News and press

Tuesday, 23rd March 2010

Southwark's simple secret to effective website design and excellent customer service

Southwark Council has launched a web site that it believes truly represents the diversity and culture of the borough, thanks to a design based on extensive research and engagement with local residents.

The council has worked in partnership with Jadu, a leading web content management and transactional systems provider and Vangent Ltd, the established customer services provider for the council, to design and implement the new website.

Southwark Council, in partnership with Vangent Ltd, has won awards for innovative approaches to delivering personalised customer service, and its main aim in introducing the new web site, has been to deliver a smoother and more efficient experience for customers.

At a time when all authorities have to try and do more with less, the Council also sought to create a more efficient system by integrating the Jadu content management with its Customer Relationship Management system.

Suraj Kika, CEO of Jadu said:
"Local authorities face the greatest financial challenge for many years, where IT, Communications and Customer Services teams are forced to make serious cut backs and demonstrate savings. It's essential that a strategic approach is taken to managing the online experience. By implementing the Jadu CMS and integrating this with the Council's customer relationship management (CRM) systems to provide a highly personalised experience, Southwark will deliver an outstanding service for a massively reduced cost."

To give residents exactly what was wanted from an online interaction, the Council sought feedback from the community, by undertaking an extensive research study using Focus Groups and 'one to one' interviews. Residents' feedback was used to drive the new site design which was developed in collaboration with the award winning Jadu design team.

Research showed that the council's previous website was not user friendly; the design was outdated; the site provided limited functionality and it also required a high level of maintenance.

The research also identified that residents wanted the ability to track online applications; quick links; 'my events' and 'my contacts'.

Cllr Tim McNally, Executive Member for Resources said:
"We are working hard to make our 200 plus services more accessible to residents. At the heart of this effort is the website. Residents told us they found the old site cluttered, slow and not very user friendly. I hope they'll find the new site more attractive to look at, easier and quicker to use.

"But that is only half the story. Better online access to services will result in a reduction of more expensive face to face contact for basic form filling and payments. This will not only free up officers to spend more time dealing with more serious and complex issues, but will save the council money.

"This will in turn help to provide the services that residents need while resources become increasingly limited."

"We selected Jadu because its vision was very much in line with local government direction in terms of its social media strategy and its approach to open data. We selected the Jadu CMS because it was clearly built for publishing and very intuitive which is particularly important for a non technical user."

The Council looked to Vangent, their strategic BPO partner, who already dealt with the majority of customer contacts with Southwark's residents, to manage the web improvement programme and implement the new site.

Vangent has delivered a fully integrated online service to Southwark's residents in six months, having fast tracked a programme that would normally take 12-18 months, so that residents can benefit as soon as possible. Additionally Vangent has developed the 'localisation' and 'personalisation' elements of the new website, maximising the 'out of the box' features from Jadu's CMS with the integrated CRM data, ensuring every resident has a truly customised and personalised experience on the site.

This new development will have a significant impact on service efficiency for Southwark's residents. For example, customer requests that typically took 4-5 days to process, will now take 10 seconds, due to the integration of the website, CRM and back-office systems, cutting the end to end processing time in half.

Adrian Blair, Programme Director in Vangent, said:
"This is one of the most exciting programmes we have run with Southwark. One of our core values in Vangent is to 'strive to continually improve'. This improvement directly and positively impacts the residents and their online experience. Even though the timescales were relatively short, we still invested in three phases of usability research with the residents to ensure that the new site delivers what they want, and it has been fantastic to see the positive feedback throughout. We now have a site that enables us to respond more quickly to new initiatives and deliver even more efficiencies and enhancements." 

About Southwark Council

Southwark is one of the busiest and most demanding metropolitan authorities in the country. It is a borough of tremendous opportunity, situated as it is with its northern boundaries opposite the prosperity of the Cities of London and Westminster. But it also has all the challenges and interest of an inner city area; low incomes, high state dependency and complex social problems.

Southwark is undergoing one of the most ambitious social and physical regeneration programme of any authority in the country, together with a wide range of initiatives aimed at improving educational standards, reducing crime and improving health, housing and the environment.

Creating a smoother and more efficient experience for customers is in line with the National Indicator NI 14.

About Vangent

With over 8,000 employees worldwide, Vangent is a premier provider of management consulting, systems integration, human capital management and business process outsourcing services to government and commercial clients. Vangent clients include local authorities and central government agencies, housing associations, UK management consulting entities, telecommunication providers and numerous international government agencies in healthcare, education, justice, labour and personnel management.
Headquartered in London, Vangent Ltd. has associated companies in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and UAE.

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