Faced with growing demand for digital services, Hartlepool Council found themselves behind the times when it came to mobile and online capabilities. Thanks to taking a modular approach with Granicus products, they’ve gone from 3% digital contact with residents to over 15,000 users giving the council five-star ratings for their online services.
Hartlepool Borough Council
How Hartlepool Balanced Resident Needs and Council Budgets to Create User-Friendly Services
Sitting on a limestone peninsula that has made it a steadfast seaport and harbour town dating back to medieval days, Hartlepool serves as the seat of Durham County. And while progress has transitioned the town away from its shipbuilding and marine engineering industries, the Hartlepool Council found in recent years that technology was increasing demands for more accessible digital solutions for residents looking for easier interaction with council needs.
“Going back to 2016, we only had something like 3% of contact coming through digital channels,” recalls Julie Howard, Digital and Customer Services Manager for Hartlepool Borough Council. “It was a very sort of poor offering to residents.”
Howard knew that Hartlepool was “quite behind a lot of other authorities in terms of our digital offer.” As interest increased from residents, Hartlepool needed to put more digital solutions in place. But like all local authorities, Hartlepool was faced with tight budgets and the need to develop strategies that were financially prudent, if not revenue-generating.
“The council’s digital transformation strategy consisted of a number of work streams,” she says. “But as we looked at a business case, it needed to be cost neutral.”
Bringing Digital Services Up to Resident Expectations
Meeting Citizen Needs with Flexible Solutions
The influence of modernisation has changed the relationship between Hartlepool residents and the council, while providing the ability to better tailor response to digital users.
By publishing digital processes to the public through their website, the council was able to reduce the number of calls that came though the contact centre. Whereas previous systems required staff to answer calls and key information into the CRM system, the self-service approach govService provides allows many processes to be completed by public users, leading to what Howard calls, “An improvement in terms of contact coming into the organisation” both for internet and mobile users.
“We've done a lot of customer satisfaction monitoring since this transition started," she adds. “Just short of 15,000 users have rated the platform as five stars and on average, processes rated 4.6 stars out of five. We're definitely seeing high levels of satisfaction coming through our web channels and it was much more cost effective when delivering our services as well.”
Some of the areas that Hartlepool has integrated into their digitisation strategy include automated processes for Blue Badge applications and booking systems for their household waste recycling centre. During the COVID pandemic in 2020, govService also powered an informational hub that provided vital prescription pick up services, food access, and social support information through Hartlepool’s adult social care team.
The influence of digitisation is impacting councillors responding to community needs, as well. With the creation of a Councillor Portal, counsellors within Hartlepool can manage a wide range of transactions submitted by residents. From streetlight outages to fly tipping and littering, councillors are able to see all open cases in their local area.
“They get a full appreciation of what is happening within their locality, access key council information and submit council questions," says Howard. “Really it's a one-stop shop for councillors to be able to manage all their council business in one place.”
The ability to modernise services while consolidating the tools to create those services provides both a time savings and, ultimately, the cost savings for which Hartlepool was looking. Howard says that decommissioning previous systems has led to an estimated cost savings of £50,000 per annum.
A Blueprint for Expanding Success
In order to effectively and efficiently, both in time and budget, establish a groundwork for future digital growth, the digital team focused on enhancing customer service delivery to its residents. In order to do that, while remaining budget neutral, the program also looked to review or replace existing systems.
“We had a number of front office solutions that were very standalone,” Howard says. “They didn't integrate with each other. They were quite expensive and they were very outdated. We needed technology to work from our contact centre, and also with our back-office teams as well.”
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“We've also seen a significant reduction in administration within our customer service team," she concludes. "There’s been a channel shift that has reduced traffic coming into our contact centre. That’s enabled us to repurpose that staff resource and move it into our digital team and provide additional resources to support even further digital transformation.”
Solution to replace multiple, outdated systems
users giving five-star ratings for online service
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- Julie Howard, Digital and Customer Services Manager, Hartlepool Borough Council
We can procure additional tools as our business requirements further develop. We liked that Granicus was a toolkit as opposed to an off-the-shelf product. Working for a local authority, we provide such a diverse range of services that we needed a product that was flexible and could meet a broad range of different business processes.”
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After reviewing several options, Hartlepool chose Granicus’ govService solution to live at the core of their modernisation efforts. For Howard, govService met Hartlepool’s needs both because of its strength to power solutions to meet resident demands, as well as having the flexibility to best serve internal workflows.
“We liked govService because it has a modular approach," says Howard. "We can procure additional ones as our business requirements further develop. We also liked that it was a toolkit as opposed to an off-the-shelf product. Working for a local authority, we provide such a diverse range of services that we needed a product that was flexible and could meet a broad range of different business processes.”
That capability made an immediate impact of one of Hartlepool’s goals: cost savings. Through implementing the in-house development abilities of govService, the council was able to replace an outdated CRM system that required consultant costs that had previously discouraged the council from making changes that could reflect modernisation.
“That would cost quite a lot of money and limit what we could develop,” Howard says of the system, which the digital team at Hartlepool were able to replace within the first 10 months of using govService. “So, with govService, we felt that it was good value for money for what we received.”
Meeting Digital Demands with Five-Star Service
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"We had a number of front office solutions that were very standalone,” Howard says. “They didn't integrate with each other. They were quite expensive and they were very outdated. We needed technology to work from our contact centre, and also with our back-office teams as well.”