Thinking about moving services online? Perhaps to save cost? Or time? Or – perish the thought – staffing costs…?
Surely that should be easy enough?
Well yes – and no. Because a lot depends on the nature of the process you’re trying to deal with. As many local councils have discovered.
Let’s be fair. In recent years local councils have faced enormous challenges. They have had to cut their costs. And – rightly – they have been looking at ways to do that without cutting their key services. Surely (so the logic goes) they could set up automated processes to answer common questions. And even, perhaps, to deal with the most common transactions.
Simply – as they thought – by replicating what their teams were already doing.
Ambitious plans to move services online
They started confidently enough. In 2015 GOSS, a tech company specialising in work for government sent out a survey to local councils. 66% of respondents said they’d be moving 50-100% of their services online by 2018.
That didn’t happen.
By 2019 only 11% had 50% or more of their services online, while just 46% expected to reach that less ambitious goal by 2022. (Down from 55% in the previous year.)
So what went wrong?
Keep it simple, stupid…
Many councils ran into three problems almost straight away.
- Their processes – often developed over many years – were too complex to be easily automated.
- Their systems (according to 54% of respondents) lacked the necessary capabilities
- 44% were held up by lack of resources – and 39% by lack of in-house skill
With mistrust from the beginning – understandably, perhaps, where job losses were likely – many projects got off to a rocky start. And even when they’d been implemented, the reaction from the public was often less than encouraging.
Because – all too often – an overcomplicated internal process had been made into an overcomplicated sequence of interactions. And nobody loved it. Especially when they had to enter personal information repeatedly to gain access to different council services.
A huge proportion of users failed to complete the processes online. Instead, they rang the council for help. With (perhaps) fewer staff to man the phones, they often had a long wait for an answer. if they got through at all…
So the public hated it. The staff hated it. And the councils began to worry that they had spent a sizeable amount of money on a white elephant.
Time for a change?
So what’s the answer?
For the councils – and for any organisation that wants to go digital – it all boils down to the customer experience. If your online systems are easy and intuitive to use, people will be much more willing to use them.
And you’ll get far fewer angry phone calls.
But to achieve that goal, you may very well need to review the entire process you’re trying to digitise. Because while it may function perfectly well when trained, experienced, and knowledgeable staff are running it, you can’t expect your customers to deal with it in the same way.
And if you need a little help with that, please call me for a chat on 01359 240717.