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Why a shared channel experience will meet user needs at DWP Digital

The Department for Work and Pensions outlines the approach it is taking to developing user-focused digital services

Our ambition in DWP Digital is to be truly user-centred and this is the right approach to deliver our services.

I was recently appointed as interim director of shared channel experience at DWP Digital. This role will enable us to move from a first-contact approach driving the journey – which resulted in a varied customer experience depending on the digital service in question – to a user-centred approach that will create more seamless customer journeys.

Here is why the change is so important:

Why a user-first, channel- and product-agnostic approach is better

Our customers and colleagues are our first priority, and to transform how we interact with them we have created a new Shared Channel Experience directorate. Our aim is to really get to understand and meet our users’ needs and to deliver solutions.

Our customers’ and colleagues’ experience should not be exposed to the inner workings of how our organisation is designed or our product and policy lines. Instead it should flow from the event that has driven them to contact us. Equally, their choice of channel should not be the main driver for the experience they receive.

We are moving away from an approach where we built end-to-end services, which although essential to successful service delivery, often had a siloed consequence. Delivering services that way can result in a lack of “bigger-picture” visibility – for example, when the customer needs to use another service, or their needs change. Experience has shown us that we need to adapt to build on an individual’s experience over time.

The user-centred approach is dependent on an explicit understanding of our users’ needs. In our new directorate we’ll be looking at the whole user experience, determined by user research and evaluation, and we’ll be using an agile iterative approach to build the best experience possible for our users, regardless of the channel or reason for their contact.

Making a difference

Leading this work will be an opportunity to shape and grow a directorate that will make a real difference to more than 80,000 colleagues across the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and 20 million claimants in the UK.

I’ve had a number of roles in the department over the years, but this is the one that brings together experience in operational management and the workings of large service delivery teams, fraud and error, business transformation and innovation, all in one place.

The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic led to an unprecedented surge in claims, telephone calls, different ways of working and the need for additional capabilities at pace for DWP. Now the biggest challenge will be learning from the experience of these past few months. It feels like we’re through the immediate response to the pandemic, and we’re now thinking how we build up further capacity to meet the next waves of demand for our services.

We’ve been pivotal to a lot of the innovation that has changed the way we work. We now need to carry that thinking and actions through to the future without going back to what is comfortable – this is a DWP-wide challenge and ,gauging by the comments of my team, one that the Shared Channels Experience team are keen to overcome by continuing to innovate and challenge the status quo.

An accelerated response to the crisis

Over the past few months, we’ve accelerated a lot of work in response to the coronavirus crisis, including our Confirm Your Identity service, enabling more than 100,000 people to confirm who they are remotely, alongside Verify, and removing the need for a face-to-face appointment. This is helping to alleviate pressure on frontline colleagues and telephony. 

We’ve scaled the Next-Generation Contact Centre service to deal with the massive increase in telephony demand; we’ve distributed 11,134 headsets; and we’ve enabled more than 1,000 people from other government departments to support the frontline by providing secure access to our systems. We’ve also coordinated the National Shielding Service to support some of the most vulnerable citizens in the country.

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We deployed an updated telephony identification and verification solution to reduce the call duration for customers contacting our Personal Independence Payment helpline.

We completed the first full end-to-end dress rehearsal for our housing benefit computer system printing from our new strategic customer notifications platform. And we used our intelligent automation capability to create capacity by automating some of tasks and actions freeing our colleagues up to help customers.

The next step for us is looking at the delivery and tech aspects so that we can build our Shared Channel Experience roadmap.

Providing a great user experience

Delivering a customer experience that enables our users – both citizens and colleagues – to get to the right outcome for them in the quickest, most efficient and simplest way, is a worthy purpose.

It shouldn’t matter why a person has to access our services, which service is being accessed or how they access that service, our customers should get the same great, consistent experience across DWP.

We want to build that experience around the events and triggers that happen in our customers’ lives. We know that experience often crosses channels and policy areas and that if we get this right we will truly leverage our common capabilities, providing consistency where applicable and tailored services where needed.

The new directorate will promote and ensure a consistent approach to customer interaction and contact across our services in line with our digital strategy. For the first time, our systems will be designed around a consistent customer experience. This change also requires a change in mindset where we think about public services in terms of real people’s life events rather than by government structures or benefit lines. 

Cheryl Stevens is director of digital shared channel experience at DWP Digital.

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