Urgent Telephone 4pm - 8.30am : 01233 331111

Putting the customer at the centre of the services we provide

Published: 01/07/2022
Front cover of Digital Strategy

Ashford Borough Council’s Cabinet approved the adoption of the Customer Services, IT and Digital Strategy last night/week. It sets out how we will develop our services digitally and inspire confidence in our digital services, making them accessible to all and enabling us to deliver outstanding customer services.

By supporting digital transition and technical advances we can promote more effective service delivery. Ashford’s first digital strategy was adopted in 2017 and aimed to improve online services and make the way we worked more efficient. View the Customer Services, IT and Digital Strategy 2022.

The previous digital strategy had an ambitious action plan that has helped to refocus the whole organisation on how we can deliver our services more efficiently and provide better choice for our residents using digital tools.

The updated Digital Strategy underpins the core principles of the Corporate Plan to:

  • Understand and respond to the needs of our communities to ensure no one is disadvantaged
  • Put our residents at the heart of everything we do and ensure our services are accessible.

It sets out our approach in putting technology at the forefront of our journey to put the customers, residents and local businesses at the centre of the services we provide.

The first strategy focused on four key areas of work: our redesigned website, moving more transactions online, and rolling out Microsoft 365. We also now have our design principles which summaries how we approach service delivery.

We’ve seen a 45% increase in visits to our website since the previous strategy was in place, and 82% reduction in face to face visitors, obviously Covid playing a major part in this, but also customers changing the way they access our services.

The new strategy has five key strands:

  1. Residents & Local Businesses first
  2. Collaborate with partner groups to improve digital skills and inclusion
  3. Make better use of data
  4. Give staff the tools/skills needed to carry out their jobs safely, effectively and efficiently
  5. Create a modern, secure and integrated solutions and infrastructure.

Our residents expect that they should be able to transact with us online, as they can elsewhere, however there are residents that cannot or will not transact online and we need have resources available to help them. This strategy will help us achieve both goals.

Cllr Alan Pickering, portfolio holder for HR, Customer Services, Communications and Digitalisation, said: “As anticipated the way that our residents want to communicate with us has significantly changed over the past four years as we as a Council have worked to deliver quick and easy to use digital services.

“This work has delivered significant benefit to the tax payer, enabling the organisation to work effectively and deliver the efficiency savings mentioned in the report. Some residents do not have the skills to use digital methods to interact with us, consequently, we shall continue to maintain our face to face and telephone systems to help all our residents to continue to receive a good quality service from us.”

Cllr Neil Shorter, portfolio holder for Finance and IT, said: “This document sets out our strategy going forward but reflects on and continues the journey that the Council has been on for many years. This strategy will ensure that we continue to provide secure systems and the quality of service that residents and staff deserve.”

Cllr Matthew Forest, Chair of IT & Digital Transformation Advisory Committee, said: “The IT & Digital Transformation Advisory Committee fully support this strategy and will have a key role in monitoring the implementation moving forward. The delivery of the IT, Digital & Customer Service strategy is a really important activity for the Council not only for our residents but our staff alike.

“It is great to see the focus on using our data in an ethical and responsible way so that residents have trust and confidence in how we handle their data and also an opportunity to engage with our residents to see how they want digital services delivered.”