1. Choose a tool
Citizens Advice Manchester chose Twilio because it would allow them to respond to queries locally and across several channels. They also got good support from Twilio’s developers.
2. Find early adopters
They began by asking who would be willing to be on the new out of hours rota and then worked with this small group of advisors to get feedback on the new solution. Letting people self-select means advisors who are more confident trying a new tool will be able to offer peer support to their colleagues later on.
3. Decide what to offer first
The team chose to start by integrating SMS text messages and voice calls into the platform. They plan to add more channels such as Messenger and Whatsapp later on, but have decided to keep it simple to begin with.
4. Make a proof of concept
The technology team set up a ‘first version’ of the platform. They tested it themselves to check that the basics were working. They would have liked to try it out with staff at this point if there was more time, as fresh eyes are a great way to spot issues.
5. Create training videos
The technical team made videos for the staff,demonstrating how to use the platform. They used a Google Meeting to share and record their screen while they went through the basic workflow of answering queries. Videos were then uploaded to Youtube so that staff could watch them.
6. Let staff explore the platform
Advisors were given some time to look around the platform and get familiar with it before they started using it for the service.
7. Launch the service quietly
The team had a deadline they were working towards, but they knew there could be hiccups as they went live. To help things go smoothly, they launched without advertising the service anywhere. This meant that the first few evenings only had low volumes of queries, giving the team time to fix issues that arose.
8. Provide on call support
The technical team were on stand-by when the service went live. They used Google Hangouts to stay in touch with the advisors and were able to fix issues as they surfaced. This was practical and also helped reassure advisors that help would be available when they needed it.
9. Get feedback from staff
As well as the direct feedback that came from advisors, the team gathered feedback at regular meetings with their leadership team and team managers. This gave them a good overview of how the service was performing.
10. Adapt the solution
The technical team made improvements to the platform based on the feedback and worked with Twilio to customise it further. For example, a notification has been added to alert advisors whenever there is an incoming call. This way, advisors don’t need to worry about missing something, especially if they are on a different tab or view in the web browser. Responding to feedback both makes it easier for staff to use the tool and increases their buy-in.
11. Advertise the service
Now that the service is live and staff have had a chance to get familiar with it, Citizens Advice Manchester are using Facebook advertising to promote the service and are expecting volume to increase.
Many thanks to Citizens Advice Manchester for contributing this recipe.
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