‘Local government’ and ‘digital innovation’ aren’t phrases you often hear in the same breath. Instead, councils often battle perceptions of long phone queues and clunky online tools.
However, like most organisations grappling with the effects of coronavirus, councils have had to drive more digitalisation. From organising local testing and vaccination to distributing financial support packages, they have risen to the challenges presented by COVID-19. And a key success factor has been their ability to harness digital tools to modernise their infrastructure.
But there’s still work to do. In this blog, we’ll explore how local governments can use tech to streamline revenue collection, a key area at a time when they’re facing mounting pressure on their budgets.
Why focus on revenue collection now
In recent years, there’s been a marked increase in the number of people who owe money to their council – whether it’s unpaid council tax, business rates or overpaid benefits. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only exacerbated this.
While prevention is always better than the cure (and councils should invest in strategies to stop constituents from getting into debt), the fact of the matter is that revenue collection remains essential to local government operations. And it brings unique challenges.
Challenge 1: Striking the right balance in communication
With any debt collection strategy, communication is key. Yet all too often, government communications around debt seem confusing and intimidating. This leads to residents disengaging and ultimately falling further behind on payments.
Instead of costly formal letters and enforcement agencies, residents need clear, concise and supportive information detailing what they owe, how to pay and what support is available.
Challenge 2: Recognising vulnerable customers
Residents in debt are often vulnerable in other ways. They might be elderly or disabled. They might not speak English. Or they might be otherwise socio-economically disadvantaged.
Given staffing shortages and budget pressures, it can be difficult to segment vulnerable constituents so as to offer targeted support. As with the communication challenge, this causes people to disengage, increasing a sense of shame and can be overwhelming, leading to poor collection rates for councils.
Solution: Data-driven automation
Thankfully, there’s a solution to both these issues: automation.
AI-powered technology can help you streamline debt collection, leading to better outcomes all around. At Engage Hub, we offer a range of solutions that can help councils reconnect with their residents.
For example, our intelligent collections solution allows you to automatically select the most appropriate communication channel for any given resident. Then, it automatically moves through other available channels until a successful payment has been made.
Similarly, our Customer Journey Tracker gives you a single view of all resident debt, allowing you to identify sticking points and optimise your collection process.
Finally, our PCI-compliant payment software lets you take secure payments 24/7 over the phone in a way that’s familiar, user-friendly and convenient for residents.
All are easy to implement and integrate with existing payment service providers, processes and systems.
Technology lets you personalise with limited time and resource
The beauty of this type of automation is that you can offer a more personalised and convenient service without putting more pressure on budgets or busy staff. Everyone wins, because you improve payment rates while – most importantly – better supporting vulnerable members of the community.
To learn more, claim a space on our upcoming webinar on how technology helps local authorities improve service delivery and revenue collection.
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