What the customer really wants…

From all of the discussion around ‘take-up’ and the associated gala dinners, one might justifiably conclude that the e-Government tick-boxes actually achieved something that’s worth monitoring. True, if there are volume enquiries that usually come in by telephone, you might want to streamline the process, or even encourage self-service, so that Middle ‘upwardly-mobile’ England can arrange their bulky waste collection via SMS, in a brief window between their busy, scheduled morning appointments.

The reality of practical experience of delivering multi-agency, integrated services through a ‘Neighbourhood Base’ is somewhat different. In 2002, the City of Derby (UK) embarked on a pilot neighbourhood office, with a ‘Derby City Partnership’ community manager coordinating integrated service delivery, alongside elected representatives, delivered either through area panels, through the neighbourhood base, or directly into homes.

The results of the pilot led us to categorise service requests in three ways, when architecting a strategic IT framework to enable our transformational agenda:

Category 1 – single service, simple process (probably already mapped), the majority anonymous (GC, please note), ripe for CRM / back office integration

Category 2 – multiple service or agency, simple processes (again, probably already mapped), equally ripe for CRM / back office integration

Category 3 – complex enquiry. Real example: I’ve had a fight with my wife, she’s locked me out of the house, I’m sleeping in my car, I’ve lost my job, I don’t have access to my kids and, by the way, I have mental health problems

The category 3 enquiry is typically the type of case where councillors, the police, the voluntary sector, and community managers, can use their experience to take a stab at which agencies need to assist. In technology terms, it’s actually the easiest to deal with. A paragraph or three of narrative text, with an ability to check box select a number of agencies, pushed out through the integration hub, auto-generated multi-agency collaborative workspace, linked to automated business process workflow, with responses monitored by CRM.

You’d expect, wouldn’t you, that category 3s are few and far between. After all, we’ve all just been through a process that encouraged us to deliver bulky waste and abandoned vehicle solutions, and we’re just itching to measure the take-up.

The shocking result of Derby’s research is this: guess what percentage of  enquiries that were received (and thoroughly documented) at the neighbourhood base in the first two years were Category 3?


That means that delivering the benefits of e-Government into disadvantaged areas isn’t about joining your front office to your back office on simple processes. The most vulnerable people, who use most of the most expensive services, need MEDIATED, proactive engagement before their needs become critical. So, the focus should be on providing enabling technologies for community-based service deliverers AND the voluntary sector. It’s about taking complex human issues, making sure that they get to the right people in the right agencies, ensuring that those agencies have a consistent view of any information that relates to the customer case and, most importantly, allowing agencies to monitor where each other is up to in the resolution of that case.

Now that really would be worth a gala dinner…

David Gale
March 2006

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