Improving service

January 12, 2010

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.”


December 17, 2009

NDL have produced their latest (sixth) report on ‘Integration and CRM Systems’. As one would expect from a commercial organization they require  you to register by email with them at info (at) in order to receive it but it does reinforce my own academic work and they have managed to cover over 50% of local authorities, getting them to complete it over the ‘phone.

In summary it states:

P.2., talking about eforms and CRM – “our research has shown that both of these technologies have been applied as a veneer, masking continuing areas of inefficiency from public view.”

P.3., discussing NI14 – “very little activity is taking place based on this data, with most authorities still ‘collating’ or ‘analysing’ their data sets.”

P.10., examining integration of back office applications – vast majority have only integrated between one and five applications with their CRM.

P.10., very few have CRM’s transacting directly with back office.

P.11., over half of authorities are only partly complying with NI14.

P.13., “we draw the conclusion that many of the smaller District councils see middleware as an expensive and largely non-essential overhead that is impossible to justify.” Which I quite agree with!

P.14., with regard to Government Connect – 46% are firmly convinced that it will never shown any value!

As to the last (Government Connect), from this IT Manager’s perspective, using it continues to be a slow and agonising process, as technical issues still arise, although some process improvements in Benefits are showing. However, there are still a limited number of government departments playing the game, although they’ve been told to exploit it. If they all got on board more quickly it would really demonstrate some value!

Citizen Issues

November 8, 2009

Having twelve suppliers on Company table V7, dated 25 October 2009, I thought I was just about covered. The list provides a list of applications and their suppliers who provide solutions to measuring citizen satisfaction or even the UK government National Indicator 14 on ‘avoidable contact’.

I have now, by accident, found another approach in the USA entitled ‘Citizen Issues’, which is incidentally free, unless a municipality wants the ‘premium’ edition. The system is provided by CCD Health Systems, which supplies applications for handling root cause analysis and web-based incident reporting.

I’m not sure that it’s much different from some of the UK examples such as Fixmystreet and CommunityFix , but it was their focus on root cause analysis that brought me to them. I find root cause analysis a potentially useful approach to getting the best out of services when collating feedback.

So, I now have Company table V8.

USA Government Web Sites

September 27, 2009

The latest comScore review of US government web sites sees some interesting changes in usage.

From my particular point of view I’m also interested in their employment of user satisfaction as a metric. One quotation that caught my attention is that “On January 21, 2009, President Obama issued a directive stating that ‘Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public.’” I highlight the fact that “information” is required, not the seemingly obligatory “transactions”.

Perhaps the US has wised up to the Canadian observation that what citizens want is information prior to considering any transaction, and that transaction may be carried out across multiple channels in the end?

Incidentally I’ve updated my table with the latest CMetrix product, so am now at Company table V6.

Another survey

September 23, 2009

The Oxford Internet Institute have released the report of their latest survey, The Internet in Britain, which contains a comparative analysis of results from 2009 with the years 2005 and 2007.

One of the quotes from Helen Margetts (p.26) contains the statement: “Information seeking remains the most common e-government activity, similar to the way e-commerce developed (although slower). However, the frequency of online transactions such as paying for government services, taxes, fines and licenses has started to increase.” So information, not transaction remains the killer application.

Interestingly, local services remain more popular than central government ones, whether policy or politicians, although all see a small but steady increase.

However, an added reminder came from Gerry McGovern in his latest e-broadcast , when he stated: “The purpose of marketing and advertising used to be to get customers to do the things you wanted them to do. The purpose of web marketing and advertising is different. It starts off by accepting that the customer is on the Web to do something. It then focuses on helping that customer become more successful in doing that thing, not getting the customer to do something else.”

In the case of government, what we need to remember is that primarily we should be using the web to help citizens, not to help ourselves!