Before Covid 19 turned every aspect our lives upside down in early 2020, having a channel shift strategy to move customers over to self-service options wherever possible was already priority. As the ongoing public health emergency continues to wreak its havoc and disruption, providing plausible digital options have become a matter of protecting public health and fulfilling a duty of care. This is most acute for Local Government organisations that have found themselves right on the front line, once again.

There was never any question that a robust and workable digital self service strategy improves operational efficiency for the council, reducing the volume of calls into the contact centre and enabling operatives to focus on cases that require human intervention, whilst also offering citizens a much improved user experience. Now it is also a matter of public health and infection control.  Councils have had to rapidly adapt their service design to incorporate ‘Covid Safe’ procedures. Just a few of the examples that we have seen and that we have helped our customers to implement, in recent months include:

  • Introducing online appointment booking for Council Household Waste & Recycling Centres (HWRC)
  • Implementing appointment regimes for library buildings to enable a socially distanced environment
  • Creating and deploying a range of online forms that enable individuals and local businesses to access resources, practical support and advice to help survive the initial lockdown and the ongoing constraints

To follow are 5 lessons that we have learnt whilst working with UK Local Authorities as they adapt to the new approach in service delivery in the time of Covid:

  1. The key to success is being able to redesign services quickly and then having the digital toolset that enables the Council to test and deploy the revised process quickly.
  2. Don’t underestimate the adaptability and digital savvy of your customers. We have seen time and again, when working with our own Local Authority customers, the rapid pace with which customers will adapt, adopt, embrace and use a well designed digital option. This is especially true when customers can see that it is helping their local community stay safe and that the changes are helping control the spread of the virus.
  3. Encourage your service users to provide feedback and ensuring that you provide an easy way for service users to provide sufficiently detailed feedback on their experience as a user. Feedback of this nature is a hugely valuable.
  4. When you are fortunate enough to receive feedback from service users make sure you take it seriously. Taking feedback seriously means you should do the following:
    1. Review it carefully and in detail, making sure key staff have time to do this.
    2. If the feedback concerns issues with the digital self service process you have deployed make sure you can verify what is happening by replicating it.
    3. Once verified work out a plan to improve the user experience and implement any changes to the process quickly whilst also testing thoroughly.
    4. Communicate back to users who have provided feedback to explain what has been done and thank them for taking the time to share the details of their user experience.
  5. Finally, self service goes beyond a digital contact point and the eform used by the customer. Review the whole of your process and look for opportunities to automate workflow and make digital the complete end to end process. The more you can automate a process the more efficiency improvements you can realise and the more quickly customers’ requirements can be responded to and addressed.

If you keep the above lessons in mind when you are faced with having to redesign processes in light of the health pandemic, that we all now have to try and navigate, they will serve you well and help you avoid the more common pitfalls and process cul-de-sacs. In addition it may be that the disruption and suffering that Covid 19 causes could yet have some positive outcomes, in the form of faster, safer and more efficient access to quality public services That has to be good news, in a time when positive news can feel like a scarce commodity.