The next financial year will see councils across the UK increase their council tax rates by an average of 4.5%, while the fall in central government funding will also mean taking a long hard look at how frontline services will be delivered.
This will add further pressure to family budgets which could see an increase in missed council tax payments, and therefore more pressure on councils to improve their collections performance.
Council tax repayment is actually very high compared to standard lending repayment rates with only a small percentage being left uncollected; the average collection rate across England in the year 2017/18 was 97.1%, a slight improvement after falls in previous years.
Within this blog we will focus on improving the efficiency of your collections activity to reduce operational costs, allowing those savings to be utilised in other areas.
Learning from the private sector
The private sector has been going through a revolution in the last 10 years and has made massive improvements in the cost to collect by utilising new technologies and techniques as well as offering the customer much more freedom in how they engage. There has also been a drive to identify vulnerable customers earlier and offer proactive support.
Many public institutions have struggled to keep up with the private sector due to pressures on budgets constraining investment in operational improvement. However, small changes to operations and investments in technology can yield great efficiency in collections for the long term, allowing more resources to be allocated to front-line services.
Using technology to improve collections
In recent years, we have seen a shift towards the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve processes, treat customers fairly and consistently, reduce manual and repetitive tasks, and drive efficiency.
These technologies provide organisations with the ability to transform slow, inefficient, manual processes into fast, efficient, consistent processes which in turn reduce costs. Councils can embrace modern technologies to reduce costs and pass those savings onto essential services to benefit local residents.
Opportunities to improve Collections and Recoveries (C&R) using technology include:
- Streamlining and automating inefficient processes to reduce or remove human interaction through the end to end C&R lifecycle.
- Introducing self-serve portals, chat bots and Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) solutions, removing the need for the customer to contact the Council.
- Letting customers set their own communication preferences to suit their contact needs.
- Enabling customers to create payment arrangements without having to call the Council.
- Undertaking detailed cost benefit analysis of all C&R processes to identify any high cost processes and enable further improvement.
Where to start
The best way to start is to review your current operation and analyse where efficiencies could be improved. Don’t worry though, this needn’t take long!
We are experts having worked across the public and private sectors for over 20 years to improve collections operations. Our two-week Current State Assessment (CSA) will provide you with a detailed benchmark report of your operation against industry best practice and a business case for transformation including quick wins and medium to longer term strategic opportunities. Find out more.
Gary Best and Michael Knight