The new National Contact Management Strategic Plan for policing, referred to as Policing’s Strategic Plan, was a long time in the making but when it appeared it didn’t disappoint. It was the product of extensive engagement going back several years and marks a great breakthrough – achieving coherence and integration between the NPCC Digital Public Contact Programme and the National Contact Management Working Group.
It also sets a vision for police/public contact and articulates three principles for contact management (relating to public focus, channel management and prioritisation). Finally, it shares publicly the nine working assumptions that have guided police thinking about public contact – a great help to organisations forever trying to better understand the future needs of the sector.
Effective channel management
Triad has worked with several forces to help develop strategies for public contact and we have seen first-hand the part that technology can play in giving the public more and better options for contacting their police. How this evolves in the next five years will be pivotal to policing outcomes, with the rapid introduction of AI, automation and other proactive technology providing a colossal opportunity. This opportunity that can and should support victims through their journey with policing and help to manage and reduce inbound contact.
Keeping non-urgent calls away from 999 should clearly remain a priority, and technology will play a significant part in this in the coming years. But the public also needs to do their bit, and the change in culture to move citizens onto alternative contact channels will be just as challenging as managing and integrating the range of different technology options in the contact centre landscape that will be there to support them.
Prioritisation of contact
I am curious to see how technology will evolve to better support threat and risk assessments for initial 999 contact over the next five years. The ability to accurately assess and grade calls depending on their severity can literally be a matter of life or death. The process of introducing technology to support this has already begun, but its evolution over the next five years has the potential to be a game changer and have a positive effect on many lives. However, the quality of implementation and speed of adoption cannot be taken for granted. Industry is there to help but needs to be engaged with in an organised and systematic fashion.
Also of interest is the first suggestion of a new front-end for 999 (I, for one, didn’t realise the system was nearly 90 years old) and how this front-end will tie in with the proposed non-emergency contact model. It feels like both are needed, but time will tell if the desire is there to follow through with meaningful action to make the change. Digital and technology will have to be at the forefront of any change in this space, supported by effective policy and careful, determined implementation.
What does feel clear, is that the headroom is there to make significant improvements around public contact and within contact centres. The service is evolving, and change is possible. The key word for me is adoption and this will be the challenging part on that journey of change to a fully omni-channel operational contact environment.
Firstly, that means the adoption of technology to support change by forces. It is crucial that each force makes the right technology choices. The vast array of technology options out there in the market can cloud decision making. Selecting the most appropriate tapestry of products to deliver the best operational outcomes is paramount and should be carefully considered. There is an emerging body of knowledge about best practice, but it isn’t widely shared.
Secondly, it means adoption by the public means making use of new and innovative digital platforms and social media to report and obtain updates to incidents. Policing will have to embrace self-service even more enthusiastically – along with the concept that not all contact from policing may come from a human. As a bare minimum, it is critical to move away from the mindset that such a high proportion of contact must go via the 999 route.
Appetite for change, but the pace is slow
The appetite for change is there, and at Triad we are already seeing an explosion of new technology that can deliver significant benefits in the public contact space. Adoption is happening, but at a pace most currently find frustrating, from contact centre staff to Chief Officers. There is work to be done and it will be challenging.
A large hurdle will be helping decision-makers and citizens alike realise the benefits that technology can bring to support public contact and unlocking the finance to pay for it.
I am hopeful for the coming years and anticipate we will see rapid adoption of modern technologies, that will in turn accelerate culture change – transforming how the public engages with policing, and vice versa.
I’m sure that many in industry will join me in posing these key questions; things the supplier community will be looking out for in the next few years:
- How will the National Contact Management Strategic Plan be adopted by chief officers?
- What tangible differences will technology make to the lives of contact centre staff and citizens/victims?
- How will policing better inform citizens of alternative contact routes to enhance adoption?
- What new technologies will explode onto the market in the next 2-3 years?
- What new avenues to improve contact between citizens and policing will open (those we don’t even know are possible yet) before the next strategy is written?
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