Channel Shift is one of, if not the hottest topics with Public Sector Customer Services at present and is set to be for some time to come.
For years, public sector organisations have engaged with citizens via phone, letter and face-to-face but over last decade or so, with the development of the internet and mobile phones, there are now a multitude of channels that a local authority can engage, communicate and serve the citizen and vice versa.
The benefits of using email/web forms/social media/mobile apps and other “digital” channels are many fold:
- Efficiency: the time it takes to deliver certain services such as registering a new benefits claim, reporting graffiti or pothole and acquiring a Blue Badge for disabled parking can be dramatically reduced by hours, days and in some cases weeks.
- Savings: using digital channels can not only reduce the amount of time but also the amount of staff required to deliver that service. Traditional face-to-face services can be delivered via phone or better still via the web or mobile app. Less staff are required and therefore the cost of delivering the service decreases dramatically
The Society of IT Managers (SOCITM) channel costs that are quoted so frequently which are to be used as yardstick and not a de facto set of figures bear this out:
- face-to-face £8.23
- telephone £3.21
- website £0.39
And the non-rocket scientists amongst us can identify that there is a big saving to be made where a service can be moved from face-to-face delivery to web delivery.
Channel Shift has to be born in the back office, creating PDF forms for customers to print is not “e-enablement” or channel shift . Nor is creating an on line application system that then creates letters to be posted with tear-off slips to be returned and this leads into the important issue of back office integration, making sure that all of these cost effective digital channels are connected to or integrated with back office systems such as the CRM, Housing systems, Benefits system etc.,
But what about when all this process re-engineering, shifting and integrating is complete. The citizen is used to accessing the service in one way but you now want and need them to access it in another.
It is clear in many channel shift projects that have taken place that the marketing of change has been an afterthought or not thought about at all. In some cases, organisations appear to be relying on “Channel Drift”, citizens finding the alternative channels by accident but many are applying a common sense approach to marketing channel shift by carrying out the following:
- Clearly identifying transactional services on their websites
- Promoting mobile payment apps in car parks, leisure centres and on outgoing hard copy communications
- Providing clearly marked self service terminals in Contact Centres & One Stop Shops
- Using existing face-to-face appointments to promote self serve opportunities
The key message is not to rely on the “If we build it, we will come” approach. With the potential savings to be made and in some instances that desperately need to be made, the marketing of channel shift programmes should not be left to chance.