A thank you and an update from the Customer Service programme team working on Bereavement Services

The team express huge thanks to all that contributed and took part in the initial piece of work which focused on the Bereavement Services within Birmingham City Council. Your involvement has enabled us to better understand the experiences of residents who use the bereavement service, and businesses who work with the service. These contributions have added great value to the work and our aim is that this now leads to changes that improve staff, business and customer experiences of using the service.

During February and March 2022 the Navigators team carried out a short project called a ‘discovery’ for this service. You can find out more about what a ‘discovery’ is by clicking on the following webpage – How the discovery phase works.

The aim of this discovery was to help us better understand the Bereavement Service, those that use the service and their experiences. By doing this, we were looking to improve the resident and staff experience. The discovery focused on the council’s funeral services (for burials and cremations) and memorial services (burial of ashes). Memorial services also include plaques and benches, but these were not included during this phase of work.

Sutton New Hall Cemetery

What we did

  • We completed site visits to council-managed cemeteries and crematoria, allowing us to shadow staff
  • We conducted 60-minute semi structured interviews with the different users of this this service, including:
    • 6 relatives that had experienced a death in the family over the last 6 – 12 months and had used this service
    • 3 funeral directors
    • 1 stone mason
    • 1 local community group
    • At least 10 bereavement staff across this service
  • We also analysed existing service data for burials and cremations, complaints data for the last 3 years, as well as data on how users access the service (online and offline).

What we found

We found some key themes:

  • Relatives find the process of laying their loved ones to rest complicated and confusing
  • Both funeral directors and stone masons have a good relationship with the council but find the process can be inconsistent across different sites, and so difficult to navigate the service
  • Staff are stretched across the service but are at pains to give the best possible service
  • Current technology negatively impacts the experience for all users.

Next steps

The discovery findings and the suggested recommendations have now been reviewed by the council’s service leads. These have been prioritised based on what will help make the most difference for the staff, residents and businesses.

One of the priorities that will be taken forward is for the Bereavement Service to pilot using the council’s corporate contact centre solution. This will help log, triage, track and report all enquires received, in one central place giving a better service. This solution will help to reduce the volume of enquiries the Bereavement Service receive directly, making use of a standard triage process and best practice technology. This priority also aligns to the council’s single phone number/email strategy.

We also compiled a set of user stories based on the evidence we had found. A user story is a statement that describes a user and why they need to use a service. You can find out more about what a user story is here – User stories. These user stories will help colleagues in the council’s IT and Digital team make decisions based on evidenced user needs, when replacing digital solutions for the service.

We will continue to update on activity and progress through our regular weeknotes on this blog. If you would like any further information about this work please email CustomerServiceProgramme@birmingham.gov.uk

Huge thanks to Pamela Kumari (Delivery Manager – Methods) for this update.

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