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Delivering a self-service platform: Best practice tips from three leading councils

The ability to deliver digital self-service has been around for a long time, but only now is it top of the public sector agenda. To tackle significant cuts to spending power, delivering a seamless end-to-end digital self-service platform is now essential for councils.

Wolverhampton Share Digital 100x80

The public sector must overcome three key challenges when implementing a digital Self-Service Platform: the citizen challenge, the technology challenge and the organisational challenge.

At a recent event in London, Wolverhampton Borough Council, Colchester Borough Council and Dumfries & Galloway Council shared their experiences of transforming services through Channel Shift and delivering online self-service. Here they share some of their best practice tips for overcoming these challenges. 

Event presentations

These videos capture the three council presentations from the GOSS Interactive customer panel.

   

All the speakers covered three key challenges that Local Authorities face and how they successfully overcame them.

  • The organisational challenge 
  • The technology challenge 
  • The citizen challenge

The organisational challenge 

It is fundamental to make sure the organisational experience is correct before looking at user journeys. The entire organisation must be completely bought into digital self-service to ensure there is a seamless flow of data across the business and that back-end systems communicate properly to reduce admin time and errors. 

Senior workshop1. Secure senior management buy-in

For self-service to be delivered successfully across all service areas, senior management buy-in is key. By focusing senior management minds, you ensure digital self-service has a strategic focus across the whole organisation.  

By creating leadership events we've managed to get leadership from the very top. We used customer personas to actually challenge our directors. This has challenged their thinking."

Anne Sweetin, Business Development Officer, Dumfries & Galloway Council 

2. Conduct a thorough review of all service areas

If you get digital self-service right, you will drive a lot more traffic to your website and will increase the demand on your services. If you're increasing demand on a broken service, you are not going to realise any cost benefit. Processes that service areas have relied on for years will need to be redesigned and within this review process following best practice Business Process Management techniques. You must constantly challenge every single part of each process. This will ensure the new online processes work seamlessly and are customer focused. 

We created a small enabling web team that would work with each service area to review their part of the website. This was a huge challenge, especially with service areas which had lots of outdated documents, but we achieved it in six months." 

Mandy Jones, Customer Demand & Research Manager, Colchester Borough Council 

3. Bring in experience where it's needed 

Implementing digital self-service across your organisation will mean a huge culture change for staff. Bringing in expert help can equip each service area to handle its own implementation. This could mean getting your web team to provide bespoke internal training around things like how your users access and navigate your website or even bringing in outside help to lead internal workshops and evaluate how you do things. 

If we hadn't brought in the experience of having somebody who's actually delivered Channel Shift before, we probably wouldn't have got as far as we have within the last year." 

Anne Sweetin, Business Development Officer, Dumfries & Galloway Council 

The technology challenge 

Delivering a self-service platform that encompasses all service areas and provides a seamless end-to-end solution is key to driving savings and improving productivity and efficiency. A recent survey from GOSS Interactive demonstrated that public sector organisations are looking to move from 25% online self-service today, to some 75% of services delivered through digital self-service within 3 years and that each organisation was aiming to save an average of £8.7m over the 3 years through this digital transformation of services. But how can you make sure online transactions are end-to-end solutions and not just silos?

1. Get the technology right 

We're seeing a lot of people using point solutions. This will just disappoint and end up costing more as it creates too many systems that don't communicate with each other. It's not a great user experience for citizens and it's an even worse experience for organisations as you end up with data in all sorts of different systems. It's imperative to utilise a multi-channel Self-Service Platform that can deliver across all service areas and will fully integrate with back-end systems. 

Technology's moving so quickly we have to make sure we get the integrations and data right. We have to make sure we're actually using our data to get customer insight, to see where our customers actually have problems accessing self-serve, what they want to do online and how we can fulfil that."

Mandy Jones, Customer Demand & Research Manager, Colchester Borough Council 

Colchester mobile hand2. Take a mobile-first approach

Delivering a self-service platform isn't just about the website, user experience or the homepage. It has to go right down to the individual processes, all of which have to be responsive. It's all very well having a responsive website, but if you don't have a mobile-enabled process, then you're fundamentally failing the whole approach to self-service. 

We know that 40% of our customers access our website via mobile, so we had to make it responsive. We've got to continually develop that responsiveness across the web. We've also got to make our forms mobile-friendly."

Mandy Jones, Customer Demand & Research Manager, Colchester Borough Council

3. Business Process Mapping is key 

When moving each service area online, Business Process Management is vital for creating a fully integrated, streamlined experience. You need the process to work end-to-end. Factor a number of user personas into the build of each online module to ensure each solution accounts for a range of potential customer scenarios. 

When you factor in all situations and a number of user stories, what seems like a simple process at first can become a very complex one. When moving tip permits online, we considered a number of user situations that might impact the self-service module including hire vehicles and people that have passed away."

Paul O'Rourke, Performance Manager, Wolverhampton City Council 

The customer challenge

You've got your organisation on board and the technology in place, but how do you take the citizen on the digital self-service journey with you?

1. Don't lose sight of the user journey

There's a huge demand of people wanting to self-serve and we've seen this within the commercial sector. What they need is a clear and easy-to-use interface. They expect to be kept informed all the way through the process. If you deliver self-service without a constant experience it will fail as people will get disconnected and confused. They will fall back to more expensive channels including the phone. They want the process to work on any device, at any time of the day or night. 

If you want customers to shift to using services online, you must build a website tailored to their needs. Residents will always opt for the easiest channel and our task was to make online the easiest option."

Mandy Jones, Customer Demand & Research Manager, Colchester Borough Council 

2. Increase online engagement among citizens

As much as it's important to get internal staff to start thinking digitally, marketing digital self-service externally is vital in making customers aware of its benefits and driving digital take-up. Colchester Borough Council achieved an average of 1,153 less in-person contacts and 2,037 more web forms submitted per month by engaging citizens to see digital as the channel of choice. 

By targeting marketing to existing users and making sure our front-end messaging was pushing the self-service module, we achieved 65% Channel Shift on one service within four weeks. Promoting the benefits of the service to customers on the phones building up to the tip permits online changeover was really key in making a lot of people quickly sign up to the online service in week one." 

Paul O'Rourke, Performance Manager, Wolverhampton City Council

   

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