Context

The purpose of this Customer Insight report is to bring together the information collected about the customer experience of using Brighton & Hove City Council services in 2019/20.

By customer we mean any user of council services, whether voluntary or involuntary. This includes residents and visitors to the city, businesses, students, service users and their representatives.

This report presents what we currently know about our customer services. Our aim is to ensure we better understand the needs of all our customers, and to learn and grow consistently from the feedback we receive, in order to improve the customer experience.

 

 

Our Customer Promise

Our promise to you

Our vision of Getting things right first time, every time is the driving force behind our customer promise.

Initially developed in 2015, our promise sets out the standards and principles of how we deliver services to our customers, providing the council with a framework to monitor and measure our performance.

Our Customer Promise was recently refreshed in September 2019, to ensure that the services we deliver continue to be aligned to the needs of our customers, following engagement with customers through online and paper surveys and face to face interviews conducted in Customer Service Centres and Libraries across the city.

 

Customers were asked to identify what they valued most when interacting with council services from the below options:

  1. That you receive quick responses but may not get all the information straight away
  2. That you receive the right information first time, even if it takes longer to respond
  3. That information is clear and easy to understand
  4.  That the council is open about what it can and can't deliver
  5. That council services are easy to understand and clear to reach for everyone
  6. That you are given all options and are involved in decisions that affect you
  7. That the council is friendly, respectful and understanding

Of those engaged:

 

  •  35% indicated they would rather receive the correct information first time, even if it takes longer
  •  21% identified responsive communication as their priority
  •  12% stated that information being clear and easy to understand was most important to them

Of those surveyed:

  •  65% indicated they would prefer to communicate through digital channels:

    • email 44%
    • website 18%
    • social media 3%
  •  30% indicated they would prefer to communicate through more traditional channels:
    • over the phone - 20%
    • in person - 10%
  •  4% indicated they would prefer to communicate via post

In addition to the above information, we have reviewed feedback on our customer promise, provided by customers as part of the recent engagement, online customer satisfaction survey responses, customer complaints and compliments.

Our Customer Promise has been jointly developed, from these priorities, in collaboration with representatives from front line services.

The standards and principles within the promise do not only apply to staff who work directly with customers, but all staff who work for the council, including those in support services such as:

  • Human resources:
  • IT & Digital
  • Finance
  • Business Operations
  • Health & Safety

This ensures a consistency of approach and provides staff who do deal directly with customers the appropriate infrastructure, tools and support to deliver the best customer experience.

Our Customer Experience Vision describes how we intend to deliver on the Customer Promise and has been similarly refreshed following customer feedback. These two documents are at the heart of our Customer Experience Strategy that was approved at the Policy & Resources Committee in December 2019.

Our customer promise to you

We will make it clear how you can contact or access our services

  • communicate with you online - email, website and social media - where possible and appropriate. This is often quicker and more convenient for you
  • ff you have specific access needs, work with you to find the best way to get the help you need 
  • ensure our services are inclusive and responsive to your needs

We will be clear and treat you with respect

  • be honest and easy to understand in all our communication with you
  • keep your personal data secure
  • work together with other services across the council and city to meet your needs and make it easier for you to get the help you need

We will understand and get things done

  • aim to answer your query at first point of contact. When we can’t do this, tell you clearly what will happen next so you know what to expect 
  • make sure our staff have the skills, behaviours and tools to deliver the service you need
  • keep you informed with up to date information about the services you use

You can help us to keep our promise by

  • treating us, and other customers, with respect
  • letting us know if you have any specific needs
  • giving us all the information we require to help us meet your needs
  • giving us feedback on our service so we can learn and improve

Please tell us how we are doing

  • we welcome all feedback, including when things don’t go right
  • we are committed to using this information to improve our services
  • please tell us how satisfied you are with our service
  • if you would like to provide a detailed compliment or complaint please contact the Customer Feedback team

Checking our performance against this promise

  • we check our performance through monitoring
    • customer satisfaction and ease of access
    • compliments and complaints
    • information about how our customers contact us
    • survey of Brighton & Hove residents and service users
  • the results will be published through our Customer Insight Report annually

 

Different ways to contact us

Website

We will:

  • aim to have the council website available for 24 hours a day all year round
  • continually improve our online services to meet your needs
  • ensure our online services are accessible and simple to use
  • let you know about other ways of contacting us

Written communication

We will:

  • ensure all service email addresses have an ‘automatic reply’ which clearly explains what will happen next
  • aim to keep average response times within 10 working days. At busier times, we will aim to let you know how long you may have to wait
  • let you know about other ways of contacting us

Telephones

  • aim to keep average waiting times under 10 minutes. At busier times, we will aim to let you know how long you may have to wait
  • update voicemails and telephone messages regularly to hold accurate information
  • aim to respond to voicemails within one working day
  • let you know about other ways of contacting us

Face to face

We will:

  • make sure our customer service buildings are welcoming, safe, fully accessible and designed to make it easy to get the help you need
  • aim to greet you within five minutes of arrival and see you on average within 20 minutes. At busier times, we will aim to let you know how long you may have to wait
  • let you know about other ways of contacting us

Social media

We will:

  • be clear how we will respond to any queries received
  • share relevant information and keep this up to date
  • let you know about other ways of contacting us

 

Our Customer Experience Vision

Getting things right first time, every time

 

Customer Satisfaction: Results Summary

Planned Service Improvements

Access Point

  • new service design places a greater focus on resolving customer needs at first point of contact
  • developing new tools focusing on prevention and early intervention aimed at making it easier and more intuitive for customers to find the support they need
  • working collaboratively with organisations across the city to provide more joined up approach to meeting customer needs and improving their overall experience

City Environmental Management

  • investment in technology to improve information flow, providing real-time feedback and a more responsive service to customers
  • a fleet replacement programme to reduce service disruption due to vehicle breakdowns and associated issues
  • a review of all rounds to provide a more efficient service delivery and increase recycling rates

Housing Needs

  • greater focus on prevention, intervention and sustainment through the adoption of the new Homelessness & Rough Sleepers Strategy
  • working collaboratively with community organisations and people with lived experience of homelessness to form the Homeless Operational Board
  • improved accessibility through the implementation of a Trauma Informed Approach to service delivery and development digital systems

Housing Repairs

  • increase staffing levels in areas which have most significant impact on residents, to ensure the team’s ability to implement the required service improvements
  • continue to embed the new service and strengthen relationships with colleagues across other teams, specifically Property & Investment, to have an increasingly joined up and aligned approach, as we are all council staff now
  • re-design and implementation of several improved processes for high volume areas, such as responsive repairs which get referred onto Planned / Major Works and including the processes for managing and responding to customer complaints and member enquiries

Parking

  • improving accessibility to Parking Permit scheme information through an interactive map-based programme
  • integrating with MyAccount and the Customer Index to provide an intuitive and streamlined application process for customers
  • adopting the Contact Management System will provide enhanced control and efficiencies to customer contact
  • established a customer experience working group for Parking & Transport focusing on making improvements to the services directly for the benefit of customers

Planning

  • improved process for collecting customer feedback allowing more detailed analysis and focused insights that target specific areas of the planning service
  • increased management and monitoring of customer contact to ensure service delivery aligns with the standards set out in our policy and provide a more responsive service
  • working collaboratively with the Planning Agents Forum to address issues faced by Planning Agents using the service

Revenues & Benefits

  • further integration with MyAccount and Customer Index to streamline the digital customer journey
  • enhanced support for customers on self-service through MyAccount
  • exploring new contact models to enable easier access and more efficient transactions

Transport

  • reviewing the usability and accessibility of Transport & Parking Services through the council website with a focus on resolving customer needs
  • implementing a single point of contact for customers further enhancing access to the service and removing the requirement for customers to know who they need to contact
  • established a customer experience working group for Parking & Transport focusing on making improvements to the services directly for the benefit of customers

 

Customer Feedback: Data Summary

Contact by channel: Data Summary

Priority areas for focus

Whilst the data in this report reflects the experience and interactions of those who have contacted or used Brighton & Hove City Council services in the 2019/20 financial year, our future recommendations and plans take account of the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and learn from the experiences.

Within the considerable challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, there are also significant opportunities to make tangible improvements in the way that we deliver services.

Strengthen infrastructure

One of the most significant barriers to service continuity throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has been the inflexibility of the infrastructure and tools required to maintain customer service delivery (e.g. the telephone system which public phone lines rely on). Whilst services have found innovative ways to maintain essential customer contact channels, this has been challenging and resource intensive. Future consideration of available system upgrades should take account of the less tangible costs of failing to provide business continuity and the resource cost of finding and maintaining workarounds, where systems are inadequately flexible or no longer fit for purpose.

Teams and services will need to be supported and monitored to ensure that there is a priority focus on customer service delivery within Business Continuity Plans, and that each service plan is joined up and considered as part of a whole council plan for customer contact in the event of any incident. Any identification of likely service failure due to inadequate infrastructure in any potential scenario will be highlighted and escalated for that risk to be either mitigated or accepted by the organisation.

Implement system changes and upgrades, prioritising communication systems, to ensure teams can continue to offer a consistent standard of customer service, regardless of location or service delivery model.

Deliver services differently

The council’s capacity to respond to the challenge of providing uninterrupted services during the Covid-19 pandemic identified areas of improvement, specifically our capability to deliver consistently high-quality services during a period of rapid change. We must continue to challenge ourselves to think about and do things differently, to have greater accountability to our customers and to be responsive to our customers’ requests and needs. To enable this there needs to be clear oversight, control and understanding of service provision at a corporate level and concerted, consistent efforts to realise the investment in and benefits of digital tools and infrastructure, such as the customer index.

Services to work closely with the Customer Experience Steering Group, which includes Digital Customer programme, on analysis of service delivery during Covid-19 – identifying simple transactions which could not be delivered without physical interaction or could only be delivered in a disproportionately resource intensive way, e.g. physical parking permits. Work with those teams and services to explore alternatives, or to implement safety measures should alternatives not be possible, for example the physical exchange of keys between tenants and housing teams.
Teams and services will be supported and monitored to ensure they fully engage with the Digital Customer programme to ensure that their customers benefit from the capabilities that the technology has created, such as being able to anticipate and proactively respond to customer needs through joined up data sets – identifying customers who will be affected by a planned change to service delivery and contacting them directly in advance of that change.

Build on the collaborative city and community foundations created during the Covid-19 lockdown period (joint working, shared systems, shared responsibility for delivery) by increasing joint working with charities and other third sector partners, through direct referral routes and shared services where appropriate.

Rebuild a better customer experience

A frequent theme in the customer feedback is frustration at the slow (or even non-existent) responses that customers receive to email contact from many teams or services within the council. Email is now the most used channel for residents to contact the council. The limitations of the current systems for managing and responding to email contact means that there is no consistent accountability or systematic method for ensuring that all email requests receive a timely, comprehensive response from the correct teams or services.

Investigate further development of the contact management system (as used by the new Community Hub and PPE distribution services) to ensure accountability, responsiveness, consistency and flexibility in service delivery. New services providing support to residents and businesses because of the Covid-19 pandemic have been using a newly developed contact management system, which has facility to provide this management and oversight. This, or equivalent systems should be scoped and implemented across any council service which doesn’t have an existing contact management tool, to improve the customer experience and reduce failure demand and repeat contact.

Contact Us

We welcome any suggestions, questions or other feedback about this report

Please contact

Customer Experience Manager

Luke.Hamblin@brighton-hove.gov.uk

Customer Experience Lead

Victoria.Paling@brighton-hove.gov.uk

Head of Performance, Improvement and Programmes

Rima.Desai@brighton-hove.gov.uk

Appendices

Learning from feedback

We receive feedback from customers in a variety of ways, such as comments on surveys, compliments and complaints. To improve the experience of our customers, it is essential that we are proactive in understanding and acting on this feedback.

To make sure that all staff are aware of what is important to customers, and the ways in which we can improve our service delivery, we create a monthly summary of information relating to customer contact referred to as the Customer Insight dashboard. This dashboard is shared across the organisation.

Key learning themes

  • ensure good practice in all correspondence; for example, send clear, timely responses that set appropriate expectations for the customer.
  • delivering joined up services for the benefit of the customer, particularly when dealing with customer contact.
  • being clear and easy to access; for example, keeping our webpages concise and up to date, or ensuring all correspondence includes accurate contact information for the service.
  • aim to resolve all matters raised during customer contact, rather than rushing to pick up the next enquiry, and so the customer doesn’t need to make multiple contacts with the council.
  • implementing controlled and structured customer contact and communications channel to ensure consistency in experience and enable improved management capabilities.
  • do as we say by delivering what has been promised; for example, providing services to published service level agreements or contacting a customer at the time agreed, even if you don’t have any new information for them.
  • understanding the wider impact of our work; for example, if you are unable to do something as agreed, make sure anyone who may be affected is informed, such as other service teams, customers or other professionals.
  • be proactive in providing services to customers; for example, if we have data that suggests a service improvement act upon it or when things go wrong tell affected parties what has happened as soon as possible, and what will be done to put it right and keep them informed throughout.
  • share data appropriately for the benefit of the customer and the city; for example, sharing identity verification with other services so the customer only has to provide it once.

How will we know we’re improving?

To track our progress in improving the experience of interacting with the council for customers, we will use multiple sources of data and information, to assess whether things are improving.

Listening to our customers

The most important way for us to know that the work we are doing is making things better for customers, is to listen to the customers themselves. We will ask for, analyse and make recommendations from various sources of customer feedback, including:

  • results from the City Tracker annual survey, which measures resident satisfaction levels, these can be benchmarked against national results, through the Local Government Association’s Resident survey
  • service specific satisfaction surveys
  • service user evaluation forms, some services which have a more intensive or complex relationship with their customers such as youth services and the Integrated Team for Families, ask for detailed feedback at the end of each intervention or interaction.
  • using complaints information

Listening to our staff

Our staff have a keen sense of what is and isn’t working for our customers, so their feedback is an important part of measuring our improvements. We will regularly collect staff feedback in these, amongst other ways.

  • feedback from the Customer Experience Ambassador network
  • annual Internal customer satisfaction survey
  • annual staff survey

Listening to our councillors

The city’s elected representatives are often made aware of issues that are important to their ward residents. A new case management system is being introduced to improve the way in which councillors can get assistance for their residents from the council. The system will provide an enhanced ability to identify themes or trends in these enquiries, both at ward level and city-wide, and enable us to identify areas of improvement which can be shared across the organisation as appropriate.

Making good use of our data

In the course of conducting our business, we gather a lot of data about our customer transactions and contact, in order to make best use of this data we will regularly measure and analyse metrics which relate to customer contact. These include:

  • volumes of complaints and compliments and analysis of themes and trends
  • phone, email and complaint response times - through the monthly dashboard
  • contact volumes by channel of communication – through the annual Customer insight report
  • customer journey mapping - both ideal states and current experiences

Contact Data Analysis

Overall, customer contact increased by 1.8%, going from 1,231,134 contacts in 2018/19 to 1,225,750 in 2019/20.

Email is the most frequently used contact channel, accounting for 32% (395,925) of all customer contact in 2019/20.

Phone calls decreased by 11% from 299,124 in 2018/19 to 266,698 in 2019/20.

Online forms saw a 25% increase, from 248,653 in 2018/19 to 311,547 in 2019/20.

We received 9% (13,452) fewer letters in 2019/20 in comparison to 2018/19, however face to face contact had a marginal increase by 7% (8,968 more contacts).

This chart shows the shift in volume between the various contact channels from 2018/19 to 2019/20. The inner ring is contact made during 2018/19 and the outer ring is contact made during 2019/20.

The figures displayed are the total number of contacts per channel and the percentage figure shows the channel in proportion to all contact received during the respective periods. By viewing the volumes side by side, we can see the variance between the two years.

The below chart shows the average number of phone calls received per month between 2010/11 and 2019/20 for the nine highest volume services, with forecasted data up to 2025/26 based on the trend. We currently receive, on average, fewer than half the volume of calls we did in 2010/11.

Based on this downward trend in calls received we can approximate that by 2025/26 we will receive an estimated 10,000 calls on average per month. This downward trend is largely the result of customers’ using alternate means to contact the council, chiefly digital channels.

This chart displays the total volume of contact on average per month across all channels from 2014/15 to 2019/20. The overall contact volume has remained largely the same over the past six years, however customers are now preferring digital contact channels over non-digital channels.

The yellow bar indicates our highest volume received in a year (107,625 contacts on average per month). The chart below displays the total volume of contact from all channels of the highest volume transactional services in the council, with all other services also included for reference. The vertical-axis shows the number of online forms received, the horizontal-axis is the number of emails received (the two largest channels of contact, accounting for 57% of all contact in 2019/20) and the size of the bubble indicates the total number of contacts.

Council Tax accounts for 26% of all contact across all channels receiving 316,705 contacts in 2019/20.

(from the 1,225,750 contacts received by the council as a whole)

Overall, contact across all communication channels has increased by 1.8% when compared to the same data set from 2018/19. The data from the previous six years provides an average of 103,701 contacts per month with marginal increases or decreases year to year but no major shift in volume.

The table below shows the monthly average of each contact by channel from 2014/15 to 2019/20.

(from the 1,225,750 contacts received by the council as a whole)

Overall, contact across all communication channels has increased by 1.8% when compared to the same data set from 2018/19. The data from the previous six years provides an average of 103,701 contacts per month with marginal increases or decreases year to year but no major shift in volume.

The table below shows the monthly average of each contact by channel from 2014/15 to 2019/20.

  31 March 2015 31 March 2016 31 March 2017 31 March 2018 31 March 2019 31 March 2020
Phone 47433 35002 37970 36270 24927 22225
Online 287 2626 8595 14909 20721 25962
Email 19856 21902 24922 24383 33289 32925
Letters 21856 20082 20008 18969 12942 11821
Face to face 16048 15632 15373 13095 10715 11463
Total 105480 95244 106868 107625 102595 104396
Phone % 45% 37% 36% 34% 24% 21%
Online % 0% 3% 8% 14% 20% 25%
Email % 19% 23% 23% 23% 33% 32%
Letters % 21% 21% 19% 18% 13% 11%
Face to face % 15% 16% 14% 12% 10% 11%

What has changed over the past six years is the channel used by customers to contact the council, namely a large shift from phone contact to digital contact (email & online forms). What this data presents is a telling preference in customer contact methods; as phone contact decreases, digital contact volumes increase by comparable numbers.

Data collected on communications via post (letters etc.) and face to face contact indicates that these channels have stabilised over the past two years, following increased channel shifting. A high percentage of hard copy documents received by the council is verification and evidence documents.