As many of you may know, I’ve worked in quite a few Local Authority Housing Benefit departments - these teams provide benefits to vulnerable adults to assist with rent and council tax payments if they are on low incomes. Not only is there usually ample scope for improvement, it also means those that need the money get it sooner.
I continue to do research on the national figures, and they’re interesting reading - the difference in performance is far larger than you might expect:
- some councils undertake their claims in an average of 4 days,
- other take as long as 57 days, and
- over 200 councils take longer than 20 days.
So, some councils are 14 times better than others.
In the past, I helped one council enable them to pay half of their claims in less than one hour - it can be done - it’s better customer service, and considerably cheaper.
Why is this important?
- It’s much better customer service, the customer makes less contact, and they get their issues resolved more quickly
- It’s cheaper for the business because everything gets completed sooner, and
- The staff love it because they get a chance to resolve customer issues properly.
Example: If you had financial difficulties, how often would you chase your payments? - once a week? In the examples above, one council would be receive no chasing telephone calls, whilst another might be receiving as many as eight chasing calls, ie one business needs a large call centre, the other doesn’t.
Example: again, in the examples above, one council would be drowning in a sea of claims paper work that I estimate at over 1000 claim files, the other would have approximately 20 files as work-in-progress. So, one council would need a large and expensive document imaging system, the other, possibly a shelf?
But this doesn’t just happen in the public sector - they’re the ones that are brave enough (or instructed to) provide consistent figures so that consultants like me to can undertake some comparative analysis.
It happens in businesses too - I see it regularly. Whether its on-line gambling, electricity or engineering (all recent assignments) I see situations where:
- purpose has been forgotten
- the same predictable issues occur time again
- there is little attention to understanding root cause
- the work flow has not been understood from the customers’ perspective, and
- there’s failure to truly design the process based on what is actually required.
Examples I’ve seen lately:
- sending engineers to site with incorrect or out-of-date drawings meaning that they can’t complete the work
- not sending out bills because of blockages upstream in the process, causing problems in customer services and credit control
- not being able to see the underlying “production line” of work flow, resulting in ineffective controls of highly regulated areas of the business.
This isn’t just about some changes to the tactical plans of the business, it’s fundamental to the strategy of the leadership agenda. It’s not just a process thing - it’s at the very heart of what a business is there to do. In all of my recent assignments, the benefits to the customer journey, the staff, and the bottom line have been significant.