Dorset Council is the eighth largest unitary local authority in the South West of England. The Council covers the county of Dorset and has over 380,000 residents.
The Council has a requirement to send communications to their residents, through a variety of media channels to inform, update and respond to council matters. These communications can be sent via email, letter, website announcements or on social media and are used to engage residents, across the multiple departments within the local authority.
As a part of their communication output Dorset Council partner with CFH Docmail Limited, an industry leader in delivering multichannel communications that support the Council in delivering effective communication. CFH began their initial support in the early part of 2017 with their hybrid mail solution Docmail (an online alternative to sending postal documents), which since has been rolled out across multiple Council departments including planning, environmental health and community protection, with a total of 108 users and 448,000 letters being processed through the platform.
Later in 2017 CFH began providing a managed service for the Council’s annual and daily billing requirements as part of the wider Dorset, Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch Council Tax partnership. In total since 2018, 1,554,804 documents have been sent out through the managed service offering and 587,711 documents have been sent through Docmail hybrid mail.
The expert support and service provided by CFH meant that when the Housing Standards Team were successful in their competition bid to BEIS to fund the enforcement of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) in the private rented sector, the department knew instantly who to contact in helping manage their postal communication requirements.
Previously this communication would have been managed internally by the department where postal communications would be created, printed, folded, and sent to the mail room. This not only impacted the teams resources but was time consuming and expensive in its production. This led a member of the Housing Standards Team to reach out to CFH after an internal recommendation.
As the programme began to be scoped out it was decided that a mixture of postal communications and digital communications were needed. CFH were the chosen supplier for the postal communication requirement, through their hybrid mail service, Docmail.
The Docmail hybrid mail service was implemented instantly, with additional department users added to the council account for spend allocation. Michelle Marsh, a Client Relationship Manager at CFH Docmail provided free training to the key team members, showcasing how the system can be used and how the process works in relation to their individual and bulk mailing requirements. This approach allowed for the team to ask any questions, with a total of 15 members being trained in the team.
Michelle also ran a ‘train the trainer’ service, where the team leader was trained on the use of Docmail so that any further questions or training could also be managed internally as well as through CFH.
To manage the sending of communications in this campaign, postal communications were designed outside of the Docmail solution and written in plain English with a ‘call to action’ leading residents online. This was then uploaded as an approved template to the library where staff were able to access and send these direct to residents. Bespoke envelopes were designed and pre-uploaded to the library. These included adding a Council logo, Council return address and adding a strapline stating, ‘Legal notice do not ignore’.
With all documents stored within the internal library the housing team simply had to upload their database of names and addresses, choose the correct templates and click send. Their order was then processed within CFH’s secure factory and delivered via Royal Mail.
Initially the mailing was sent to over 600 hard to reach residents via 1st class or DSA postage, with individual letters sent on an ad-hoc basis thereafter.
The method was seamless, error-free and offered an efficient, quick and time sensitive means of communications with their residents.
Using Docmail was important to the success of our project. It was easy to use and helped us achieve a 45% initial response rate with our communications with residents, which far exceeded our expectations.
Housing Standards Team Leader - Dorset Council
By opting to utilise CFH’s hybrid mail solution, Docmail, the Housing Standards Team at Dorset Council were able to streamline the whole communication process, helping the team save huge amounts of time and reduce the cost of the mailing process for the campaign.
The built-in library, where letter templates and envelopes were stored, minimised the risk of the wrong document being sent and allowed for a click and forget method for campaign communication, whilst the reporting system allowed for communication audit control and budget management.
The Royal Mail address validation system helped cleanse the department’s resident database, ensuring that each address was in the correct format for delivery, resulting in only 3 out of 600 letters being undelivered due to incorrect details. These were successfully returned to the Council’s return address.
Most importantly the added ability to design outer envelopes led to a 45% response rate generated in the campaign, beating their predicted target of 2-3%. This not only meant that the communications sent were engaging and successful in their delivery but also highlighted postal communications are vital for such campaigns and reduced the number of follow ups required to the remaining unengaged audience.
The excellent working relationship between the two organisations has continued to grow from strength to strength, with CFH always on hand to help any department manage and send their communication in a way that suits them best. The housing team plan to roll out an additional bulk mailing under a new energy efficiency promotion programme in the coming months to approximately 1,000 residents, and other areas of the council are consistently opting to send their communications through Docmail.
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