Are forces 'digitally fit' to manage the growth of digital channels

Single Online Home has started a digital evolution for the general public to report non-urgent crime via digital channels rather than using the traditional voice 101 services.

The recent article by CC Simon Cole highlighted the public’s reliance on these channels to report crime as well as a willingness to engage with their local police force as evidenced in the increased COVID-19 reported cases.

Growth in digital engagement is akin to the growth in cellular data consumption where cellular networks experience a 200% quarter on quarter growth in demand for data from their customers. Digital channels have evolved and they are growing more and more popular by the day as we strive to do more, be it video sharing, photo posting or sharing comments on social media. The service sector has benefited from digital enablement as consumers can bank, transact and engage with organisations remotely, 24/7.

This, therefore, is a useful benchmark for any service to measure itself against.

I have been engaging with forces working to understand how digitally fit they are to manage the growth of these channels and have found that there are some recurring themes from each of the forces I have spoken with.

Inefficient processes

The launch of Single Online Home (SOH) used the simplest communication method for all forces to adopt, so email is used to relay a triaged case from the SOH portal to a police force. Contact centre agents then need to enter into a system, typically a Records Management System, to be processed. I have seen lots of cut and pasting of information from system to system and contact centre agents switching between systems with different logins to process these cases. Some cases can take up to 40 minutes to compile with data from various systems which demonstrates the inefficient way in which police force IT architecture has evolved over years of procuring solutions to meet the desired outcome, and has created a technical debt within each force.

This is compounded by the introduction of digital capabilities to an existing manual process.


Whilst speaking with forces I have been given various statistics relating to the percentage of cases being chased by the public, once raised, and this varies from 20% to 40% of calls, voice or digital.

If we dive further into this and compare it to the working week (UK average: 37-hours) of a UK Police Contact Handler, this would suggest that somewhere between 7.4 and 14.8 hours a week are spent per Contact Handler attending to cases that have already been reported. If we extrapolate this figure across 43 forces in England and Wales, the estimated overhead amounts to millions of pounds per year, on one facet of the digital engagement.

One of the reasons why these figures are so high across forces is that the digital front counter service (SOH) accessed by the public lacks transparency and the digital tools deployed so far do not give the public sufficient visibility of cases being processed or where they sit within a process. An example provided was based upon crime numbers for insurance claim purposes. This, like all of the cases triaged via Single Online Home, is manual and will contribute to the case being chased by up to 40% of cases received.

EECC Directive for Emergency Communications

The European Electronic Communications Code has observed that technical developments make it possible for end-users to access emergency services not only by voice calls but also by other interpersonal communications services. The concept of emergency communication should, therefore, cover all interpersonal communications services that allow such emergency services access.

By inference, social media channels will be included within this legislation when it comes into effect on the 20th December 2020. Therefore, these channels will require a greater level of management and visibility to ensure the content is acted upon in the same way a voice call is processed. The ability to engage the public with a two-way conversation that is time and date stamp saved for historical purposes and democratised within a force for the benefit of all agents is an area that requires some focus.

In the near future, there will be a direct feed into each force from Single Online Home, removing the email process. Where will this information feed into? Probably the RMS, and this may be the start of the digital tsunami within forces when they try and share a growing quantity of data and cases within a force.

This direct feed will remove the need for emails to communicate each case but it will not remove the need for cut and pasting or the manual inputting into various systems, at a time when ‘click to case’ management functionality would be highly desirable.

As a summary, transparency, democratisation of data and resolving the technical debt are the themes that I have discovered, and some forces are now reluctant to join the programme without these areas being addressed.

A Salesforce solution

Placing the citizen at the centre of an organisation is fundamental to developing a solution that is scalable and will serve each force for the next 50 years. Using this model, data is available to the entire organisation, creating valuable insights by consolidating intelligence and making it actionable, rather than it sitting in silos.

Salesforce has been working with governments across the world for a number of years to deploy omnichannel capabilities for organisations.

The DVLA maintains the registration and licensing of vehicles and drivers in Great Britain and manages approximately 1.1 million contacts from customers per month. In March 2016, the DVLA’s contact centre entered a new era with the implementation of Service Cloud. Advisors can now use a single platform to answer queries via the telephone, email, webchat, and social media. Although the telephone remains the preferred channel, the new webchat capabilities have proved a great success. Contact centre advisors participate in around 25,000 web chats per month, with a first contact resolution rate of 91% compared with 76% for telephone calls. Customer satisfaction levels are also higher at 90% versus 85% for telephone-based contacts. This service has recently been updated with the introduction of Chatbots which is covered in this article here.

Salesforce has the experience and capability to transform digital engagement for police forces and the communities it serves, whilst saving money by retiring systems and improving the productivity and efficiency of contact centre agents.

Article also available via Policing Insight

You can follow Steve Norris on Twitter here.


  • Georgina Henley

    Georgina Henley

    Programme Manager | Justice and Emergency Services

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