A Scottish local authority is replacing its customer relationship management (CRM) software after “poor” reporting performance and a series of business process deficiencies.

Highland Council is in the process of replacing its ICT system after receiving a warning from the Information Commissioner over its compliance with access to information legislation.

The local authority is looking to overhaul its system as it moves to deliver more digitally, including capability for citizens to be able to ‘self-manage services where possible’.

The current CRM system – provided by Netcall Telecom, whose five-year contract expires at the end of the year –  is described in council papers as ‘not fit for purpose’, and does not reflect how the council ‘wants to operate going forward’.

The ‘Approach to developing and improving customer and citizen contact and relationships’ report – submitted to the Communities and Place committee – reveals that the council’s service centre handles over 240,000 calls annually and 2019/20 records show services responded to 51,388 enquiries, 1725 complaints, 1840 FOI enquiries and subject access requests and 836 MSP/MP enquiries.

However, of particular concern was the ‘under-performance in responding within timescales’ and the ‘need for improvement’ in responding to enquiries, complaints, FOI and subject access requests.

A structural change to the way the council organises its workforce has already been made in response to response handling issues, identified in the report, which will see the creation of a dedicated corporate team to tackle “system blockages”.

Additionally, a business case is being finalised and costed for the procurement of an upgraded Customer Relationship Management (CRM) ICT solution, the report says, in order to ‘reduce the risk of the organisation failing to comply with regulatory and internal requirements and timescales for responses’.

In a table included in the report, the council’s performance in responding against time targets for four different inquiry types (FOI, MP/MSP, Frontline Resolution and Complex Complaints), fielded by eight directorates of the council, was found to be seriously impaired. For a total of 291 responses as of 30 July, across the four inquiry types, 181 (62%) were listed as “overdue”.

Various staffing, training and knowledge gap issues were identified as the reasons for the underperformance but the report noted: “There are also system issues to address. Our current CRM system is not used to drive improvement. Reporting functionality is poor and this limits the analysis required to make positive changes to customer service delivery. Work is underway to replace the CRM system with a better ICT solution.”

It is understood, according to a meeting of the council’s audit committee this morning, that a new ICT solution has potentially been found and Highland Council is engaging with other councils nationwide who use the system.

In a section of the report titled ‘the future’, it stated that the ‘ambition is to change the focus to see customer and citizen contact as central to how we connect with our communities’, with a number of specific recommendations including dealing with inquiries on time and ‘courteously’ and valuing all contacts as ‘business intelligence’.