Coventry City Council is ambitious about improving services for residents in the context of reducing budgets and growing demand for services.
In 2016, the council took part in the Design in the Public Sector Programme, delivered by Design Council in partnership with the Local Government Association. Here, they look back on what has happened and how they have used the ideas to advance improvements.
Coventry City Council had been looking at offering initial and transactional queries online across a number of services in an attempt to manage the demand for phone and face-to-face services. It had also invested in improving its customer service offer by consolidating a number of reception points into a single, refurbished Customer Service Centre which is bright, modern and welcoming.
Coventry needed to ensure that its resources are targeted to where they are most required and where possible, expectations and demand are managed more effectively. This could be managed through allowing customers to access information in a way that is accessible to them, at the earliest opportunity to prevent unnecessary interaction with Adult Social Care services.
Engagement and action
One of the project team’s first tasks was to sit with the customer service team in order to understand what it was like to work in that role, gather insight and understand the types of enquiries and requests coming to them. It was identified that around 40% of calls to the Customer Service Centre were people looking to speak with a named worker. A decision was made to trial business cards with direct numbers for three social workers in July 2016. In addition, all social workers were asked to adopt new telephone technology which allowed easier management of their diaries, allowing the Customer Service Centre to quickly see where a social worker is at a specific time, and when they would be available. Six months on, the Customer Service Centre has noticed a reduction in phone calls for the three workers and a slight reduction in calls for named workers as a whole, dipping from around 40% to 33% on average.
The workers who trialled the business cards felt that they were effective in allowing the customer to contact them directly. However, they did acknowledge that once the worker was no longer allocated to the case, they still received phone calls from the customer, despite the number for the Customer Service Centre being given.
The review of the business card design will take into account these calls and how we can more effectively communicate the use of direct number once a case is no longer allocated to a social worker. It is anticipated that the business cards will be rolled out to all members of staff, with some modifications potentially including how the customer can give feedback on their experience.
The Design in the Public Sector Programme helped the Council to identify that in order for it to reduce demand on Adult Social Care, it needed to introduce more effective ways of providing customers with information at an early stage, in a way that is convenient for them.
In September 2016, the council launched an online self-assessment within the wider tool of the Adult Social Care Information Directory. The Directory provides a quick and easy way to help customers find the support they need to live a healthy, independent life. It provides searchable information that can be filtered by location or type of support, and also features an online self-assessment. The self-assessment asks questions about a customer’s current situation and provides tailored information about support and activities that may be beneficial. It also allows people to refer themselves for a full needs-assessment if their answers indicate it would be beneficial.
The launch of the tool was between September and December 2016, 230 individuals completed the online self-assessment. Of those 230 people, 61 requested a referral for a full assessment. The tool was soft launched and we are now working with communications to promote the tool more widely outside of the authority and with the NHS to encourage wider use.
Since February 2016, Coventry City Council has carried out four ‘hack days’ where the team used the skills within the organisation to look at a digital strategy and transform the way it works. They have looked at new technology and how this can be used to enable new and innovative ways of working, and how this can enhance the effectiveness of the organisation. One of the hack days focused around a ‘service safari’, looking at how customer and design approaches can be used to tackle some of the problems faced by our services. Positive feedback has been received from council colleagues who attended each hack day, focusing on the value of new ways of thinking and using the tools the team already had to advance its customer service and digital skills.
The Council team is using the evaluation of the project to inform further work with the Customer Services team to streamline the processes involved in offering the most effective signposting. This will allow the advisers to ask the most effective questions to determine whether signposting would be the most appropriate action to take for the customer, and which external agencies would be able to provide the support needed.
The next hack day that the Council plans to take forward will focus on a single specific issue and will use the knowledge of the service area, IT and design principles learned on the Programme to provide a solution. Coventry is looking at creating an online booking system that allows the customer to book an appointment with a social worker at a time which is convenient for both them, and the social work team.
Through the DiPS Programme the team also learned that the customer experience is dependent on the process that follows the initial phone call or web form. We have used the design tools to facilitate action plans to improve the personalisation of Adult Social Care by mapping the ideal customer journey.
Coventry City Council is currently working on implementing an online financial advisory tool for people to find out, through some basic questions, whether they would be eligible to receive a contribution towards the cost of their care. The project was kicked off by using the problem statement templates introduced to them during the DiPS Programme to ensure it is addressing the root cause alongside developing user stories to meet the customer need. This will allow people to have an idea of the level of financial support they can receive from the Council without having to contact by phone. It also contains links to council webpages regarding the assessment criteria and to the Adult Social Care information directory where the customer can find more information about support within their area.
The work that has been undertaken so far has contributed towards the wider challenge faced by Adult Social Care, of reducing demand and allowing customers to find out information in a way that is accessible to them.
Head of Business Systems
Coventry City Council
Tel: 024 7678 7358