Case study: Birmingham comms campaign helps slash number of complaints over school places

Birmingham City Council's comms focus on dealing with parents' concerns over secondary school places, to prevent problems before they occur, has reduced calls on 'admission day' to a quarter of previous levels.

Call volumes on schools admission day were reduced by 72 per cent at Birmingham City Council (Pic credit: Getty Images)
Call volumes on schools admission day were reduced by 72 per cent at Birmingham City Council (Pic credit: Getty Images)

Thousands of calls were being made to the Council about school admissions each year, with more than 2,300 handled by the Council’s contact centre team on the day places were announced in 2016.

In an attempt to manage the level of demand and ensure that staff could devote enough time to complex cases, the comms team looked at ways of addressing more simple concerns of parents who would otherwise resort to calling the Council.

Working with contact centre and school admissions staff, the comms team analysed the type of calls that parents were making on the day school places were offered and the days immediately afterwards.

This revealed that the vast majority of calls were about straightforward process issues which could be answered in advance.

The large volume of such calls was hindering the Council’s ability to deal with parents with more complicated circumstances.

The majority of parents had provided their email addresses to the Council when applying for places, and it decided to use those addresses to communicate with the parents directly while they waited for an offer.

An email bulletin was sent to them a week before 2017's school place announcements, answering key questions such as when they would receive their offer of a place, how to accept or refuse it, the appeals procedure, and when they would find out about waiting-list positions.

Subsequently, the number of calls dealt on the day offers were made fell to 1,472.

This year, with the Council using its accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to help raise awareness of the frequently asked questions over school places, the number fell further, to 661 – some 72 per cent lower than the number of calls made in 2016.

Laura Hendry, Birmingham City Council’s comms manager, said: "As communicators, it's brilliant to have worked on something that provides such strong data and gives us some clear measurement."

But, she added, "most importantly, working on a project like this has allowed us to demonstrate the impact that a more targeted, strategic approach to communication can have on tackling a real challenge for our organisation and allowed us to directly support our residents with navigating a big milestone in their lives. After all, isn’t that the reason we work for local government in the first place?"

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