Gloucestershire County Council is a local government organisation in the UK. The council’s Business Service Centre (BSC) is a specialist multi disciplinary team that supports approximately 1,000 customer bodies across the county, including both internal customers and external organisations such as Gloucester City Council and schools & colleges. Services delivered include payroll, recruitment advertising, pre-employment checks, employee records management, SAP system support and much more.
“Like other councils across the country, we have been through a period of austerity where we have to deliver the best possible service on extremely tight budgets. These challenges led to us thinking about how we could improve our overall approach to service and consolidate,” explained Cheryl Millyard, Head of Business Service Centre. There was a need to improve customer service, learning from the queries we handle and becoming more efficient and effective whilst at the same time increasing the number of staff who could answer these queries. Teams were becoming smaller and smaller and the need to completely refresh our structure and approach became crucial.
“To achieve this, we reviewed our operations and moved from distinct and small teams to a shared service approach. As part of this, we decided we needed to look at new and improved ways of managing incoming queries from customers. With this opportunity to think about things from scratch, we could deliver a better service,” Cheryl explained.
For the Business Service Centre team, there were many drivers to make the all-important decision to implement a new way of working. However, this required a lot of buy-in internally. With the move from specialist individual teams over to a shared service model, all the teams would have to be familiar with the range of services provided. This included changing how issues were raised by internal customers across the council as well as by external customers supported by Business Support Services. Previously, calls and emails (approximately 2,000 emails a week) would come directly through to the individual members of each specialist team for processing and responding.
Allana Whelan, Customer Service Manager explained, “We did not have a central system for managing customer service requests across all the specialist service desks, and we didn’t have any type of system for tracking those calls through once they did come in. We couldn’t get visibility of where these calls were coming from or if they were symptomatic of other issues being raised. Getting better insight was hugely important to us. Without this, we couldn’t manage customer expectation or demands.”
“We knew we wanted a helpdesk system that would allow us to get more visibility on where calls were coming from and who was ringing us. We needed something that could allow us to reduce call amounts at the source, as we would often experience high numbers of calls all with the same or similar queries. This is where Freshdesk came in,” continued Allana.
Following a review of the available solutions on the market, the Business Service Centre team decided to partner with Freshdesk.
Allana explained the huge culture change they were tackling. “Previously, team members would think of themselves as working in specific departments such as HR, rather than customer support. The change over to being part of a central team was therefore a big one. At the same time, customers were used to calling up a specific person to ask their question or raise an issue, so there was some push-back around being made to join queues. We had to go through what issues existed with the current model and how the change would benefit everyone,” explained Allana.
Freshdesk provided a standardised and consistent approach to service across the whole service portfolio. This would include upskilling agents so they could handle a broader variety of issues and making more use of automation around standard answer forms, so that simple queries could be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Freshdesk is now used by around 70 full and part-time agents.
“Since implementation, we now have far better insights into the calls we’re taking. Having this information readily available to us means we can be more on top of understanding any trends in the data and manage resource far better. We’re now able to get metrics on the numbers of tickets logged and can quality assure what our customers are being told. We can also standardise our service so everyone gets the same level of support, and we can provide the same answer to multiple queries coming in, which makes our staff much more efficient. All in all, the key measure of success since implementing Freshdesk has been in the quality of service we now deliver our customers,” said Allana.
“Implementing Freshdesk has not only given our customers far better service, but it’s acted as a catalyst for the right internal conversations around service and training. It meant a big change for our staff to begin working in a different way and we’re really pleased that not only are they seeing the benefits of using Freshdesk first hand, they are also discussing other areas in which we can improve service. For example, we are already looking at adding more channels for customer support, such as chat, over time.”
Following on from the implementation of Freshdesk, the Business Service Centre team is expanding how it uses the new reporting and analytics capabilities available.
“Now we have created that buy-in and built new processes that take advantage of Freshdesk we have gone from having very little data on how we were performing through to a whole new way of working. We have taken the team through building up a customer service function that is similar to the experiences that customers receive in their everyday lives, and Freshdesk helps us deliver this”