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Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council slashes call volumes in half with a new self-serve platform

A suite of self-serve, case management, booking, performance, and live chat tools has helped Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council revolutionise its customer service and boost back-office efficiency.

Antrim & Newtownabbey Trinity (February 2020)


Antrim & Newtownabbey Trinity (February 2020)

Stretching 274 square miles from Lough Neagh to the shores of Belfast Lough in Northern Ireland, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council provides services to over 142,000 residents. In addition, it has its sights on becoming the most digitally advanced Council in Northern Ireland.


The Challenge: An end-of-life CRM and no back-end integration

Since its creation in 2015, innovation has always been at the heart of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council's strategy.

But while its CRM had been fit-for-purpose in the past, it couldn't fully support its ambitions for self-serve provision or back-end website integration - meaning its customer relations team spent the majority of its time entering data by hand.

In fact, the majority of customer queries were by phone or email. And some cases required more detailed information - such as environmental health issues - meaning interactions could take up 30 minutes, creating a high cost per transaction and lengthy customer experience.

By transacting through the phone, it also meant that the onus was on customers to remember when they last phoned and who they talked to. 

These inefficient customer service processes meant that simple tasks like bulky waste collection requests were a significant time-sink for employees and residents.  

What's more, the Council was very aware that by not adapting its systems and processes around its customers, it was unable to provide the best possible service. With only a fragmented view of its customers, the Council realised it needed to undergo a major digital transformation programme.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council needed a flexible solution built around real-life user journeys - one that offered complete consistency, and helped Council staff adapt and design new forms as and when the need arose.

It also wanted to automate simple customer queries to reduce manual data entry and call times - helping staff focus on more value-adding tasks, such as spending more time with customers that really needed support.


The Solution: A simple self-serve platform that puts customers first

After researching a range of vendors using the GOV.UK Digital Marketplace, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council selected GOSS as its solution provider. The Council then provided GOSS with a set of specifications, which GOSS used to build a comprehensive set of concepts before any design work went ahead.

Caroline Douglas, Transformation Manager at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council explains: "As bulky waste collection was our most used service, we prioritised these forms and back-end integrations to go live first. We even ran a workshop with our drivers to discover their issues and needs. From this, we drew up a process map that GOSS then implemented".

With no in-house developers the Council needed a no-code platform that allowed users to design and build case management forms with no prior coding experience. Before GOSS pushed the system live, relevant Council employees received just three days' training on the new platform, as well as on-going support - empowering them to hit the ground running from day one.


"The training and after-support GOSS provided was invaluable. I'm now even providing my own training for other members of staff, safe in the knowledge that if I'm ever stuck, I can always ask GOSS for help."


Caroline Douglas, Transformation Manager, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council


Integrated email capabilities mean the team can even tailor its communications with customers depending on the time of year. For example, the parks service wanted to reduce the amount of time spent replying to customers with similar emails about seasonal tree cutting procedures. Now, with one click, customers receive automated replies with the option to escalate the query if necessary.

"Some of our services are different to those found in the rest of the UK. A good example of this is dog licences, which aren't required elsewhere in the UK, but by law need to be renewed every 12 months in Northern Ireland. Accounting for these differences wasn't an issue for GOSS - the attention to detail really went beyond what we were expecting", reflected Caroline.


The Results: A self-serve platform that's reduced waste service phone queries by more than 50%  

In the first six months of going live, the Council's bulky waste service alone has attracted 6,700 registered users.

To support the platform's development, the Council is also running a formal user testing programme. Made up of members of the public, these volunteers provide an impartial assessment of council services, helping the Council to refine its offering.

"We wanted easy-to-design forms and complete end-to-end services for our customers - I can safely say we've achieved this and so much more. In fact, our case management tool has exceeded expectations; it's so user-friendly and we can deploy new forms in no time at all", says Caroline.

Before working with GOSS, most of the Council's customer queries came in by telephone or email. Early analysis now shows this has now dropped by well over 50%.

Caroline explains the effect this has had on the Council: "By automating repetitive data entry processes that used to be carried out by our team, we've freed up countless hours which are now being spent on more valuable and innovative tasks. Even our operational staff will receive map views of their jobs, including colour coded tasks to show high priority jobs".


"Our aim is to be the most digitally advanced council in Northern Ireland, working with GOSS has meant we're so much closer to achieving that target."

Caroline Douglas, Transformation Manager, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council


In addition to two new services going live in the near future - Parks and Environmental Health - Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is promoting The Northern Ireland Library Authority's (Libraries NI) classes and courses to help improve residents' technology literacy - ensuring more people than ever will have access to online Council services. 

Soon, the Council also intends to roll out automated customer evaluations on its website - enabling it to gather valuable customer experience insights.