Improving service

The Socitm Customer Access Improvement Service has published its latest (December 2009) report, which is Issue 3. It has received a great detail of reportage for its emphasis on poorly performing council web sites. I’m not sure that quite so much can be read from the cumulative data, and a bit like National Indicator 14 “avoidable contact”  believe these analyses need to take place at a more granular level and thing some of the assumptions are very subjective!

I also have a concern that a document from Socitm is making statements like the one on page 3 “The country cannot afford the current scale of the public sector.” This is a broad brush attack on all government, so includes local authorities and health trusts. This is not a decision for an IT managers organization, it’s one for the electorate since some countries, as we know, have a much higher scale of expenditure. What really matters is the quality being delivered for that expenditure, if its too high a quality or too low, the public have to decide. If too much is being spent they have to decide what services are no longer required, or whether services they can do without are being delivered. Ultimately this is the value of applications such as that used by GovMetric or the others named on my list (see below) – they give the public an opportunity to comment on the value of services delivered.

According to the report there are now 56 councils providing GovMetric data but of these only one is acknowledged to be recording data across the three major channels in one directorate or service only, which is not ideally what we should be achieving if we are to understand channel shift or manage channels at all.

Big things continue to be made about South Tyneside’s apparent channel shift around waste management, which they achieved by developing their web site as a result of feedback through the service, I would argue that all channels need to be improved and this is an end-to-end reform of services, since channels are only the presentation layer. We have a lot more experience with the face-to-face and telephone channels and have obviously some experience at delivering them, but the web is the new kid on the block, it can’t at the moment be interactive in the sense of the Turing machine.

I believe getting feedback from citizens is the way forward but I have doubts about making too much of it from the higher level generalizations that Socitm makes and I must say that the one promoted by Socitm is not the only solution – have a look at the list – Company table V8.

UPDATE – I’ve been asked by Alex Chapman of GovMetric to update on a few possible inaccuracies between my reading of the Socitm CAIS report and the state of play with GovMetric, which I am posting below –

  • “There are currently 59 authorities signed up to GovMetric with a further 9 housing associations; so, there are just under 70 users in total
  • More importantly, almost all of these are using GovMetric in a multi-channel approach measuring customer feedback and performance across at least 3 channels (F2F, phone and web) and across typically 8 services
  • An increasing number are also linking this feedback data to E&D and customer segmentation groups as well to increase their insight about what customers needs are, their experiences and their channel preferences.

 

I agree with you whole heartedly that, “if we are to understand channel shift or manage channels at all”, we do need to go beyond one service or even one channel; this is not the case with GovMetric, neither in concept nor in practice.  From a GovMetric perspective, customer feedback is not the only thing that matters, but being able to understand service demand by service, by channel, as well.”

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One Response to Improving service

  1. In response to your comments on Socitm’s website take up service, the results we published which received so much attention this past week are certainly not subjective.

    In promoting the results, we focussed on one key indicator – whether people were able to find and do what they wanted to on their council’s website. A quarter of all councils use the Website take up service and in the month reported, September 2009, 25 thousand individuals completed our online survey. Their responses showed that around 21% of their web enquiries failed completely and another 21% failed partially.

    Now that the web is by far the biggest access channel to council services (if you doubt it, there is lots of evidence from research) web failures are setting up massive volumes of avoidable contact for councils’ other, more expensive access channels. According to our data, a typical unitary for example, could be receiving as many as 650 additional enquiries a day because the website is not delivering the information or services sought.

    High quality web provision and greater shift to the web must be a vital part of councils’ strategies if they are to maintain service levels in a future of budget cuts. Understanding where websites are failing, and how to improve them has never been more important.

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