By Guy Whitfield
This week the Leasehold Services Team commenced using the Manage Arrears tool for sending their letter 1 and letter 2 service
charge arrears letters. An initial batch of 266 letters were sent. A low number of bugs were discovered concerned with address formatting and Gov Notify Status. These were addressed during the week.
This week the team also carried out sessions with the Leasehold Team and Product Owner to start understanding requirements for the next phase of Manage Arrears.
We undertook an Income Collection team user feedback workshop where we collected the feedback from our internal users and played this back as part of a ‘Show and Tell’ to our stakeholders across both the Income Collection and Leasehold Services teams.
- The Leasehold Services team are using the tool and have sent 266 letters. The response from the agent processing the letters was “My god that was quick!”
- We have been able to determine that processing time for a letter is approx 0.66s. Which is substantially faster than manually processing.
- We have encountered a bottle-neck in processing between the Universal Housing system and our App. We will investigate this next week.
Next week, we will be working on the Manage Arrears backlog, preparing for the Service Assessment and
looking into the processing bottle neck.
This blog is about our experience using GOV.UK Notify. GOV.UK Notify is a service maintained by the Government Digital Service (GDS) which allows central government, local authorities and the NHS to send emails, text messages and letters to users.
Over the last few months, we have been building a tool which integrates GOV.UK Notify with our Manage Arrears system to communicate with Tenants and Leaseholders who owe the Council money. It has been an interesting experience which has exposed our team to the benefits GOV.UK Notify has to offer as well as how to overcome some of its limitations.
What does GOV.UK Notify do?
- Sends up to 25,000 free SMS
- Anyone can create for letters, emails and SMS using their templates – a technical expert isn’t required!
- It sends both individual and bulk SMS, emails and letters
- The Notify API integrates with web applications or back-office system to send and record communication
- Organisations can incorporate their own Logo headers into the communications
- It is a secure and reliable service
What were the challenges we faced?
- GOV.UK Notify only holds sent SMS, emails and letters for 7 days – we needed to find a way to extract, save and make the data accessible to the service users for a longer period.
- The letter templates were slightly restrictive – meaning users have to be creative when designing letters
- GOV.UK Notify only handles addresses in the UK
Overcoming some of these challenges
Our developers found a way to overcome these challenges by using GOV.UK Notify’s precompiled letter feature instead of the standard template facility. This meant that our letters created before they got to GOV.UK Notify instead of within GOV.UK Notify. This allowed us to;
– Format and create letters without restrictions
– Save letters in our own system
– Retrieve letters
Due to the small percentage of International address in our database, we decided to handle these manually and GOV.UK Notify has included it on their roadmap.
Why we like GOV.UK Notify?
- GOV.UK Notify has allowed our project team to think outside of the box and be the first service in Hackney Council to incorporate the ability for letters to be sent via GOV.UK Notify and to be saved and retrieved safely at any point in time. This is extremely important in arrears management for audit purposes.
- Using GOV.UK Notify eliminates a lot of manual steps and costs incurred by some teams who manually mail merging 1000s of letters. These costs and steps include; Stationery costs (Paper, Envelopes, Ink), Postage costs Officer time (Going to the printer, waiting for the printer, enveloping and letters)
- The cost of sending 1 double-sided letter via GOV.UK Notify is only 30p. This includes the 3 points above which the officers no longer need to do or pay. Not including officer time and stationery costs, this is already a saving of 27% (based 2nd class postage)
- Integrating our Manage Arrears system with GOV.UK Notify has allowed users to send individual and bulk SMS messages. They like this because:
* The action is quick and simple
*The data is up-to-date and relevant
*The integration allows the content to be automatically written back to the Manage arrears system
*There is no cost for up to 25,000 messages
- GOV.UK Notify records the status of letters, enabling users to track each stage of a letter from the point it is received, to be printed, and posted
- GOV.UK Notify has a clear dashboard – making it a breeze to obtain statistics
- Gov Notify’s customer service is Awesome. The team are very quick to respond and very knowledgeable
By sharing our experience I hope this helps you think about how you might also take advantage of this great tool. If you have any questions or would like a demo feel free to contacts me.
Following last week’s launch of Manage Arrears new ‘Bulk sending’ feature. This week we fixed two snags highlighted by the Leasehold Services Team.
- Adding Page Breaks to the letters
- Recording Gov Notify status’ on each letter saved in the Manage Arrears system
The ‘Bulk sending’ tool is available for the Leasehold Services to send their letter 1 and letter 2 service charge arrears letters. The tool is very easy to use and my team have made themselves available to support the on-boarded users.
Next week, we will be working on the Manage Arrears backlog and holding a workshop with the Income Collection team leads to gain an insight into how they want their cases to be ordered in their work trays.
Project: Manage Arrears
Written by Guy Whitfield
This week has been busy for the Manage Arrears team. The developers are concluding their work on Phase Two. This leads us up to releasing the new ‘Bulk sending’ feature for Leasehold Services. Training sessions with the IC team have taken place this week and will continue next week.
Nick Prince is carrying out a cleanup exercise to tidy up addresses in Universal Housing (UH). His aim is to finish this task be next week.
*We managed to raise our burn rate from an average of none tasks per week to 13 – the team have been on it!
*We have met our deadline to supply a bulk sending tool for the Service Charge team to send letters 1 and 2.
*We will look to start planning and roadmap sessions for Phase three.
*Elaine Geeves will work with David Cassidy to run the first 10 Arrears letters through to production.
*We will look to assess creation of User Guides for the Manage Arrears team.
*Soraya and Guy will be meeting with the P.O. (Femi) to give him a project update.
*Nick Prince will finish address clean up in UH allowing Leasehold Service Officers to use the system to run their arrears letters.
Stars of the week
A huge thanks to the team for work carried out this week in getting Phase Two built and, a sad goodbye to the developers for now as we enter planning for Phase 3.
Project: Property Licencing Software Metastreet
Last week, I mentioned that Apple had approved Metastreet’s App with a recommendation that some adjustments were made to the App’s logging in process. These adjustments have now been completed and the App is ready for use.
The PSH Team have a plan in place to roll out the Inspection App. The plan includes;
*Setting inspection officers up on the App
*Officer briefings on the App and demos
*Officers being reminded that it is a ‘Live’ App
*Providing officers with post Live support
*The first inspection is due to take place in two weeks (due to Officers leave).
Most of the above has been completed and we now look forward to hearing the team’s feedback following their first few live inspections.