Ray Dawe: Move offers chance to improve customer experience

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It is often said that moving home can be one of the most stressful events in life. Similarly, any office move, just like moving home, requires a great deal of planning, careful thought and a strong consensus about the main reasons to move. It is vital that the organisation is clear on what the core benefits of a new office environment will be.

In recent months Horsham District Council has deliberated long and hard about relocating operations from our various buildings around North Street in Horsham to one centralised location a short distance closer to the town centre – sharing an existing office building with West Sussex County Council.

The most important driver for us in looking at such a major move is to achieve better value for money and improved service levels for our district’s residents. We need to consider whether our current multi-site accommodation is still fit for purpose both functionally and financially. The proposal to relocate our current office premises is being presented to councillors for discussion and a decision on 9th October.

At the heart of our ongoing discussions is the overall improvement in customer experience and efficiency that could be achieved as a result of an up to date office environment. Our ongoing Business Transformation Programme within the council is modernising many aspects of our operations. It has seen us enhance the current face to face services we provide to our residents.

Despite these recent improvements, we are aware that our current reception area and much of our office environment is no longer suitable for the levels of customer service we are striving to deliver in the future. Effectively, our choice is to look at consolidating and enhancing this or to move to ready-available modern accommodation.

As part of the Business Transformation Programme we have also recently completely revamped our website creating a more customer-friendly site which is simpler and faster for users and is fully mobile phone and tablet PC compatible so enabling our residents to use the site whenever they want and wherever they are. Again, although this is a major step in the right direction, there is still work to be done on the website to achieve our targets in providing easy and excellent customer access to information.

The idea of moving, offers us the ability to bring all our operations together on one floor in a much more modern and flexible office environment and this will contribute greatly to more efficient working – a better working environment, easier communication, collaboration and cross-functional operation being at the top of the list of the improvements that we would aim to deliver.

There is often much confusion amongst the general public as to which services are dealt with by the County Council and which are dealt with by the District Council. By housing both together under one roof and creating a one-stop environment for residents with a shared customer reception area, people can easily be directed to the correct source of information they need.

The financial case for moving to a single location for all our services is also strong. The current operating and capital costs associated with using several buildings with areas of under-utilised space is another key reason for assessing our options. The argument is that staying in the current buildings would not provide best overall value for money for the tax payer when compared with sharing an existing public sector owned building, which would bring significant longer term cost-savings all round.

The opportunity offers a way for an improved services facility for our community, reducing our office accommodation footprint and creating a more collaborative working environment for our people.