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“Now we clearly distinguish between consistent bad payers and those who only occasionally miss a payment.”
Julie Smethurst, Revenues Manager, Preston and Lancaster Shared Service
Lancaster County Council is the local authority looking after the city of Lancaster, the towns of Morecombe and Carnforth, and the surrounding rural and urban areas. Situated in the north west of England, Lancaster has a population of 133,914 with 62,000 domestic properties. Each year, the council produces in excess of 80,000 Council Tax bills and handles more than 375,000 payment transactions.
With the need to maintain collection rates and increase customer satisfaction in the face of ever-decreasing resources, Lancaster CC realised continuing with their current methodology would not deliver the returns needed.Categorising debtors pays off
Lancaster CC was a long standing user of Capita’s revenues and benefits software system. In early 2010, Capita announced a new development to target recovery action and Lancaster CC had no hesitation in becoming an early adopter of this module: Recovery Incidence Score Calculator (RISC).
This new software module complements the core revenues solution allowing Lancaster CC‘s recovery team to categorise taxpayers based upon their payment history targeting their communications and recovery processes more effectively.
During each stage of the recovery process, the taxpayer receives a score; the overall score is then applied to the process and targeted communications are sent relevant to the individual payment history and based on the individual’s overall score. Different reminder dates are scheduled dependent upon the category of debtor, with the worst offenders targeted as early as possible. Softer letters are issued to the occasional late payer. Details of an individual’s debtor category can be accessed quickly and easily by the appropriate staff at the simple click
of a button.
As staff are fully aware of the type of payer, they are more aware of the manner of enquiries they’ll be receiving and hence they can tailor their approach and communications more appropriately with more positive outcomes for all involved.Key benefits of RISC at Lancaster City Council:
Savings all round
- Faster and easier prioritising of the “worst offenders” to progress recovery as early as possible
- Retained steady collection rate despite economic downturn and reduced staff numbers
- More accurate tailoring of communications and customer service approach targeted at relevant levels to tax payer status using the RISC score
- More accurate and timely scheduling of external communications across the revenues department
- Reduced pressures on staff
- Improved access to more accurate customer data
- Reduced time spent analysing customer records and database when dealing with calls.
Due to the more targeted communications and a softer approach where necessary, Lancaster CC is now receiving fewer telephone calls and complaints with a positive reaction from on-time paying category tax payers, happy their good payment history is now being acknowledged by their local authority. There has also been success in reducing avoidable contact.
Julie adds, “Using different reminder dates for different categories of debtor means we can target the worst offenders as early as possible. The different letter templates mean we issue a more softly worded letter to the occasional late payer which results in fewer phone calls and complaints. Running multiple reminder batches each month based on each category of RISC scores has resulted in reduced pressure on staff and less time interrogating the system.”
“Even with the loss of a number of posts, we have seen no downturn in collection and no backlog of work”,
Julie concludes.Share and share alike
As Lancaster CC was also in the process of establishing a shared service with Preston City Council, the RISC solution was purchased for both authorities.
At Lancaster CC all recovery enquiries are routed to their back office staff, while at Preston CC front line staff deal with Council Tax, recovery and payment enquiries. With both local authorities using Capita’s RISC solution all staff across the different office locations and teams are able to answer queries at any stage of the recovery process.