A new shop will be opening in the city centre which is designed to improve customers’ experience of the Council.
The project team is formally handing over the 1st Stop shop in New George Street ahead of its formal opening on Monday 10 November.
The two-storey building next to WHSmith has been transformed from an empty outdoor clothes shop into the main front office for the public who want to use Council services and it heralds a new era of face-to-face contact with the Council, designed with the needs of the customer in mind.
Input from staff who work in our current 1st Stop in the Civic Centre, the public and charities such as the Highbury Trust has helped shape the look and layout of the office which includes dedicated, enlarged consultation booths for customers with mobility scooters.
The new-look 1st Stop also includes more private appointment booths, which will lead to less waiting times and a floor walker who will be able to point customers to the right desk or help customers use computers to access Council services themselves.
Deputy leader Councillor Peter Smith said: “This move has given us an opportunity to look at what we do and see if we can be better, whether this is through training, through creating a better environment and an overall better experience.
“We talked to our customers who told us that queues and the slow processes were a particular bugbear, so our reception staff received extra training so that they can handle enquiries across services. We have also made sure our staff are trained to be dementia-friendly.
“The move is not just good for our customers – it is good for other businesses in the West End as we are expecting around 70,000 people a year to use this new facility.”
Around 60 staff will move to the building which will have backroom functions upstairs while downstairs staff will be on hand to handle enquiries about:
- Council Tax
- Housing Benefits
- Customer Service interactions such as bus passes, parking permits, signposting to other Council and partner services within the city
- Housing Options services including Devon Home Choice, advice and support as well as some debt management support
Other changes that customers will appreciate are longer opening hours. In the run-up to Christmas the 1st Stop shop will be open on Saturday mornings and later opening hours on Thursdays.
The number of people using the shop during the extra opening hours will be monitored and if it is this proves popular, the opening hours will be permanently extended.
The Council is progressing with its plan to leave the Civic Centre to enable the easier future development of the building and provide flexible, value for money accommodation for its workforce in locations that better suit the needs of the customer.