Service deliveryDigital Customer ServiceLocal councils’ strategy to reduce waiting times failing to pay dividends, according to FoI data

Local councils’ strategy to reduce waiting times failing to pay dividends, according to FoI data

Reducing waiting times and optimising visitor experience is critical to generating operational efficiency savings

The latest Freedom of Information (FoI) survey from visitor journey management expert Qmatic has revealed that while the majority of local councils are making great efforts to reduce waiting times for visitors to their offices, this is having limited success.

The survey found that 60 per cent of local councils have a strategy in place to reduce waiting times, but just 17 per cent have succeeded in meeting their waiting time targets.

Qmatic surveyed 78 local councils in its FoI survey, including large, urban local authorities and smaller, rural councils, and discovered that, of the councils that responded, 64 per cent have implemented waiting time targets. However, the fact that only 17 per cent are meeting their targets raises concerns about how councils are investing in reducing waiting times and improve the visitor experience to their offices.

Vanessa Walmsley, MD at Qmatic UK, commented: “It is encouraging to see almost two-thirds of local councils implementing strategies to reduce visitor waiting times at their offices, providing a better experience to people coming to access social security benefits, apply for business licenses or any of the other many services that councils offer their citizens. Councils are operating under significant financial pressure, but processing visitors to offices efficiently and with minimal resources can be a rich source of savings. Implementing a strategy to reduce waiting times should form a core part of every council’s drive to process visitors more efficiently, but our survey reveals worrying trends about the effectiveness of these efforts.

“With just 17 per cent of councils meeting their waiting time targets, we must look at how these councils are managing the visitor journey, and what could be done to make it more efficient. The involvement of council leadership, such as cabinet members or senior management teams, in monitoring waiting time targets is a positive step, with many councils also reporting that dedicated members of staff such as customer service managers are responsible. However, the low levels of investment in technology that can deliver an efficient customer service experience are potentially hindering these efforts.”

Vanessa concluded: “Our survey revealed that 95 per cent of councils are using manned reception desks to process visitors, which may be adding an initial point of friction if visitors have to queue to see someone to be directed to the right place. While some visitors will no doubt appreciate the human touch, many would be happy to self-serve using technology such as kiosks or tablets, or even check in with their smartphones if it speeds up the process. However, just 27 per cent of councils reported using self-service kiosks, 14 per cent have deployed iPads and tablets and only one council has enabling visitors to check in with their smartphone.

The City of Wolverhampton Council is a great example of a local council deploying several innovative technologies to better connect its customers to its services, generating operational efficiencies and making it easier for walk-in customers to be seen quicker. Local councils must accelerate their investment in this technology if they are to reduce waiting times and improve the visitor experience at their offices, creating significant cost savings to help them cope with severe budgetary pressure.”

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