triggers to capture service performance on dealing with our customers, this is to help us measure and enhance our service performance.

What are the key achievements?

Prior to commencing the project, our highway asset management system vendor (YOTTA) advised that this type of integration between systems would be unachievable, as their system (being quite old) was not built for this type of digital system working. However, not to be deterred, the Highways Service scoped out the desirable business process and held ‘innovative working’ workshops with the Council’s internal App Support team and the Council external IT support service provider (Agilisys). Knowing both systems had API ability, we understood the functionality would be possible if it was designed correctly and built right.

An outcome of these workshop’s was a review and evaluation the API plug in functionality, which showed that our project scope was actually possible. This work provided the platform to gain the appropriate approvals for the project to be approved and commissioned and offered a unique solution that had not been used previously by the Council or the vendor. This project also empowered ‘accessible’ websites and online reporting forms with a back office ‘real-time’ case management tool, which was not previously available to the Council or the highways service. With the integration capabilities it also allowed us to take control of our digital end to end offer, improve our customer experience and achieve huge efficiencies as a service. Again, this was a first for the Council and the highways service. Feedback that we have received to date from customers and officers has shown a significant improvement in satisfaction. And the performance management metrics around the highway services have shown that the service performance has improved, whilst the back-office cost of dealing with customer enquiries and avoidable contact has reduced.

How innovative is your initiative?

Customer engagement will now be achieved through a wholly digital driven approach at each stage of our business process. The process has a number of key trigger points from when the customer submits their enquiry – in particular when a work order is raised and when the works order is complete. Once the works have been completed, the system then ask for customer feedback to ensure we understand their views on how we have performed with our customer service, and the quality of our service they have received.

The quality of information that the customer now provides has been significantly improved through the on-line form and triaging process. This allows us to better deal with their enquiry which in turn has supported an improvement in our overall service delivery that means that customers enquiries are now being dealt with within service standards and right first time. Before using this digitally integrated approach customers needed to call the contact centre or add their enquiry details to a webform email which was received in back-office mailboxes. Each enquiry would then need to be manually triaged and dealt with by returning the update to the resident via telephone. Typically, this is estimated to have reduced the cost of dealing with a service enquiry from £7 per down to 50p by moving to digital.

This new innovative approach, that now also uses digital triaging of enquiries, has significantly reduced the number of back office request for further information from the customer and has significantly reduced the number of avoidable contact enquiries received to the service by providing, by sign posting customers to self-help guidance. There has also been a notable reduction in the number of customers having to contact the Council ‘chasing-up’ where their enquiry is up to.

What are the key learning points?

We have created an integrated digital end to end customer service for our Highway Services team. However, this approach does not currently allow customers to report multiple issues that sit within different internal Operational service teams, at the same time. Therefore, we are now reviewing our systems and processes to see how these types of enquiries can be handled digitally. To ensure we have cross service representation, we have set-up a small Environmental Service Jadu Project team that will be mapping out the interdependences within enquiries so we can start to introduce new digital triaging process and workflows. The outcome of the work will be to ensure that each part of the enquiry can be triaged to the correct internal teams, with multiple workflows being running in parallel operation to ensure the customer is kept advised on how different parts of their enquiry are being dealt with.

Within this Environmental Jadu Project we have identified the limitations we are currently receiving in the system. For this to be fully compatible with our service needs we need the system to allow ‘point’ asset data layers to introduce automatic fault reports into our back-office systems. This could then digitally create faults for operational staff to deal with without back-office support. We feel that if the Jadu and Council operated asset management systems are scoped and developed optimally, we could allow asset data to be reportable to allow this type of customer reporting around other corporate assets, further removing the need for the back-office triaging in those service areas. With regards to the output reports, we need to look at integrating an automated reporting software to the system, such as Power-Bi, to give further improved transparency on service performance, without manual data collection, analysis and integration from staff in back-office services.

Additional Comments

Whilst we are currently in the early phase of deploying the new customer interface for our highway services, we have already transformed our former hybrid digital / paper based systems into a true digital end-to-end offer. And given the platform is capable of managing customer contact across the wider portfolio of Council services, there is great scope and ambition to drive this type of change Corporately.