Solace Blog

Transforming customer service with Automation

By Martin Ruane, Programme Director, ENGIE

Digital technology has become a commonplace part of our daily lives; we track our steps, log our food, and communicate with our friends and families through apps. This casual acceptance of technology and the speed that it brings to our everyday transactions means that citizens expect to interact with their council services with the same ease.


ENGIE has been using robotic process automation (RPA) in our public sector contracts since 2014 and have found that it an incredibly useful tool to quickly transform council services for citizens and improve customer experience.

 RPA is simply a piece of software that can be trained to do mundane, manual, repetitive tasks that would normally require significant man hours to process. For example, North Tyneside Council’s benefits service integrated robotic automation with their online new claim forms – a first for a local authority, removing the need for any human inputting and almost eliminating customer complaints. The revenues service also used robotic automation to process online council tax direct debit applications.

“Outwardly customers see a seamless service; there is no awareness that the processing is no longer carried out by a human. What is apparent is consistent decision making, efficient service delivery and resources applied promptly to deal with more complex cases where human intervention is required” Andy Scott, Senior Client Manager, North Tyneside Council.

The software is a highly affordable, quick-to-implement process improvement solution that provides a rapid return on investment. A process can often be automated within one to two months; while robotic automation projects usually achieve total payback within a few weeks. For North Tyneside, the first process was rolled out within five weeks of training and 87% of new claims were submitted online within three months of the benefit claims automation. The software can use used for 20% of office processes; reducing costs and creating efficiencies so time and money can invested elsewhere.

RPA can deliver excellent results for the public sector but there is no doubt that to be successful requires a significant investment in time and resources.

So what do councils need to do to take advantage of this technology?

Firstly, you need licenses. This can be a significant upfront cost as you often have to purchase more licenses than you actually need. But it’s worth the investment; a single license for a digital worker is equivalent to five people and you don’t need very many licenses in your first year.

Secondly, you need the right structure and leadership to help automate at pace; the approach, procedures, support arrangements, change management…the list goes on but these are essential components to operate effectively. ENGIE invested over a year building the right foundations.

Thirdly, you need talented people who can use the software.

ENGIE launched its own RPA Centre of Excellence in 2016 and subsequently won two national awards; Institute of Customer Service Award for Best Use of Technology and Premises and Facilities Management Award for innovation. We will be launching a Public Sector Centre of Excellence to help other councils implement an accelerated RPA programme. We can also help assess the opportunity and the business case to ensure it’s the right solution.

If you would like to know more about how RPA can help local government transform customer service, please contact Martin Ruane, Programme Director on 07772 532101 or at martin.ruane@engie.com.