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Creating a successful Digital Inclusion (DI) strategy


Creating A Successful DI Strategy

Introduction

Online access has had a significant impact on those of us who have been able to take advantage of it. These benefits include the improvement in our ability to communicate, learn, economise, research and apply for those things that we need to enrich our lives. Enormous social value can therefore be gained by helping those that are ‘digitally excluded’.

The Government has recently released a revised 18-point strategy for the delivery of online government services[1]. Their strategy for DI states that 80% of Universal Credit (UC) applications will be completed online by 2017, whilst recognising that 37% of those that are digitally excluded live in social and supported housing. Early indications are that the DWP has recognised that much of the information needed to apply for UC is held by the social/supported housing provider (RP), so making applications via the RP, utilising already ‘verified’ data, will make the process quicker and easier for all concerned.

In the face of significant cuts to funding, there is also enormous pressure on RP’s to work more effectively, reducing the cost of service delivery without reducing its quality.

Since the budget, PwC has released an article stressing the need for RP’s to transform the way they operate, delivering improved services through better data management and use of digital services[2].

Most RP’s are also reporting that the amount of contact per customer is increasing, commonly by around 50% over the last 5 years. Cutting the cost of this communication whilst ideally improving service levels is therefore an important objective, making services easier to use and accessible anywhere, from any device, at any time.

Whichever way you look at it, communicating over the internet is here to stay. Ensuring customers have online access is therefore a priority.

 

The Business Case For DI

RP’s have a corporate responsibility to create social value and assist those in their care to take advantage of tools that will enrich their lives. Access to the internet is clearly one of these tools, however funding this has been a barrier for many. It is therefore important to recognise the benefits that can be achieved in order to support the business case.    

Many organisations have justified expenditure on DI based upon them believing that providing such an important amenity will assist them to win contracts. Providing internet connectivity or Wi-Fi  has also been shown to decrease void times.

When it comes to the cost of online communication, the below table provides evidence of the average cost per transaction by channel and demonstrate how communication carried out online can be done at a fraction of the cost.

Source Face to Face Telephone Post IVR Online
PWC Report £10.53p £3.39p £12.10 N/A £0.08p
SOCITM £14.00p £5.00p N/A £0.20p £0.17p

PWC figures are averages from 19 Local Authorities in London and the South East. SOCITM figures gathered from a group of Local Authorities in the North West. Both are now widely used as evidence of the savings that can be achieved

A digital strategy is required, of which DI is a critical part. For example, although there will always be a need for there to be somebody a customer can talk to, there is the compelling investment case for getting customers to communicate online where possible. This is, in order of priority:

  1. To Reduce Avoidable Contact. The most important objective is to allow customer issues to be resolved on the first contact. Providing easy access to the information needed to achieve this is key and a necessary part of then moving services online.
  2. To Promote Existing Digital Options. If there are existing digital services, customers must be encouraged to use them. Promoting them will increase use.
  3. To Target New Digital Services. Where can the greatest savings be made by taking processes online? Target those where the greatest advantage can be achieved.
  4. To Transform the business to be digital by default. Business processes must be re-engineered to ensure they work efficiently and effectively when delivered digitally. If not, they will be less efficient to deliver and less convenient for customers to use.  Customer’s ideally need to want to communicate ‘digitally by choice’.

DI Solutions

There are numerous tried and tested ways in which customers can be given access to the internet. It is important to understand the customer before recommending such a solution. For example, iPad’s are very good for digesting information and completing simple forms, but for more detailed applications where typing is necessary, they are less effective.

It is important to ensure that when customers communicate with you online, the interface they use is straight forward and they can quickly and easily achieve what they need to, ideally without the need of human intervention.

 

Generating Funding For DI Solutions

In order to communicate with customers online, they must have access to the internet and importantly be adequately trained how to take best advantage of it, both for their personal benefit and the benefit of the organisation. As accessing the internet is considered to provide ‘social value’, funds are readily available to help finance such initiatives. Applying for such funding is a skill, so gaining specialist assistance is usually required. Although this assistance has a cost, the resulting funding is at least 3x higher and in many cases much more. It is not unusual for many tens of thousands to be raised and for further funding to be forthcoming if DI initiatives can be proved to be successful.

The ability to report on performance is paramount to successfully gaining funding, as indeed it is for managing an organisation as a whole. Recognising what the KPI’s should be and knowing how to best track them is important.

 

In summary

Providing customers with access to the internet should now be a mandatory part of ICT strategy. Such strategies should be largely self-funding through a combination of corporate cost savings and grants.

The recipe for success is not new and is already being successfully delivered by many RP’s. They are proving that those organisation that can successfully deliver such a strategy are likely to flourish.

 

Should you want more information, please email us at info@3cconsultants.co.uk or call us on 0333 900 3003.

 

[1] Digital by Default Service Standard, https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/digital-by-default 

[2] http://pwc.blogs.com/publicsectormatters/2015/07/distinctive-by-design-what-does-the-future-hold-for-housing-associations.html