Unlike many other charities which went digital during Covid, Citizens Advice Bucks was busy merging three charities into one; so focused its efforts on the set up of a new telephone advisory service, webchat and email systems across 3 different legacy server based IT set systems that used a mixture of Microsoft and Google platforms.
We have 155 staff and volunteers. Many of our volunteers are retired and the majority of the team are part time, and thus we have to balance anything we do digitally with supporting and training staff. We just moved over to a new system of working in a cloud based environment in Office 365, which staff and volunteers are still trying to get used to. We started off our journey with running some Office 365 training, as we felt it would be useful to get everyone’s overall competency levels up of working with technology.
This feels key to then being able to roll it out in client interactions.
We ran two initial workshops: Office 365 Teams, focusing on basic training about how to set up meetings on Teams, and Sharepoint, which helped people to navigate our new filing system. After the team had gained some experience of the new environment, we followed the initial workshops with additional sessions on how to make best use of collaborative working tools within 365. After a period of reflection, feedback was sought for additional training needs and an additional session is being scoped to clarify the best steps to complete simple tasks to navigate between 365 and Citizen Advice’s client record management system Casebook, including simple steps such as attaching documents to emails in the webapp version of Outlook and the best way to download and upload documents between 365 web apps and Casebook .
In consultation with the Comms team, popular topics were identified, and questions created that Andrew used Citizen Advice’s public website www.citizensadvice.org.uk to answer in recorded website walk throughs.
The videos have been viewed more than 1000 times, and greatly increased the number of people who have been able to access support to better understand what they should do if their energy supplier goes bust or if a Christmas present breaks.
With the comms team sending clips of the videos through social media channels and the short videos hosted on a new You Tube channel, advice provision has been expanded across a range of different digital channel.
The success of the first few videos to help more people access advice will be used in 2022 to build engagement in advice through video channels within the wider CA Bucks team. The success story will be shared in a weekly e-newsletter received by the entire team and discussed at the start of each shift in 15-minute team briefings, alongside an opportunity for the team to contribute suggestions for future video focus or questions to be answered in the video walk throughs. We’re hoping that this will prompt interest in becoming involved in the filming of future videos, either through videoing themselves doing a walk through or using OBS to capture of a Teams video call to remotely record an expert adviser answering questions about a specific subject area, such as debt.
Alongside the development of 1: many advice videos and expanding the members of the team involved in their creation, we will be piloting the use video advice platforms to deliver 1:1 client advice appointments from remote locations with a member of our outreach team.
Initial client research has indicated that, while MS Teams would be the easiest platform for CAB, it’s relatively high data demand and the slightly more protracted steps required to access a web browser-based meeting, alongside the relatively greater familiarity of alternative platforms within the community, we’ll start off using an alternative platform. that falls with Citizens Advice’s acceptable platforms for data security will be used.
Based on this user research, we will be starting our client 1:1 remote video advice pilot with Zoom, one of the 5 video advice platforms that conforms to citizen Advice’s stringent data security requirements, and we will include adviser and client feedback into the next steps of the development of our remote video advice testing.
We have decided to do a regular organisation wide digital development update, further raising awareness of our digital development activities and driving increased engagement.
With weekly or fortnightly e-newsletter updates in the progress of our digital development that champions the involvement of the team, we aim to develop digital advice language, understanding and engagement withing CA Bucks, alongside demonstrating practical applications that can be used as the basis to realise the potential of digital channels to expand access to advice on top of our traditional face to face and phone channels, and develop CAB’s digital strategy to maximise the reach of our advice service to help more people.
A key for us is trying to get staff engaged in making videos, we filmed a service manager that did not have experience of film, and she diligently gave it a go. We ultimately decided not to air that video, because of technical issues with the video, but we will be refilming it in the near future again. We wanted to make some of our advice easy to follow through video tutorials, this felt important so we can reach more people.
Our team have not been forward and volunteered to participate in running digital advice videos, mainly as they are under a lot of pressure on the frontline. We have realised that we need to get permission from managers to get advisors off of their day-to-day work to free them up to spend a little time making these videos. Some people are concerned about appearing in front of the camera, others just nervous of what is new.
We are going to address this with some further training and rolling out a newsletter about the success of the first few videos. We know our volunteers are motivated by our clients, perhaps if they can see how it works in practice, this might make them keener to support us.
For us its baby steps, understanding, one step at a time how we can get our staff and volunteers closer to digital delivery, rather than landslide changes overnight. We would be worried any significant change might drive away our volunteers, who we are so grateful to have and already have a lot placed upon them. Citizens Advice training is quite a hard-core commitment, as well as the advice hours that advisors have to do each week to keep their minimum commitment. It adds up to a lot. Add too much, and we face alienating them.
As we look to the next year, we are continuing to use the Good Things Foundation money to help pilot little micro actions that help our team get acclimatised to using digital, before we look to do a larger project in 22-23.