Operational Excellence

IRRV & LACEF Conferences: Key Takeaways for Local Authorities

By Mark Harris 7 December 2022

Revenue collection remains essential to local government operations – and brings unique challenges.

These challenges underpinned discussions at recent conferences organised by the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation (IRRV) and the Local Authority Civil Enforcement Forum (LACEF). They were interesting days of sharing knowledge and demonstrating practical solutions around recoveries and enforcement.

Here are 5 key takeaways.

1. Revenue collection must be effective and empathetic

Unfortunately, there’s been a marked increase in the number of people who owe money to councils due to the cost-of-living crisis. This can take the form of unpaid council tax or business rates. It can also be overpaid benefits.

Preventing debt is undoubtedly preferable, and councils should invest in strategies to stop constituents from getting into debt. But at a time of strained budgets, local authorities need effective and empathetic ways of increasing collections.

2. Automation has operational and cost benefits

AI-powered collections solutions are making it easier for local authorities to connect with residents. Here are examples discussed at the conferences:

  • Automated payment reminders help protect vulnerable residents and help avoid bad debt
  • AI-powered waterfall services let you select the most appropriate communication channel for any given resident. Then, it automatically moves through other available channels until payment is made
  • Residents can request their latest account information, outstanding balances and payment confirmations via their channel of choice – and get it automatically

3. Phone remains an important channel for residents

Yes, digital channels are important. But effective phone service remains crucial to providing an inclusive service.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology has a role to play here. Councils need a PCI-compliant solution that enables residents to make secure payments 24/7 over the phone conveniently and familiarly.

People also have a role to play. Agents need support to maintain PCI compliance within payment processes. They also need the ability to cut across data silos in a GDPR-compliant way, so they can access centralised information that gives them everything they need to deliver exceptional service.

4. Councils need a holistic view of residents

Having access to centralised data isn’t just for frontline agent support. It also helps you work more proactively to optimise collection processes.

Discussion at the conferences highlighted the benefits of being able to visualise all resident and business account data in one place. This results in lower costs and time associated with managing queries and recoveries. You can then have automated alerts that flag issues and prompt staff to review accounts.

The best results were achieved with solutions that integrate with existing software, orchestrating data to provide that single account view. That way, deployment didn’t mean any changes to existing systems or data collection practices.

5. Real-time smishing prevention is essential

Smishing has become one of the biggest fraud management challenges. It’s a subset of phishing where the attack is carried out via social media and SMS rather than email. These are effective channels for criminals because text messages have incredibly high open rates.

Message authentication solutions are helping protect residents. If they suspect a text message might be fraudulent, they can forward it with a unique keyword to a dedicated, secure short code. The solution then carries out real-time, automated security checks and confirms if the message is legitimate. If the message is fraudulent, the resident is instructed to call the local authority immediately.

Embracing the digital council of the future

The role of local government continues to evolve. Councils are moving from direct service delivery to facilitating change through partnerships – and empowering communities to take more control. These shifts must be matched by changes in skills, tools and processes.

Partnering with technology vendors like Engage Hub can help improve efficiency and exceed resident expectations through easy-to-deploy solutions in manageable steps.

To learn more about Engage Hub’s Intelligent Collections solutions for councils and other local authority organisations, get in touch today.

See other posts by Mark Harris

Head of Government Partnerships

Mark is an expert in technological solutions for Local Government, delivering quick and quantifiable results. He has successfully project managed complex technology into 40 Local Governments, dealt with almost all Local Authorities within the UK and ran a team which implemented software to over 3,000 schools across the UK. Mark worked at C-Level for several years and have over a decade of knowledge dealing with Local Government departments and understand the complex challenges and processes being faced by each department.

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