Wyre District Council covers a rural, urban and partly coastal community just outside Blackpool, Lancashire, where many people do not have Internet access.
The authority’s Life in Wyre Survey 2012 revealed that 17% of residents don’t go online, increasing to 40% in those aged over 65.
This led Wyre to develop an “alternative mobile strategy” – a new Mobile Advice Centre that drives services to those who need them.
Wyre District Council often receives enquiries relating to its services, but issues with connectivity in the District means that simply logging onto the Council website to find the information they need is not always an option for citizens.
In addition to digital inclusion problems, the local authority is based in Poulton with no local offices for residents to visit. By procuring a bus that visits set locations on a strict timetable, Wyre was able to prevent people having to travel long distances to receive the advice they require.
The Mobile Advice Centre was originally created to tackle council tax and housing benefits queries alone – however, the local authority decided that in order to make it truly effective, advisors in the Centre needed the ability to help residents with all Council services.
As Wyre was already using KANA Lagan Software in its Civic Centre, it seemed natural to extend this to the bus.
According to KANA’s own research, 69% of UK local authorities are wary of moving their services online for fear of excluding those who have no Internet access.
However, the government is currently pushing its “digital by default” agenda, so Wyre needed to find a way to keep up with technological developments, while still ensuring all its residents have access to Council services.
Working with KANA Lagan, the company’s CRM (customer relationship management) solution designed specifically for the public sector, Wyre was able to make this a reality.
The firm’s software provides a number of benefits for the Council, such as saving time, automating processes, increased visibility of information that is kept all in one place and preventing the loss of any important information.
According to the local authority’s Contact Centre manager Sue Stephenson, training staff to use KANA Lagan is a simple and easy process which means the “major benefits” are accessible and quick to appear.
“Investment in a face-to-face presence seems to run counter to the policies of other councils whereby the means of contact are concentrated in automated or remote channels,” says Philippa Davies.
“The Mobile Advice Centre takes the Council into the locations where fewer people have access to technology and there seems to be widespread support for the bus amongst the communities which it serves.
“It has enabled a reduction in the time to process enquiries and helps to build social inclusion,” Davies added.
Enabling the Mobile Advice Centre to deal with any queries related to any Council services has allowed Wyre to move into the digital age and tackle technological exclusion.
Since the deployment of KANA Lagan on the bus, the local authority has been able to substantially reduce the time spent handling benefit applications as the work required can now be completed in just one visit to the centre.
“This is a genuine mobile strategy which delivers online services directly to those who may feel digitally excluded,” claimed David Moody, Kana’s worldwide head of product strategy.
“The mobile advice service now offered by Wyre Council removes [the digital exclusion] barrier completely and provides the best of both worlds.
“Wyre is a largely rural community and this partnership proves that with the right technology, a digital strategy can be tailored for any location,” he added.