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The Changing Face of Local Authority CMS Gives Green Light to Suppliers for More Automation within Offerings

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Brent Council’s new hologram receptionist got a mixed reception from pundits last week. Love her or hate her, Shanice, the hologram, is here to save costs while improving sign posting for visitors to the council. The council estimates cost savings of >£17k a year.

In another recent development, in July 2013 Capita was awarded a customer contact management services contract extension by Vale of White Horse District Council, part of a shared service with South Oxfordshire District Council. In this contract, Capita is taking a different approach to customer contact management. It is deploying kiosks in the council’s offices for visitors to use with one receptionist (real/not virtual) at hand should help be needed. A traditional appointment system will be available for visitors with more complex or urgent queries.

We have had automation and self-service in customer contact management, e.g. via phone (IVR) and web channels, for some time. We have seen the odd kiosk in council front-offices too - but always as an alternative to manned reception areas. These latest developments differ in a number of respects:

  • Shanice brings a virtual presence and automation into the council’s real/physical front office
  • The kiosk is the main customer interaction channel within council offices, no longer a 'nice to have alternative'.   

The evolution of self-service and automation was inevitable given advances in technology. However, adoption of these alternatives by local authorities that are typically risk averse, has been speeded up by budget cuts.

The willingness of councils to accept such alternatives under cost cutting pressures, gives suppliers a green light to incorporate more automation in their CMS offerings to the sector. Capita has already taken the kiosk approach. Other alternatives include a more sophisticated version of Shanice supported by a well curated knowledge-base that would enable it to go slightly beyond the basics to provide more detailed answers within the context of the visitor’s enquiry.

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