Digital champion work in Brighton & Hove City Council’s Customer Service Centre

A Community Digital Champion helping a customer to get online

Our Community Digital Champions (DCs) have provided digital skills support in Bartholomew House Customer Service Centre on a regular basis over the past year, helping customers to manage their queries digitally. This work focused primarily on filling the gaps in provision in the Customer Service Centre on non ‘self-help’ days, that is when Embedded DCs from other council teams were not present in the Customer Service Centre.

Supporting a varied client-group

Through support work in the Customer Service Centre, our DCs helped a wide range of client groups on different issues, including:

  • Homeless people –rough sleepers and those living in temporary accommodation
  • Prison leavers – looking for housing and employment
  • Families – submitting evidence, birth of child, P45
  • Refugees – looking for housing and employment
  • Job seekers – filling out Universal Credit applications and looking employment
  • Employed residents – paying bills
  • Pensioners – wanting to move into seniors housing schemes paying bills, applying for bus passes
  • Young people – home leavers

The numbers

Based on the data recorded on the Digital Champions Network (DCN), 383 digital support sessions took place at the Customer Service Centre, making up close to 10% of all sessions recorded. Customers needed help the most with the following tasks:

  1. Filling out online forms and submitting evidence (276 sessions) e.g. applying for Homemove, Single Person Discount, Universal Credit, Submitting evidence; scanning items such as payslips and uploading to the web.
  2. Emailing (191 sessions) e.g. setting up email accounts for emailing CVs or as a requirement for filling out other online forms such as Universal Credit and Local Discretionary Social Fund
  3. Searching for information (181 sessions) and problem-solving online (173) e.g. searching for jobs or properties to move to, accessing the Homemove website
  4. Paying Council Tax (47 sessions) – paid via the BHCC website, a customer will need a bank card to pay online

Most of the above tasks could be carried out unaided once the customer had gained sufficient confidence but on several occasions customers would not feel confident enough to do it themselves.   

A further 444 interventions were recorded by Embedded Digital Champions between March and November 2018, namely staff from the Revenues and Benefits team helping customers during the ‘self-help’ days.

Learnings from the pilot

  • Touchscreen technology is more accessible and user-friendly than desktops
    Many clients considered themselves digitally illiterate because they were not confident using the computers/desktops in the Customer Service Centre when they may had actually been confident using touchscreen technology (e.g. when they had a tablet or smartphone). When asked, they were often also capable of using self-service checkouts in supermarkets and ordering items at McDonalds and Asda. If a touchscreen option was offered at the Customer Service Centre, it could enable more customers to self-help using digital services.
  • Improved signage and signposting can help build confidence
    In some instances, some customers would get logged out without having had the chance to finish what they were doing, which in turn would knock their confidence. While there is an option to extend a session for extenuating circumstances, this could be improved through better messaging from staff and signage near the PCs. If Customer Service staff do not have the time to help customers directly, improved messaging and signposting outlining the different tasks that can be carried out online would help encourage customers to get online.
  • Making the most of the free online and face-to-face training resources available through Digital Brighton & Hove
    Free training resources on the Digital Champions Network are available to help staff feel more confident to provide daily support to help customers get online. The service would benefit from having trained Embedded Digital Champions present at all times in the Customer Service Centre to answer related questions and signpost customers to self-help and services. To date, face-to-face Digital Champion training has been delivered for Revenues and Benefits, Housing and frontline customer service officers, all of which operate in the customer service centre (and totalling over 30 council officers).

Sample feedback from the face-to-face Digital Champion training

“The Digital Champion training was really interesting training – the online courses on how to get started with a smart phone are brilliant!”

BHCC Customer Service Officer

“The training course was brilliant, really enjoyed it – the signposting website is very useful.”

BHCC Customer Service Officer

“It was useful to learn about the free online resources that are available and to think about how to engage people to get online. It helped to discuss case scenarios where we might be able to signpost a customer to an online service.”

BHCC Revenues & Benefits Officer