Channel shift. That's the art of getting people to move from expensive ways of dealing with an organisation to cheaper and more effective ways. What role does comms play in this? Actually, a really important one.
There are significant savings to be made from channel shift with plenty of councils fully behind the digital transformation revolution, but moving your services online is just half the battle.
If your customers don’t start using the channel how are you going to reap the rewards that channel shift is capable of bringing? Creating compelling take-up campaigns is the answer and it’s not that difficult.
The following ideas are taken from Gandlake’s channel shift customers and have been successful in ensuring significant numbers select the web as the channel of choice.
1. Raise Awareness Internally
Firstly, you have to get your staff fully behind your online services. If they genuinely believe the new technology will make services better and more efficient as well as save the council money they will tell your customers about it. Make sure your team understand what the product does, how it looks and what are the benefits. They should know where it can be used and on what devices. If they can talk knowledgably about it they will be comfortable promoting it.
2. Home Page is Key
Where you place your services can make or break your levels of take-up. Don’t bury your “Register Now” button within your site; get it on your home page. This may sound obvious but you would be surprised how many councils don’t take full advantage of their home page. There’s often a good reason – usually numerous other departments vying for position for their promotions. Bring the ownership of your website under the umbrella of Customer Service and make the most of your new found take-up power. If your customer lands on your site looking for your telephone number they should always come across the online option first. If you are approaching this for the first time, take a look at the Bristol, Central Bedfordshire, Sutton and Lewisham websites. Just a few examples of Gandlake customers that have used their home page to full effect.
3. Customer Services
If a customer calls your contact centre out of hours they should hear a message explaining how to register online. Sutton and Croydon push the message beautifully to their customers if they are held in the call queue. Cheshire East and Bristol encourage all their contact centre staff to register customers who call or visit the council.
Don’t forget your online forms. Wherever your forms appear, alongside should be an option to register an account there and then. You can even include PINs on all written communications that go out so customers who haven’t already registered can do so securely.
4. Be Brave
Your customers need to be brave and move away from the hand holding culture of the contact centre. Just because they are used to one way doesn’t mean they won’t embrace another. Lewisham Council recently removed the email address from the Revenues section of their website. It’s no coincidence that last month they received over 3,300 completed electronic forms. Stoke, Lewisham, Harrow and Sutton are just a few councils that switched off paper communication and in some cases phone support for Landlords. All Landlords were invited to an open day where they were given an ID and password for a new secure customer account. The move has been extremely popular and provided significant savings for the councils involved.
5. Social Media
Most councils have Twitter and Facebook and a significant number of social media followers. If your customers follow you on social media they are prime candidates to use the web as the only channel of communication when dealing with the council. Promote your online services regularly through your Social Media channels.
Harrow Council has had tremendous take-up success by holding competitions. A recent one, held over two months was to win an IPad. It was open to all new sign-ups as well as referrals and generated 2,500 new registrations. The promotion then extended into a great deal more publicity in the local press when the winner was announced.
7. Leaflets, Flyers and Posters
Yes I know the aim is to reduce your paper consumption but until your customers buy into the online lifestyle you have to reach them wherever you can. Go for posters in high footfall areas such as bus stops on route to the train station. Bristol and Lewisham included flyers with their Council Tax bills. Bristol also sends out flyers to all new arrivals to the City, removing the requirement to contact the council directly from the outset.
8. Think Outside the Box
Aylesbury Vale Council started on their channel shift journey by moving their garden waste bin ordering service online. A few short months and 10,000 registrations later, Aylesbury is rolling out online services across the whole council.
Harrow and Lambeth Councils have both moved their Electoral Registration process online. This is a great way of driving take-up, especially in the countdown to Individual Registration and it’s an opportunity to tempt everyone of voter age to move to the online channel. It doesn’t stop there. Licensing, Parking, Potholes, Benefits, Street Lighting, Neighbourhood Champions and Councillors are just a few of the services Gandlake’s customers have identified as generating high levels of contact and prime candidates to move to the online channel.
9. Go Viral
You can commission a professional video to advertise your online services for a lot less than you think. Go to Youtube and search on “Myharrow account” and you’ll see a great example. Once produced you can put it on Youtube and embed it on your home page as well as promote it through your social media.
10. Go Mobile
Having your services available on a mobile device is vital to promote the online channel. The key here though is making it secure. If your customers can securely apply for a service through their phone rather than just check the opening times of a sports centre they will really begin to rely on the online mobile channel.
11. Think Seasonally
Finally, capture your customers’ email addresses wherever possible and regularly promote your services direct to their inbox. There are plenty of opportunities to encourage them to register online all year round from checking a Council Tax balance in April, requesting a Christmas tree to be collected in the New Year or simply checking bin collection dates around the May Day bank holiday.
Andrew Bennett is the marketing manager at Gandlake, a company that provides award winning digital service delivery solutions to nearly one in three London Boroughs and around one in eight councils throughout the UK.