Noise affects people in different ways

Written by Yvonne Vermeersch

Malte Wingen on Unsplash

I have worked in customer services for many years latterly managing our contact centre, so have a great insight into customers behaviour, “needs” and “wants”. Recently I joined the Digital team as a business analyst, identifying opportunities for service improvements, resulting in cost reduction and efficiency, by developing innovative ways to improve processes and doing good service design.

I’ve been working with a brilliant project team looking at how residents of North East Lincolnshire report “Noise” related problems. The aim was to reduce demand and encourage self-responsibility for dealing with low priority noise issues helping the council to prioritise and deal with the more serious cases. We realised as a council we have been doing too much too often and this has led to increased customer expectations. The key outcome for the council was to release capacity to support wider transformation.

This was a challenge, but we were really up for it because noise is subjective and emotive and we have a bad habit of doing too much and creating a dependency by the public. That is to say we respond to everything and noise may be a concern to one person and affect health and wellbeing but may not be a concern to another.

Like many councils, we already had an online form for reporting noise nuisance, which passed details on to the Noise team. The problem was that it was then transposed into another system manually. One of the biggest challenges was determining information about the frequency and the effects on the resident’s health and well-being. Feedback provided to the customer about how the case was being dealt with also lacked detail and was causing unnecessary repeat contact and dissatisfaction.

So what did we do? We researched noise and ways residents reported, carried out user research chatting to residents and service areas, and mapped out the present end to end service. We looked closely at statutory noise legislation, viewed the advice, guidance and support already available for residents, landlords and businesses.

One of the key outcomes for the service was to reshape and deliver savings by stopping weekends and out of hours working. To do this we needed a new way of supporting residents to deal with the low level issues and we developed a conversational form with workflow that provided the appropriate advice and guidance, informing them what action they could take or who was responsible if not the council.

The platform we used was our Customer Records Management system, ‘Firmstep’ which has no integration to the system used by the noise team. This meant potentially duplicating work, entering details into another system and closing the customer’s case. This was misleading and confusing to the customer and the front line customer service team because information via email or on the front line system told them their case was closed, when it clearly wasn’t.

We found different telephone numbers were available to contact the team and to support the reshape we routed all of these to customer services.

At Show & Tells we demonstrated the functionality and through iteration we built a new process that allowed the Noise team to record their actions as the case progressed. The updates would automatically be emailed to the customer, the Director of the service, who was so impressed that she agreed to use only the new process we had designed preventing duplication and enabling the customers and front line service to view accurate updates on progress.

We made some further changes to replicate some of the activity usually done in the system the Noise team use, and after much testing and tweaking with residents and members, the service is now live. Information on the web page is now very clear about expectations, but also supports the residents with conversational advice both verbally and potentially in writing.

This has already reduced the number of telephone calls and the number of cases we are dealing with, but most critically allowing the new enforcement team to support wider service transformation.