NI 14 - how councils are measuring up

Government software supplier Lagan looks at some of the approaches which have already helped local authorities reduce unnecessary contact – and yield significant cost savings as a resultFrom this month (April 2009), local authorities start reporting against the government’s National Indicator for avoidable contact – NI 14. The requirements of NI 14 have been widely communicated – and indeed hotly debated – so have come as no surprise to councils. The challenge facing many, however, is in understanding precisely what they need to measure – and how to apply the data they extract to support them in achieving the aims of NI 14. Here, government software supplier Lagan looks at some of the approaches which have already helped local authorities reduce unnecessary contact – and yield significant cost savings as a result.
    
The thinking behind NI 14 is to reduce the inconvenience and cost of citizens contacting the council when they didn’t need to. It’s a laudable aim. But with resources stretched to new limits, some councils have been wondering whether NI 14 is simply a burdensome measure imposed by government, or whether it can jointly benefit the local authority, and improve service delivery to citizens?  

Cashable cost savings
In fact, NI 14 is simply part of central government’s wider drive to increase the efficiency of services to citizens, and should be embraced as a catalyst for beneficial change and a route to implementing best practice. Local authorities have already been investing in sophisticated IT solutions to streamline contact with their customers – what they need now is a proven methodology to translate this into useful measures that will highlight where further improvements can be made.
    
Having implemented an Enterprise Case Management/Business Intelligence solution to over 160 public sector customers, Lagan can point to countless examples of cost savings and process efficiencies achieved as a result of deploying software solutions which support NI 14 requirements. City of York, as an example, is generating measurable savings of £378,000 per annum via its self-service and telephony initiative. Argyll & Bute Council, in Scotland, will save 8.5 FTE (equivalent to £765,000 over five years) by linking the Lagan solution with a Macfarlane telephony system as part of its NI 14 programme.
    
And the good news for local authorities is that Lagan’s NI 14 solution can be deployed across different systems whether the interaction is through Lagan or not.

Intelligent reporting
Benchmarking will become an important part of measuring success against NI 14 criteria.     Councils need to measure interactions across the organisation, be they face-to-face, by telephone, e-mail or SMS – and use consistent criteria to determine whether the contact was avoidable or unavoidable.
     
Lagan provides a simple mechanism to enable avoidable contact to be measured regardless of channel, and whether or not the customer interaction is processed via Lagan’s Enterprise Case Management solution. Avoidable contact statistics will be recorded at both the ‘Function’ and the ‘Activity’ levels of the ESD LGCS classification toolkit. This provides a standard that all authorities can use, ensuring consistency of measurement as well as a cost-effective “black box” solution

Broadcast the message
Having identified where in the process the bottle-necks occur, it is key for councils to take a proactive approach to reduce both avoidable contact and customer dissatisfaction. One way in which Lagan is providing further support to local authorities striving to reduce ‘avoidable contact’ is with the launch of Lagan Broadcaster. This new solution is designed to promote proactive communication with citizens by enabling messages to be sent rapidly to several thousand individuals simultaneously.
    
Citizens will be able to register on a voluntary basis to receive information about local authority services or events, through channels that they use everyday, including mobile messaging and e-mail. Information can be broadcast to everyone in the community, or to groups, or individuals based on their geographic location, enabling councils to communicate anything from missed bin collections to flood warnings.
    
By actively pushing out key information to citizens, councils will be able to significantly reduce the volume of inbound calls by providing specific messages or directing citizens to more detailed information on the council’s website to find out what they need to know.

Conclusion
There is no doubt that effectively implemented NI 14 results in a win:win situation for both the council and its citizens. Councils that have proactively communicated information in a consistent way have significantly reduced the volume of inbound calls. By linking back-office systems using appropriate technology, successful councils have equipped front line staff with the information they need to respond to queries at the first point of contact.  
    
NI 14 was conceived to ensure that councils are on track to ensure that the resources they dedicate to engage with citizens are deployed to best effect. If local authorities embrace this laudable ambition, backed by effective software solutions from proven suppliers such as Lagan, they cannot fail but to enjoy costs savings, and record improved citizen satisfaction as a result.

For more information
Lagan’s full NI 14 guide and information about its Broadcaster solution can be downloaded at: www.lagan.com.