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Rutland County is a Trailblazer in delivering agile government services – from home, with speed.
Rutland County, a community located about 160 kilometers north of London, is supported by a government that is “committed to achieving a vibrant quality of life for everyone in Rutland,” said Andy Nix, Head of Information and Communications Technology and Customer Service at Rutland County. “We have a very simple council structure which is guided by a clear, four-part corporate plan that enables us to provide efficient, effective services to the people living in Rutland:”
- Deliver sustainable development
Use resources wisely to protect and enhance Rutland’s historical environment.
- Maintain vibrant communities
Build homes and create jobs for Rutland’s residents so that they are less impacted by the challenges unique to rural economies.
- Provide customer-focused services
Develop and implement digital service models that are known for being more responsive, more efficient, and more accessible.
- Protect the vulnerable
Improve services that are designed to protect children and vulnerable adults specifically.
“And it is these last two pillars, of course, that have become especially top of mind with the onset of COVID-19,” said Nix.
Rutland supports the National approach to COVID-19.
In March 2020, when COVID-19 began reaching pandemic levels across the country, the UK Central Government issued a strict lockdown order for people who fell into high-risk categories: the elderly, those with health risks, had undergone organ transplants, and so on. “This group was instructed to stay in their houses for the next 12 weeks,” Nix continued. “Going out on unnecessary journeys, trips to the grocery store, etc. were deemed too dangerous for this high risk group. Which meant that our Central Government had to expand its service portfolio to deliver essentials, like food parcels. And if something went wrong – if a sign up form was lost or food was spoiled – local governments like us, were called upon to assist.”
All of a sudden, Rutland was asked to expand its own service portfolio – at a time when the team itself was adjusting to the same changes, trying to move more people to work from home. So, the Rutland team decided to stand up a vulnerable hotline that Rutland’s residents could call for a number of reasons; if their food parcel hadn’t arrived, if their neighbour could no longer deliver the medications they had been so kind to get before COVID-19 or if they were feeling isolated because they were living alone.
“We knew our target audience was likely to be the most vulnerable, and we couldn’t offer a face-to-face service or go down a fully online option. So the only real option for us was a telephone contact point,” said Nix. “What we didn’t know was the scale the operation might reach. Our Council hasn’t had to manage this size of an emergency before. We didn’t know how many customers had contacted the central government, how many of them would need additional help, or how difficult those conversations might be.”
Rutland needed a call center platform that could scale to accommodate a potentially large call volume, without sacrificing the ability to support highly personalized conversations.
Part 1: Rutland launches a dynamic call center platform in just three weeks.
The team deployed its vulnerable hotline on Service Cloud, Salesforce’s CRM platform configured for customer service and case management needs. When someone calls into the hotline, their information is captured in a profile-like record. Rutland staffers can add notes from the conversation, consult notes from previous conversations, and more, creating a 360-degree view of each customer. The team can also open a case for any needs or asks, tag subject matter experts, and assign tasks from the same platform, streamlining service delivery.
“We also created a dynamic workflow process for a number of COVID-19 lockdown topics using Flow Builder,” said Nix. “Much like a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, when a caller answers ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the first question, the following questions are served up accordingly. This guides our staff through conversations, ensuring that necessary check-ins happen and potential warning signs are flagged, which enables the team to deliver better service no matter how complex the customer need.” Knowledge was layered on which serves up top rated articles, FAQs, and need-to-know information to the agent as he / she / they navigates the call – all from their home office.
Part 2: Rutland’s design enables faster response to new services.
Rutland had its call center platform operational in just three weeks, and had already delivered roughly 400 food boxes when the Central Government announced a grants program that offered financial support to businesses in need. Local government entities were again called upon to help by managing local authority discretionary grants.
Nix and team added Experience Cloud, Salesforce’s online community portals tool, to address the more formal side of this new service category. Business owners can go to Rutland’s website and apply for a grant via an online form. A series of fields guide them through detailing criteria like fixed costs, operating costs, number of employees headcount, uploads supporting documentation and more. The Rutland team reviews the application, determines eligibility, and awards the grant accordingly. While the team is reviewing the application, customers can log back to check for status updates, help accelerate the review process via self-service capabilities.
Following the initial grants announcement, a range of additional grants were announced through the autumn season of 2020. And Nix and team were able to adapt and modify Rutland’s deployment to support each new program in a timely manner. “In one situation we were able to go from the announcement of the funding, to the application form being available online, applicants applying and being paid within one week,” said Nix. “This helps us address the needs of our business community while also keeping phone lines clear for the urgent food, medical, and operational services.”
The team continued to leverage additional functionality such as workflows, custom objects, email templates, validation rules, and more to integrate external payment systems for bank transfer when a grant was successful, freeing up even more time and energy for the team to focus on mission-critical work. “COVID-19 has been a crisis of speed, which means we couldn’t afford the time to retype information or do manual data entry from a mountain of Excel spreadsheets,” Nix continued.