Customer service

When a council makes changes strategically and operationally it can be expected that this will have an impact upon ratepayers, clients, user groups and stakeholders (external customers). Regardless of the changes being made, external customers will continue to demand consistent and seamless service across all customer contact points. Expectations will also remain high within the new entity with internal customers also seeking to maintain or improve current levels of service.

Now, more than ever, there is a need to ensure inter-departmental communication, information sharing and support is efficient and effective so that service levels are not compromised and the customer (internal and external) is not feeling confused, undervalued or misinformed.

The best way to ensure that the customer experience (both internal and external) is a great one is to adopt the customer's view. Using this approach, it is possible to sequence and coordinate customer-contact interactions in a way that creates a better and more fulfilling customer experience. Other ways of securing a great experience are:

  • Embedding consideration of the customer experience as an integral part of the new entity.
  • Identifying and accelerating actions to improve the customer experience or increase the value of the new entity’s offering to them.
  • Communicating and listening.
  • Making sure the tools and information needed to respond to customers caught up in the change are in place. If not, prepare and implement these.
  • Delivering on the basics, minimising complexity for the customer, communicating in a simple, respectful and compelling way and optimising the customer experience.

The function of customer service comprises of two sub-functions: 1. Customer service model (the overall strategic approach the new entity takes with customer service); and 2. Frontline customer service. As councils have numerous frontline customer contact points, the scenario of the main Administration Building function of customer service has been used as an example below.

It is useful to consider which customer service tasks should ideally be in place for Commencement Day of the new council  - a Customer Service Commencement Day Checklist (PDF, 212KB) has been provided. Additional information and useful materials can be found on the Resources page.

Stage 1 - Review

Customer service model

  • Establish a Customer Service working group within the project management framework. Critical paths and/or timelines to be established.
  • Collate all current customer service related material, charter, policy or guidelines, processes, standards and guidelines. Provided in the 'Resources' list is an example Customer Service Charter, Waverley Council (PDF, 225KB).

Frontline customer service

  • Determine current state for the systems, processes and standards applied to all customer contact points (i.e. online and front line customer service delivery).
  • Collate all current front line customer service related policy, processes and guidelines. Identify all integration points across the new entity (i.e. with HR, IT, finance and budgets etc).
  • Collate all inter-departmental procedures, schedules and calendar of events i.e. rates, registrations.

Stage 2 - Plan

Customer service model

  • Compare the existing approach and customer service models used by the merging partners. In doing so:
    • Review the charter, policy or guidelines, systems, process, standards and reporting requirements.
    • Identify better practice methodologies.
  • Commence the mapping and development of a consolidated customer service model including processes, structure, staffing requirements and business system requirements. See the: Reviewing the Customer Service Model (PDF, 227KB) resource for more information.

Frontline customer service

  • Compare and review the current front line customer service related guidelines, standards and processes from the merging councils. Review all inter-departmental procedures. Identify better practice and establish / revise the procedural manual.
  • Prepare an inventory of all marketing collateral for re-branding.
  • Review complaint handling procedure. Provided in the 'Resources' list is an example Complaints Handling Guideline, Gloucester Council (PDF, 430KB)
  • Review site location requirements and customer traffic estimates – staffing for service.
  • Working in partnership with the workplace reform working group, commence mapping and design of business unit functions.

Stage 3 - Mobilise

Customer service model

  • Finalise the overarching framework that guides the provision and standards of customer service. Include a charter, policy or guidelines, systems, process, standards and reporting requirements.
  • Address any business systems needs and /or improved functionality. Prepare costing’s and follow normal approval procedures.
  • Develop an Implementation and Communications Plan to support the revised model.
  • Identify and develop training programs required to support the model.

Frontline customer service

  • Finalise the services to be provided and the standards of service provision.
  • Finalise the procedural manual.
  • Confirm the inventory of all marketing collateral including signage for re-branding and uniform requirements (if applicable).
  • Finalise the complaint handling procedure.
  • Develop and implement a Customer Service Commencement Day checklist (PDF, 212KB) in readiness for the commencement of the new entity.
  • Address any site location / accommodation issues.
  • Finalise business unit structure and positions. Develop a staff induction program to support existing and /or staff redeployed or transmitted.
  • Review budgets.
  • Develop an implementation plan ensuring all internal stakeholders are fully aware of changes, contact points and procedures.

Stage 4 - Implement

Customer service model

  • Adopt new policy if applicable.
  • Continue implementation and communication of the revised model.
  • Implement training programs and inductions to support the new model.
  • Implement monitoring processes for continuous improvement purposes.

Frontline customer service

  • Finalise the services to be provided and the standards of service provision.
  • Implement the procedural manual and any training required to support staff.
  • Commence changeover of marketing collateral including signage etc. (if applicable).
  • Continue implementation of Commencement checklist.
  • Ensure staff are aware of budget and procurement procedures.
  • Implement team building activities and induct all employees.