Agenda item


To receive a presentation with regard to the development of the Council’s Customer Service Strategy.



The Customer Services Manager, Susan Lewis gave a presentation on the Customer Service Strategy. She advised the Select Committee that the Customers were at the heart of everything.


The Council were keen to know what the customer wanted, and early indications showed this to be honest and open, transparent, helpful and trust in what we do.


A recent poll showed that the highest rated organisation in public services for their customer experience was the Post Office, Debenhams and First Direct topped the poll for their customer experience (as reported by the Institute of Customer Service).


The secret to their success was they all have the following in common:

·        An organisation that is simple to deal with;

·        Helpful staff; and

·        Easy to use website.


Here at Epping Forest, if our customers are saying ….


·        You know me and understand my needs;

  • I can access your services how and when I want;
  • You not only respond to my needs but offer me advice and support on other services;
  • When you get it wrong you put it right and you act upon my feedback;
  • Your staff really put themselves in my shoes, they show they care with everything they say and do;
  • You don’t stand still you adapt to my changing needs; and
  • Most importantly I trust you – you are open, honest and transparent at all times.


…Then we will know we are delivering a great customer experience.


Our Customers are anyone that the Council provides a service to:


·        Residents;

·        Members;

·        Colleagues; and

·        Businesses.


Key facts from the Digital Inclusion report:


·        District population 124,659

·        Number households: 54,000

·        Working age in receipt of benefits: 8,700

·        State pension in receipt of benefits: 25,795.


Key facts from the Essex County Profile report:


·        Higher than average waste recycling levels

·        Increasing number of people with dementia

·        Highest rise in house prices

·        Fourth longest average travel time by public transport or walking to key services

·        Below average percentage of residents satisfied with roads and local transport

·        Ageing population impacting availability of health care, housing and care homes.

The way Customers contact the Council




Most Common Reason


(to the

Customer Contact Centre)


29,981 calls (Q1 2019)


37.31% resolved by contact centre

57.49% internally transferred

00.29% 3rd party referral

00.17% customer to follow up

01.00% referred to County




Council Tax




Highways & Recycling Centre


(to Council Tax)


95.48% resolved

01.28% internal transfer

02.07% referred to County


Council Tax

‘Contact Us’

Web forms

2,745 (Q1 2019) vs 2,018 (Q1 2018)

Savings of £27,303.84 per annum in channel shift


Special collections, missed collections and fly tipping

Face to face

21,343 visitors in past year

1,778 in past month


Main reason was to collect recycling sacks




Waste & Planning



68,5000 engagements (clicks/likes) in past month

861 (on newsfeeds, visibility)


Various ie Local Plan


Key fact: Cost for interaction - £8.62 (face to face), £2.83 (phone), 15p (digital interaction).


Therefore, it would be more economical to educate our customers to contact us via our website.


The way Customers currently feel about the Council’s service


Ø  Customers don’t like being passed from pillar to post to get answers;

Ø  Queries can’t be resolved at first point of contact on many occasions;

Ø  Our website is frustrating to use (this stops us channel shifting);

Ø  Staff don’t always get back to them in a timely manner;

Ø  We are not always clear in setting expectations (what we will do, who  and when);

Ø  Letters don’t always have a contact name or number on; and

Ø  They are not clear on the services we offer (ie. highways and footpaths).


Therefore, the Council need to, fix the basics, change our culture and embrace new technology by listening to what our customers have to say. Our customers will be:


·        They will be consulted on our strategy to make sure we are addressing the things that matter most to them;

·        If we make a change to our service or introduce something new we will ask our customers what they think;

·        After every interaction customers will be offered the opportunity to leave feedback on their experience;

·        We will encourage customers to tell us about our service superstars who have gone that extra mile;

·        We will launch annual customer satisfaction surveys; and

·        We will improve our call causation data to really drill down into the reasons WHY customers contact us and by WHAT method – helping us to channel shift.


The Council are committed to building a service that our customers want and when they want it:


·        One single customer contact centre with staff upskilled to resolve as many queries at first point of contact as possible;

·        New single customer reception designed around our customers’ needs;

·        New service guide - easy to access, we will all know who does what – no more passing customers from pillar to post;

·        Consistent service across all areas – customer response times, staff approach, style and tone of communications;

·        Customer strategy working group – resolutions to all barriers;

·        Pro-active customer communication – staff encouraged to feed through customer communication to contact centre and for a customer information screen in reception;

·        New technology will capture contact history so customers don’t have to repeat themselves

·        Cut waiting times - artificial intelligence will intervene and provide an answer if it’s appropriate cutting wait time

·        Pay it, Report it, Apply for it, Book it – all  on the front screen – and our website will keep improving!

·        Tell us once – Moving in/out of the district or reporting a death, residents only need tell us once we will ensure relevant areas informed

·        My Council – customers will enter postcode to access information on their home and area

·        Personalised service! Customers will be able to sign up to receive information on what matters most to them;

·        Our digital champions will provide upskilling on social media – 21,000 residents don’t currently use social media; and

·        Targeted service - flexible agile working means we can be exactly where our customers need us to be.


If we get it wrong, we will learn from it:


·        If we make a mistake we will put it right;

·        Customers can easily report complaints to us via our website and will receive an immediate acknowledgement;

·        Members can flag up issues directly to us via our Members contact form;

·        Complaints will be dealt with by one consistent approach across all areas of the Council along with compliments, MP letters, Ombudsman and Freedom of Information;

·        Service Managers will ensure complaints are dealt with in an efficient and timely manner; and

·        Customer Champions will help to ensure we get to the root cause to prevent recurrence.


Councillor J Lea stated that it was impossible to talk to anyone in a service area now, I am told to put it in an email, to which my query may be simple and could be answered immediately but now I have to wait for an email reply. I feel we as Members are losing the customer contact.


The Customer Services Manager advised that by directing queries to the Members Contact form or email address, the contact centre can log, track, ensure a timely response and provide Members with trends data if needed.


Councillor Hadley stated that companies had fantastic perceptions on customer service for instance Kwik Fit have a nice room for the customer to wait with a free coffee which makes it a pleasurable experience for the customer.


The Customer Services Manager stated that it was good customer relations and that by making small subtle changes when interacting with customers we can make a good lasting impression.


Councillor Wixley asked if there would be any issues around agency staff who do not have any allegiance to the Council, they would need proper training.


The Customer Services Manager clarified that all front line staff would be fully trained.


Councillor J H Whitehouse asked how could Customer Services answer specialist questions for example a question on a specific planning matter.


The Customer Services Manager advised that the contact centre could answer general questions but anything technical would go direct to the technical officer or department.


Councillor S Kane stated that a lot of effort was going into training to get this right, we as Members are customers and therefore should follow this new regime and not bypass the contact centre and go directly to officers pulling them away from their work. Therefore we should start with the customer service interface and as Members lead by example.


The Chairman asked if training was being rolled out to officers could this training be opened up to Councillors as well.


The Customer Services Director said he could see no reason why training could not be opened up to include Councillors.




The presentation of the Customer Services Strategy was noted.