The Society of IT Management has published an Insight briefing on getting better value from council websites. It argues that customer self-service must move sharply up the agenda if councils are to meet future demand for services against a background of static or falling budgets.
The argument is based on the fact that self-service is considerably cheaper for the council and very popular with council customers. But research has shown failure rates for council web enquiries are high, running, even in the more web-savvy councils, at between 10 and 40 per cent. That means that many web enquiries simply reappear at the council as more costly phone or face to face enquiries, so that the web ends up being a source of wasteful ‘avoidable contact’ rather than what it should be, which is a means of reduced ‘cost-to-serve’.
For most councils, turning this situation around means major changes in thinking, culture, and practice around web governance, management and delivery, and the briefing covers in some detail the strategic blueprint developed by Socitm Insight for this new approach.
The website needs to be managed as a corporate asset, driven by a strategy reflecting corporate and service objectives, owned by top managers, and setting out clear priorities for the site. All phone, correspondence, face to face and web channels need to be managed in an integrated way, with information collected about take-up, satisfaction and costs. The website provides opportunities for community engagement and web 2.0 tools and techniques should be exploited to make web communications properly interactive.
Learning from Better connected 2009 is available from Socitm Insight cost £50. www.socitm.gov.uk