Future Directions - Innovative communications at Tweed Shire Council

A communication revolution sweeping through local government has taken some innovative turns at Tweed Shire Council.

Three recent introductions have improved Councilís flow of information to its staff and the community: a one-stop business system that captures all corporate knowledge and information, a smart phone application to make that information more readily available, and a Customer Contact Centre for improved personalised service.

Tweed Shire Council initially sought an off-the-shelf option for its Corporate Knowledge Base business system, only to discover there was nothing available that met its needs.

Instead, the organisation made the bold decision to create its own from scratch.

Communications and Customer Service staff teamed with the Information Technology unit to develop the Corporate Knowledge Base, which was launched last year and achieves several objectives:
  • to establish a central point of information about the organisation
  • to share procedures, processes and knowledge across all units of the Council
  • to develop Councilís website to become a content management system
  • to provide internal information for Councilís Contact Centre to quickly and efficiently answer customer enquiries
  • to provide a support tool for new staff and inductions
  • to provide an internal staff directory, including names, photographs and contact details for all staff.

While the system provides a centralised Ďsource of truthí, one of the key aspects of the knowledge base is its decentralised method for updating content.

Its content management system enables each Council unit to be responsible for keeping its content up to date, ensuring accurate and timely information for customers and staff.

Staff edits in the content management system automatically update the content on the three systems which make this information available to staff and the community including:
  • councilís new corporate website - also launched last year
  • an internal A-Z directory for reference by Council staff
  • the staff directory.

While some of the information on the content management system is for internal reference only, the majority is mirrored on the corporate website, ensuring information is consistent, comprehensive and up to date.

One of the key roles of the A-Z database is to provide a reference for the Customer Contact Centre, which was officially launched in July 2011 to provide the community with a single phone number for all Council matters.

The contact centre receives an average of 7500 external telephone calls each month, with 60 percent resolved by the centreís cross-skilled Customer Service Officers.

Just 25 to 30 percent need to be transferred to specialised or technical staff for more complex enquiries. In many cases, initial assistance provided by the contact centre officers means that complex matters can be dealt with more quickly by specialised staff.

The improved customer service provided by the contact centre and the corporate website is complemented by Councilís smart phone app, which makes it easy for customers on the go to access online information including weather, development applications, tenders, coming events and emergency updates. 

Customers can instantly book building or plumbing inspections, report a problem or get informed about road or sports field closures.

The Council is in the early stages of adopting an online system for customers to book appointments with technical and duty officers.

It is also trialing iPad sign-in facilities for walk-in building or planning enquires, to alert technical or duty officers of a customerís arrival and requests to discuss applications or general information.