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'Councils must think laterally to make money'

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For local authorities working in an era of austerity, increasing income is a priority. But successful commercialisation involves more lateral thinking than merely asking what can now be charged for that was not previously.

Councils need to be more aware of their potential to create new revenue streams for the public purse, which may involve changing how and where services are provided, and “upselling” – or enticing customers to spend more – a concept used in the private sector for years.

An easy example of this is the statutory duties associated with taxi licences. Authorities are required to assess the safety of taxi drivers and their vehicles before issuing or reissuing the taxi licence. This involves an appointment to inspect the taxi for its roadworthiness and safety, traditionally booked in advance but paid for on completion.

By changing the payment model, revenue can be significantly increased, and wasted officer time, caused by taxi “no-shows” for arranged but unpaid time slots, can be cut.

Allowing taxi drivers to book their licence renewal appointments online offers flexibility, making it easier for drivers to alter the appointment at short notice.

Alternative slots can then be offered, and the cancelled appointment time released for another chargeable booking.

Taking payment in advance also ensures better attendance, eliminating the temptation to take just one more fare and not show up at the council offices.

This lateral thinking has also seen councils moving the taxi inspection service location, from the council offices where parking is at a premium to the depot, where their own direct services organisation can offer other chargeable services, such as MOTs or new taxi licence plates.

Where customer engagement technology is deployed in contact centres, the service management function is typically used. But increasingly we’re seeing and encouraging more use of customer relationship management sales and marketing functions, artificial intelligence and product automation to underpin commercialisation initiatives.

Having established and defined their chargeable services, local authorities can use intelligent marketing capability in customer relationship management to target specific demographics of individuals or businesses for which these services could be of benefit.

By leveraging rich information contained in each citizen record, the council can operate in a more informed and efficient way to proactively upsell, cross-sell and inform customers about the range of services they can provide.

Pythagoras will be at the Solace Summit, stand 29.

Ian Robson, local government business development manager, Pythagoras

Column sponsored and supplied by Pythagoras

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