Perfecting online transactions to reduce pressure from local governments
Local authorities are working hard to rationalize budgets, and one way to do this is to reduce telephone contact. However, we often hear it said that while many people are now booking things or reporting an issue online, those same people then phone to confirm that the board has received their request or reservation.
Many customers use email confirmation, so residents will receive a message after pressing send, telling them that their request has been received and that “we’ll fix it.” We are used to receiving them in our everyday life. If you book a hotel or a flight, you wait for confirmation that the reservation has been taken into account.
So, I was intrigued by the client saying he was interested in whether other authorities had seen a reduction in calls due to online transactions – only to see an influx of “secondary contact” where people are taking the phone to check the progress of their submission.
Understanding the thought process
Putting aside the situation where a Service Level Agreement (SLA) was breached, I wondered what made humans need confirmation or an update.
Looking at a hypothetical situation, let’s say I report fly spills in my neighborhood. Someone threw a mattress over there. Unpleasant to look at, but it does not block the path and is unlikely to be a health hazard.
I am reporting this issue online Monday and getting confirmation in the app that my report has been received, advice “aims to deal with all fly spill incidents in a timely manner” and will send someone to investigate within the next seven working days.
On Friday, as far as I know, no one came out. Frustrated and annoyed, I pick up the phone and ask for an update. The very patient CSA tells me that someone is planning to go out, but it’s still within that seven day period.
On the eighth day, I pick up the phone again. I contact a different but no less patient CSA who tells me that someone went out yesterday, but there were not enough people or room in the van. For some reason, it’s now on their to-do list – but they have an SLA to eliminate fly spills within 15 business days of the first site visit.
At this point, I go to my friendly neighborhood Facebook page and have a complaint about The Council, which everyone is piling up on and the local newspaper grumpily asks me to pose for a photo, pointing the mattress.
Humans are by nature anxious whether we actively recognize it or not. Whenever we have an interaction with an organization, we replay our experiences we’ve had with them, everything we’ve read about them, or the experiences our friends and family have told us about.
Not only that, but humans are the only animals who like to gamble every possible eventuality to the nth degree.
For example, if I applied for my child to go to school and I didn’t get a confirmation, or the confirmation didn’t meet my expectations, I might be sitting at home thinking: applying ? What if they didn’t fit into Mirrorview Primary – that’s the best!
You would probably start to envision all worst-case scenarios: “They probably won’t be allowed to go to another school because we live too far away” “I’m going to have to give up my job to home school them,” I’m no good in math ; they will never become a bank manager.
Not likely, but this mental gymnastics can only take a fraction of a second to occur in our minds. We might not even save it. But mentally this mattress we reported was set on fire, property and lives threatened, so we impatiently picked up the phone again to check it out.
What can local communities do?
The first step is to add confirmation emails to all online transactions – if people need to enter an email address, consider making that confirmation email mandatory.
Make the email accessible – like telling your mom what’s going to happen next and, if possible, give a time frame by which people can start to see a result – residents want to know when it’s over .
Be clear about your internal processes and workloads – if your team can’t solve all the potholes because there just isn’t the employee resource, it’s time to consider how whose tasks you assign, organize tasks or provide services. Have a business analyst work with departments to really understand what’s going on in an individual job, including what might throw them off, and be prepared to question “the way things have always been done.”
Work with your communications team and elected members to educate residents on what it takes to respond to specific requests, which means outward communications through your email communications or citizen engagement platforms. Most people aren’t going to visit your website to read your SLAs or what goes into a pothole measurement. It is important to clearly expose this information through accessible means, such as email.
Listening to the inhabitants
Persevere by trying new techniques and in the meantime support your frontline staff who only get the short term from customer interactions.
It is important to accept that your call center is going to receive calls. You’re not going to stop everyone from picking up the phone, and you shouldn’t want to. Some people will still want to use the phone as their primary mode of communication.
This is your opportunity to hear what your residents really think, but also to educate them and potentially help them move into online transactions as easily as possible. Yes, a 121 service is expensive, but for some people it is necessary and will pay dividends as they become self-service advocates.
Karen Steel, UK Customer Success Manager, Granicus