Local Councils traditionally provide payment collection services using over the counter methods which can be costly and time consuming. Many councils such as Aberdeen City Council are now looking to developing their service by offering self-service facilities for a range of Council payments.
In December 2012 Aberdeen City Council conducted an internal audit to review the processes within their Customer Service Centre. The scope of the audit was to consider the key processes, Council Tax, Benefits and Parking Permits along with the supplementary review of Floorwalkers in the Main Reception.
By interviewing staff and customers and reviewing policies and procedures the team were able to identify areas within the service requiring improvement that would also help resolve issues, such as queues at the main reception, creating additional pressure for advisers and reception staff.
As part of the improvement process the council procured two payment kiosks from Cammax Limited through a competitive tender process. These were installed at Marischal College Customer Service Centre
The two KPIs for the kiosk were:
Since installing the two kiosks Aberdeen City Council have taken over £2,500,000 in the first ten month and seen the following service improvements…
Reduced staff input
Aberdeen City Council hoped that staff input would be reduced by 0.74 FTE (a reduction of 16,500 transactions handled by Tier 2 Customer Service Advisers). The actual input was reduced by 1.32 FTE which exceeded the council’s anticipated benefit by 56%.
Average queue times
The payment kiosks have also had a positive impact on the average queue times for non-payment transactions, reducing overall queue times by one third (31%). This has enabled Customer Service Advisers to devote more time to deal with complicated enquiries such as Council Tax and Benefits without large queues forming.
PayPoint and Post Office payments
It was hoped that the kiosk would lead to a reduction in the number of customers using PayPoint and Post Office to make payments to the council. The council previously paid to up to 46.49 pence for each transaction using these payment methods. PayPoint transactions were reduced by 5% in the first eight months, saving up to £4475 per annum. The kiosk payments also make the payment to the landlord or council tax account the next working day, rather than the three working days provided by PayPoint. This can lead to increased customer satisfaction as they are not affected by payment delays.
Improved health and safety measures
One key issue for the Customer Service staff was the handling of high volume of cash and therefore the associated security risks. The council specified the kiosks were to provide a 74% reduction in cash handled by Customer Service Advisers. Since the kiosks where installed the council seen a reduction of 97% in the amount of cash handled and with this a reduction in the associated risks to health and safety and an increase in staff morale.
Increased cash payments and collection rates at the Customer Service Centre
With the installation of the kiosks the council has seen a 13% overall increase in cash transactions at the Customer Service Centre. This indicates that customers are being attracted to Marischal College Customer Service Centre in order to make a payment. The Council Tax collection rates have also been monitored by the council and see an increase of 35% in transactions and 13% in the value of the transactions.
100% in reduction in customer complaints
One area of concern for the council was the number of complaints about the lack of facility to pay cash for Council Tax or rent. Feedback from Customer Service teams confirmed a 100% in reduction complaints from customers wishing to pay rent and Council Tax in cash.
One of the requirements for the kiosks was to increase customer satisfaction. As part of the initial study a survey was carried out, the results showed that 42% would never use a self-service kiosk and 93% were satisfied with length of wait time.
Following the first six months since the installation of the kiosks, 68% of customers had used the kiosk and 98% were satisfied with the length of wait time (an increase in 5%).
Over nine out of ten customers surveyed also stated that the payment kiosk were a ‘convenient’ or ‘very convenient’ way of making a payment. Nine out of ten customers also found the kiosks ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to use and 92% of customers would use the kiosks again.
The installation of payment kiosks at Marischal College Customer Service Centre has been a success, with the vast majority of the project benefits being realised.
The payment kiosks have greatly enhanced customer experience at Marischal College Customer Service Centre and may even bring additional revenue to Aberdeen City Council as well as potentially saving money through a reduction of staff numbers (FTE) required at the Customer Service Centre” Craig Farquhar, Project Executive, Aberdeen City Council
A summary of service benefits include:
Other councils have also found similar cost savings
“The benefits of taking this approach now and moving to a self-service kiosk option are:
It provides the council with the ability to introduce a payment kiosk, retain a cashier and make an annual saving of £34,000 per year from April 2014 or £170,000 over 5 years
Provides greater options for the future service delivery when remaining cashier retire
The introduction and therefore further increase the efficiency and collection rates of the revenues and benefits team”
Monica Stephens, Joint Head of Customer Service, West Oxfordshire Council