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Slough Borough Council (SBC) received a 3 star (‘good’) rating from the Audit Commission.  However, an on-going evaluation of citizen’s experience of contacting the council has shown significant levels of dissatisfaction with the service received. 

SBC has been working with its strategic partner to develop its approach to E-Government and more importantly, how to make a step change in the way they engage with citizens.

A Best Value review endorsed the need to develop a new Customer Service Centre (CSC) and the re-engineering of council services to create excellent customer service and at the same time, realise productivity gains and efficiency savings. 

Work was due to commence in June 2004, but after a change in administration the programme was paused until 2005.  The full programme was restarted in April 2005, and lost time needing to be recovered.  To achieve this, Liz Terry, Assistant Chief Executive, stated, “To enable us to recover lost time, we need to urgently bring in an exceptional individual with customer services experience and a strong project management approach”.  SBC hired Prit Ahluwalia, to lead the customer service centre programme. “Prit has developed a track record of real achievement in this field”, stated Liz. 

Assignment Requirements and Summary

The CSC will provide the first point of contact and resolution for telephone, email and face to face contact.

There were two distinct requirements to the assignment: project management and implementation of the new CSC and subsequent leadership as Assistant Director of Customer Services.  The CSC was successfully launched to plan in October 2005, comprising a contact centre, One Stop Shop (OSS) for walk-in traffic, on-line self-service areas and Local Access Points in the borough. The assignment covered the following elements: 

ImplementationActing as the council’s key project manager Providing senior focus for the CSC across the councilWorking with council directorate stakeholders to contribute to corporate working to achieve best valueProviding governance and working in cooperation with the council’s strategic partner, UnisysSite selection for CSC and Local Access PointsConsolidation of call handling into the CSC 

ProcessBusiness process reengineering of new processesCompilation of FAQs council-wide for contact centreDesign and development of a comprehensive set of balanced scorecard standards, KPIs, measures and reporting requirementsDevelopment of quality monitoring procedures and forms

OrganisationIdentification of resource requirement for CSCDesign of CSC organisational structure together with recruitment of management, specialist and advisor rolesDesign of staff assessment and development centre exercisesIdentification of working window and change in terms and conditions

IT Functional design of CRM, Siebel, requirementsDesign of Siebel Analytics metrics and reportingSpecification and selection of IT requirements;Apropos CTI automatic call distributorIdentify IVR menu selectionsSymon contact centre wallboardsVerint call recording solutionQ-Max contact centre workforce managementQ-Matic walk-in queue managementUAT testing of all new systems 

CultureIntroduction of customer excellence values into SBCIntroduction of work mode behaviours to support responsive contact handlingContact centre management training – understanding the dynamics of call-flow 

LeadershipPerformance outputs;OSS wait times reduced from >45 minutes to <.15 minutes91% of visitors satisfied or very satisfied with the service received95% of calls answered within 30 seconds 

Client Testimony from key sponsor and stakeholders: 

“We appointed Prit to join the team implementing the first phase of our transformational customer services programme. The first phase was to deliver our state of the art service centre, co-locating our front of house advisors with the call centre staff.  This represented a significant change in working practices using the latest technologies, and for the most part way beyond the experience and operational expertise within the council. We needed help!  

The challenge was to find someone experienced in setting up, in particularly, the call handling element of the service centre, but who also understood local government. Local Government is now into service centres in a big way and the talent pool will no doubt grow in the years to come, but last year I knew it would be difficult. Fortunately for me, Prit had brought his wealth of experience to the London Borough of Newham before coming to Slough and really did understand the business, with all the knowledge of commercial centres. He knows how to drive productivity and performance whilst instilling a welcome and friendly environment to work within. 

I suppose he made something complex seem quite easy and ensured that the Council got the right tools for the job, brought over some of our reluctant staff and made them feel good by being successful and for hard measures led the new centre to reducing average waiting times front of house from 50 plus minutes to 15 minutes and 95% of calls are answered within 30 seconds. He has helped me recruit some really excellent people to take forward the centre and the wider customers services programme and I would gladly recommend him as an asset to any team.” 

Liz Terry, Assistant Chief Executive 

 “Prit’s role was decisive in turning our vision for a customer service centre into reality, bringing in elements of the design that would otherwise have been missed. The outstanding performance achieved since opening is due primarily to Prit’s focus on those areas of the business that determine success or failure”.

Paul Butler, E-Government Programme Manager