Case study

How Boston Borough Council uses eforms to drive channel shift

About Boston Borough Council

Boston Borough Council is located in Lincolnshire in the town of Boston. It serves a population of around 65,000 residents living both in the town as well as in more rural areas within the Borough.

At a time when significant budgetary challenges remain a feature of the local authority landscape, Boston Borough Council recognises that the best way to ensure that it will be able to continue to provide effective and cost efficient services to citizens is to move more transactions online. This push towards channel shift online is driven by a desire not only to save money but also to offer improved service levels to citizens.

Therefore, in late 2015, Boston Borough Council decided to start making use of the My Council Services customer digital access platform, which offers the range of flexible, customisable web and mobile eforms that it wanted. The Council decided to focus initially on one area of business, whilst at the same time beginning to phase out its previous eforms system.

Key drivers behind the project

The key drivers behind Boston Borough Council’s decision to move to My Council Services eforms were:

  • The Council wanted to have a suite of web and native mobile eforms that were both mobile responsive and dynamic. My Council Services provides this.
  • It was important for the Council to use eforms technology that would link with the Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG) address database. My Council Services offers integration with the LLPG as part of its service.
  • The Council needed to have eforms technology that could immediately be used to take payments online. My Council Services provides this functionality.

The Council decided to take a phased approach to implementing this change and the online ordering and payment of green garden waste services was chosen as the pilot project.

The green garden waste payment project

The collection of green garden waste is a discretionary service provided by Boston Borough Council. Prior to 2015, this service was available free of charge and used by 18,000 households. In 2015 the decision was taken to introduce an annual collection charge and a charge of £30 is now levied on each household that uses the service.

In making this change, the Council was keen to ensure that the business process designed to facilitate this new transaction was streamlined, cost efficient and that it offered a good overall customer experience.

The process

Working with Abavus, the Council built a single responsive My Council Services green garden waste eform. This form is linked to the Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG) and also enables payments to be taken. Citizens can choose to make this transaction in one of three ways:

  1. Using the eform to provide their details and make payment themselves directly via the Boston Borough Council website.
  2. By phone – citizens can call the Council’s contact centre where customer services operatives complete the eform for them and take the payment.
  3. Face-to-face – citizens can come into the Council’s offices where one of the Council’s customer services advisors will help them complete the form and make payment.

Once the transaction is made, the subscriber’s details are automatically downloaded, using the My Council Services webservices to a third party system which triggers the dispatch of a barcoded sticker for the householder to place on their green garden bin. The Council’s bin collection operatives in the field then know which households have paid for the collection service.

“We knew that we needed to replace some of our existing technology if we wanted to make some of the business improvements necessary. Having seen what My Council Services technology could offer now and in the future we knew that it was the right product for us.”

“We had really tight deadlines to meet that could not be changed simply because of the nature of the service to be offered.  It was really refreshing therefore to work with a supplier who was totally committed to ensuring that our deadlines were achieved. From the project commencement to launch Abavus worked flexibly, competently and comprehensively.”

Jason Bagley, Technical Project and Development Analyst

The launch

Because of the seasonal nature of the service (offered for 10 months of the year) the timescales set for delivery of this new process were rigid. Abavus and the My Council Services team had to work quickly and effectively with both the merchant service provider and Boston Council’s implementation team to get the process live by the agreed date.

The results

  • During the first day of operation 1,036 citizens subscribed and paid for the service
  • On the second day a further 1,346 citizens subscribed and paid for the service
  • By the end of the first week 4,149 citizens had subscribed and paid for the service
  • Within three months of launch, over 11,000 citizens had subscribed and paid for the service

Achieving channel shift

One of Boston Borough Council’s objectives for the project was to encourage as many citizens as possible to process their green garden waste subscriptions online. Within three months of launch almost half (45.7%) of all transactions were being processed through the web portal without the need for customer service operative involvement.

Return on investment

Budgets are extremely tight in local government and so every discretionary service that Boston Council offers has to be evaluated to ensure that it remains appropriate and cost-effective to deliver. By levying a subscription fee and automating the process of collecting it using My Council Services, the green garden collection now offers more value to citizens in the form of improved service, whilst being cost neutral to the Council.

“The success of the green garden waste project has given us real confidence and impetus to expand the My Council Services footprint at Boston with other digital projects that we are soon embarking on.”

Next steps

Based upon the success of the green garden waste project, Boston Borough Council has begun rolling out other digital projects making use of My Council Services technology. These include a project to improve the Council’s identification of and response to fly tipping, as well as a project to enable citizens to book the Council’s collection of bulky items service online.