Finding the right digital partner helps Canterbury to drive service transformation
“Our appointment of Imperial proved to be the turning point in our transformation programme to improve services for our customers,” says Peter Davies, Head of Digital Transformation and Policy at Canterbury City Council.
“The flexibility of the company’s packaged software systems has certainly helped us to address underlying limitations in a highly regulated and complex service area. However, its commitment to working in close partnership has really provided the catalyst for developing and implementing far-reaching digital service improvements that have provided immediate and ongoing benefits for customers.”
Following an initial move to explore the potential for simplifying customer transactions and improving customer service levels, Canterbury City Council confirmed the formation of a dedicated digital transformation team in 2016. The new team, headed up by Peter Davies, has driven the authority’s introduction of digital solutions to provide greater operational agility and to maximise the benefits of digital services for customers.
“Paying lip service to the digital revolution is not enough for any service provider,” emphasises Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding of Canterbury City Council. “Only by embracing the value, opportunities and popularity of digitalisation can a local authority truly deliver relevant, progressive and high quality customer service. Digital service transformation is now at the very heart of the City Council’s agenda and we’re delighted with the efficiency gains and customer benefits resulting from such a commitment.”
The management of parking permits for residents and businesses and service constraints in the area of parking enforcement presented the most challenging operational and cultural issues for Peter Davies and his team.
“From the outset we knew things had to change in parking and permit management, as only a very small proportion of interactions and transactions were being completed on line,” continues Davies. “Although online engagement had improved service options in both planning and Council Tax, the poor uptake of self-serve permit options and the onerous administrative demands continued to cause avoidable frustration and unacceptable delays for customers.
“Thanks to the invaluable support and expertise of Imperial, that has now all changed and has set a new standard for our work with other suppliers. The cultural and operational transformation has been as dramatic as the service improvement, with far more efficient working practices and over 80% of transactions now being completed successfully and easily on line.”
With the support of the Council’s Product Manager for Digital Solutions, Nicola Lawton and Parking Facilities Manager, Colin Perris, the service transformation team has simplified the application process for resident and trade parking permits. Taking full advantage of Imperial’s digital end-to-end solution for virtual permits, the authority has introduced an effective self-serve platform on its website so customers can now secure and renew permits easily and quickly 24/7. Previously, the need for detailed evidence to support permit applications led to considerable frustration and delays for customers as well as a high number of telephone enquiries. This has now been replaced with a much more streamlined and user-friendly online process with digital transactions replacing all manual cash payments.
“The vast majority of customers are responsible, adhere to the rules and prefer the convenience of online access,” says Nicola Lawton. “However, our previous approach was inadvertently creating barriers to effective online engagement and we were applying an inordinate and disproportional amount of effort to identify the very tiny number of people who are intent on deception. This compromised any progress with digital service improvements. However, as well as our patrolling Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs), residents and businesses will be quick to tell us about potential misuse of permits and we can always take appropriate action against any fraudulent activity.
“Our new digital approach is particularly beneficial for the city’s very high student population – nearly 30,000 students study at the city’s three universities – as this section of the community did not always have the evidence of residency we were previously requesting. And, it’s very gratifying to see a considerable increase in revenue and the take-up of permits by local businesses as a result of our new digital services.”
Peter Davies (l) and Nicola Lawton of Canterbury City Council with Imperial’s Toby Bliss
(Image: Imperial’s IT Trainer, Mike Hancorn, hosts a training session for Canterbury City Council’s Parking Services team)
Canterbury City Council is now using Imperial’s 3sixty enforcement software system for all back office processing and management of all civil enforcement activities. The company has provided full training for all members of the Parking Services and Permit Management team as well as the 25-strong team of CEOs. As a result of the success of the service transformation, plans are now underway for the team to take additional responsibility for the issue and management of Fixed Penalty Notices for littering, dog fouling and other environmental offences. And the significant progress in service transformation has prompted the authority to harness the advice and ICT expertise of Imperial across other service areas.