customertransformation

A simple guide to demand analysis in the delivery of victim support services

Introduction

Managing victim support services can be full of challenges. Matching capacity with demand is a key approach to removing some of the visible and hidden backlogs along a victim support service pathway. In this article we show how to conduct demand and capacity analysis to improve victim support services.

What is gap analysis and how can it help me?

The number of victims seeking support following a crime varies with a variety of factors including seasonality, school holidays, geography and others. This results in the build up of waiting because demand for work often exceeds the capacity available to do that work

In addition, the amount of support required by victims of crime varies significantly depending upon factors such as; the nature of the crime, the support needed and the ability of the individual to help themselves and others.

Understandably then, the demand for victim support services fluctuates up and down significantly with different services experiencing their own peaks and troughs throughout the year.

At the same time, the capacity available to provide support services is fixed at a level that is usually established not by any link to demand but by the level of funding available to provide such services.

Consequently, service providers experience a continual mismatch between the demand for services and the capacity available to deal with it. Managing this can be challenging and difficult.

Accurate analysis of victim support processes and a clear understanding of demand and capacity are essential to achieve effective and sustainable service transformation.

How do we do it? 

Process mapping underpins all service redesign, demand, capacity, activity and queue management, for victim support flow modelling and service planning.

Process mapping, along with measurement of demand, capacity, activity and backlog provides the evidence you need for service improvement. If you don’t understand the processes, you risk changing parts of a process which will not improve the service from the client’s perspective and may actually incur more waits and delays.

Analysis

Once the process map is complete, the next stage is analysing it by considering the following:

  • Where are the delays, queues and waiting built into the process?
  • Where are the bottlenecks?
  • What are the longest delays?

When measuring victim services, you need to understand and reduce variation in order to improve patient flow. Variation can be seasonal, monthly, weekly, daily or hourly. Much of the variation in victim systems is controlled upon understanding of the patient flow.

Analysing and understanding current system variation is essential in order to reduce overall victim journey times. The variation between demand and capacity is one of the main reasons why queues occur, because every time demand exceeds capacity, a queue is formed showing itself as a waiting list or backlog.

Key measures

There are three key measures that impact service:

  • Capacity
  • Demand
  • Backlog

They need to be understood if you are to manage queues, deliver effective service and make informed decisions. You should aim to measure these factors in the same units for the same period of time so that you can compare them on a single graph.

It is sensible to measure the capacity for all critical resources as these are most likely to constrain the available capacity. For example, in Domestic Violence Cases, the Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) may offer advocacy services as part of a support program. As IDVAs are a critical resource, their availability is often constrains the entire process.

How to measure demand

Multiply the number of victims referred from all sources by the time it takes to support a victim. For example, an advocacy session may last one hour so 12 victims having advocacy support each day would take 60 x 12 = 720 minutes per day.

How to measure capacity

Multiply the number of critical resources available by the time in minutes available. For example, two IDVAs available for 240 minutes each day would create a capacity of 480 minutes per day.

How to measure backlog

This is normally shown in the number of minutes it will take the victims to be processed. Multiply the number of Victims waiting by the time in minutes it takes to process a victim. For example, 20 patients waiting for advocacy support x 60 minute advocacy each session = 1,200 minutes backlog. On a daily basis, there may be additional demand arriving for a service which adds to the backlog.

Assessing results

The data used in the above example is plotted in Figure 1 showing the way that fluctuations in demand against a fixed capacity are causing backlog to increase over time.

For Simon's blog

This quick introduction demonstrates the need to measure your demand, capacity, activity and backlog on a daily basis.

Handling variation

Collecting demand data over a longer period of time allows you to carry out statistical analysis of the demand. Although the analysis becomes more complicated, it allows you to build a richer picture of the process and enables you to make the best use of resources to cope with the challenges of the service. The statistics can then be used to identify the minimum level of capacity you need to ensure that the backlog doesn’t spiral out of control.

The statistics can also be used in simulation models that will enable you to understand how likely problematic events are to occur. For example, if you know that once in every 100 working days you are likely to experience a demand level that is twice the available capacity, then you can make contingency plans to handle that situation as it occurs. This could involve for example, transferring staff from less critical areas of work or recruiting agency support to temporarily increase capacity. Using simulation will allow you to test out which of the solutions seems to offer the best and most cost effective result.

Conclusion

Matching capacity with demand is a vital tool in ensuring that victim support services are managed with optimum efficiency. Measuring the capacity, demand and backlog on a daily basis will show when problems are occurring and allow timely interventions. Using statistics to predict the likelihood that problems will occur is a good way to understand the issues BEFORE they happen and allow management plans to be developed ahead of time.

If you would like to find out more about our new demand and capacity planning service, then please click HERE to access the full case study and to download our service overview.

With further cuts on the horizon, as recently announced, there is no better time to ensure that you have an accurate picture of where your resources need to be allocated – call or email us now for an initial conversation!

Please do not hesitate to call or email frank.curran@redquadrant.com or 07515 875381 to find out more about our services.

Simon Pegg is Director of Holleth Analytical Solutions Limited, a business consultancy providing problem solving and decision support to the public sector. For more information, contact him at simon.pegg@redquadrant.com

So, twenty years later, do we need CRM?

There’s a diagram you’re probably all familiar with. I call it the ‘1999 CRM diagram’, but it pre-dates that by some way, I think. It has different contact channels coming in, usually from the top, usually illustrated with clip art – phone, letter, email (you can check how outdated it is by whether it includes fax, pager or quill, or excludes smartphones – and how optimistic it is by whether it includes interactive TV!)

These contact channels hit a big rectangle – the ‘customer contact layer’, which sits above an even bigger ‘customer management / CRM’ rectangle. Below that are dotted lines showing ‘integration’ with a load of big cylinders or ‘legacy ICT systems’ – and if you’re lucky, somewhere on there are some squiggles for service areas delivering actual services!

At RedQuadrant, we have some very fruitful disagreements within our teams about the value or otherwise of CRM systems. My view though is that every organisation does need a ‘customer relationship management’ *strategy*. But most customer contact thinking is about just that – customer contact. This focuses on reducing unit costs, optimising the use of resource. As the ‘seven ways to save and improve’ shows us, this is good where it supports customer and organisational purpose, understanding of demand, economies of flow and good processes. And is very very naughty where it undermines those things! I thought the days of the four-year ‘transformation’ programme based around a mega-CRM implementation and mega-call centre set-up (cost: £79m, payback, £27.732m per year after year two) were long gone, but perhaps not.

What is interesting is that having moved from completely disparate, unmanaged, and often very very poor customer contact management (though sometimes brilliant) – where each individual and business unit had a telephone number which might or might not get answered – into a centralised model of contact centres, the best organisations are now finding ways to distribute the contact BACK to the people who have to deal with the actual underlying customer issue. This can only be a good thing (ask me if you want to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ thoughts on lean!) but it *doesn’t* mean we’ve abandoned the underlying principles of good customer contact management. Rather than the pendulum just swinging back, things have actually moved on and improved.

Nor does it mean that centralised CRM and contact management are always, automatically, a bad thing. I have seen very good call centres, with some limited use of phone menus etc, actually deliver brilliant customer services – 90% is in the implementation, as with everything in life – you just set yourself a bigger challenge if you start from the wrong place (but then, that’s often where you have to start).

Once, everyone had to come in to the office in person. I’ve worked on customer contact with the government of Armenia and believe me, it was chaos – people wandering the halls and hoping to bump into the Minister! Then we organised and rationalised – a competent receptionist, different queues. Then technology switched much of it onto the phone and as the technology improved and we all wanted a phone on our desk, and exchanges gave us all outbound lines, we moved back to the chaos in a way. So we put in a (massive) phone receptionist. Now, as things move on, we are moving back to distributed customer contact – but having learnt the lessons, both good and bad, from the centralising experience, it is very different from how it was before. (and of course, face-to-face contact and phone still need to be managed as people increasingly use newer technology to do things online).

So, what lessons have we learned? A few are:

- it’s a good idea to have a single view of the customer. But it’s hard, and the payback is uncertain, and good research shows that CRM is consistently the fifth, sixth or seventh most reliable source of customer data in a local authority! If you have competent and responsive IT people and can get a good enough enterprise architect, and sustain investment in a true customer database, you should do that – if not, don’t

- economies of flow trump economies of scale/optimisation of resources

- optimising part of the customer contact process at the expense of the whole is a stupid idea – so one system that everyone uses, with simple steps, optimal hand-off to real life people/service delivery, and a shared knowledge base, just makes sense. This could be CRM or simple web forms plus a dashboard of data – and when I say ‘everyone uses’, this should be everyone from service to chief exec to customer service operator to customer on the phone, customer on the web, customer on a paper form, customer using an iphone

- this needs to be fully and sensibly integrated into any other systems used – ‘back office’ or service delivery processes

- some outsourcing/partnerships worked and some didn’t – the reasons are not too hard to learn

Unique Customer Transformation Club

10 October 2013, 2-5pm followed by networking

British Interplanetary Society, SW8 1SZ

Are you doing customer transformation?

Are you interested in exploring it and finding out more?

In partnership with the London Borough of Merton, RedQuadrant is excited to be sponsoring this event. Unlike existing groups for those interested in contact centre management, transformation techniques or customer insight, the Customer Transformation Club will be different – is it for those undertaking or interested in real programmes of transformation based around the customer.

Bringing councils together to learn and share from each other, RedQuadrant’s track record in this area will enable us to act as convenor and share our own perspective. The first event is on ‘channel shift – how to do it wrong’.

Looking at how channel shift and customer transformation really relate, and covering common misconceptions, what to avoid and how to take a more sophisticated approach, this will be an exciting opportunity to share knowledge and experiences with others on the same journey.

If this is something that you find as exciting as we do, drop us an email or give us a call for more information.

Customer focus 20 year on……..

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the customer. One way or another I have managed to spend   all of my working life (which is quite a long time) thinking about customer service. I started off as a classics teacher in a rather elite girls boarding school in Berkshire, trying to ensure my pupils lived up to their demanding parents’ high expectations – then I moved on to the John Lewis Partnership, and ended up serving some of the same parents in a rather different capacity.  John Lewis taught me a lot I suppose, after all it is surely the absolute pinnacle of customer excellence, isn’t it?! Yet it amazes me to this day that I and my fellow ‘Partners’ never once received any formal customer service training; what we did seemed to come genuinely from the heart and we did mostly really enjoy what we did (although running the Christmas stationery department two years in a row at the height of the festive season did rather test my customer tolerance levels…..).

Renouncing the retail world for something marginally more altruistic, I joined HM Land Registry and started working with conveyancing solicitors registering the transfer of property. This time I really was surprised – even though buying and selling our homes is such a significant and emotional experience, the word ‘customer’ was itself alien and the concept of speedy delivery clearly anathema. My claim to fame was becoming the first ever Land Registry head office customer service manager in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and trying to get people to talk about something called ‘e-conveyancing’ – some people got it, but not as many as you might think.

A short spell at Lambeth Benefits Service brought me back to earth with a bump – the reality of frontline customer service was a big wake-up call, and what I learnt there has stayed with me ever since.  Multiple issues around the ‘front/back office divide’, extreme customer poverty and vulnerability, and entrenched organisational stasis influenced my emerging perception of customer insight and its use. Luckily the new Service Transformation team at Cabinet Office together with Sir David Varney (remember him??) were interested in my experiences, and that became the new heyday of customer insight, the delivery council, channel shift, customer journey mapping, customer segmentation etc. etc.. (We produced a lot of manuals!)

Five years later I have long since left the Whitehall world of strategy behind and I find myself, as part of RedQuadrant, practicing just what I used to preach – and there isn’t a single day that goes by when I don’t talk about the customer.  The days may have long gone when we talked about offering our service users absolutely everything they wanted, and the stark reality of year-on-year funding cuts means that we have to approach service delivery in innovative and efficient new ways; but  customer need still lies right at the heart of what the public sector does and the challenge of meeting it remains so important. I’ve had the pleasure of working with several councils over past months (Reigate and Banstead, Islington, Plymouth and Merton, to name some) whose relentless focus on the customer even in the most pressing of times reminds me that my own obsession isn’t quite so unusual, and that whatever we call it (customer transformation, customer focus, service transformation, customer insight…..) it’s still a worthy cause and there’s always something new to learn!

Sarah Fogden