Posts Tagged ‘NI14’
The Prime Minister will be making a speech today about Digital Britain. The likely content has already been written about so expect:
- Universal access (digital inclusion) by 2015 or 2020 and high targets by 2012
- Funding of the above via some form of public levy
- Major reduction of ‘front of house’ public services (job centres, benefits offices etc) and provision via online services (as happens with car tax) so allowing the PM to talk about ’savings and improved access’
The provision of services online should provide considerable cost savings even after the expense of developing the necessary web sites and IT systems. It has been said that providing a service face-to-face is upto 10x more expensive that via a call centre which in turn is 10x more expensive than online. This is sometimes refered to the 10:1:01 metric. Whatever the real costs – and they will vary – the savings of not having to maintain a network of offices must be considerable.
But – and this is a big but – as I mentioned in my presentation at the recent Kable event on Managing Public Sector Data held in London – such changes are only cost effective if a high percentage of transactions can be completed online. Where the National Indicator 14 (NI14 ‘avoidable contact’) is missed then costs escalate as people miscomplete the necessary forms or abandon the process part way through. They then have to be proactively contacted or responded to via a call centre or be able to serviced via some form of physical presence.
Incomplete forms and errors will be the critical cost element. Every intervention will cost money to correct so reducing the savings. There will come a point where the system is overloaded and not enough ‘back room’ staff are available to clear the errors. We regularly see news reports of systems with big backlogs resulting in delayed payments or some form of customer fail.
In my presentation I actually used a personal real life example of a poorly designed web site and process versus a ’smart form’ or iForm based one. In my case whilst the form could be completed online it had to be printed off and signed, witnessed and then posted on with a fee. That is no problem except I must have misread the instructions as I completed the form incorrectly and so it was returned. I completed what I was asked but then had it returned a second time as there was a further error (why they did not spot this the first time I cannot say). It was them returned a 3rd time (!!) with a further error but I found this one impossible to work out what to do and had to phone the telephone Help Line. They themselves were unable to advise what to do and had to seek further internal guidance while I was put on hold. After following their instructions and posting off the form I called the Help Line to check all was in order and was told it was now being processed. Having been given a date for the expected confirmation letter back I called when it was overdue by a few weeks to be told there was a ‘bit of a backlog but it would be within a few days’. After almost 2 weeks I finally got the confirmation letter.
So in my case there were in effect 5 or 6 ‘avoidable contacts’ which would think would have cost a fair amount of time and money to process. I am not sure but I would not be surprised to learn that the fee charged for the service was exceeded by these ‘avoidable contact’ costs.
A process that I thought would take a few weeks lasted almost 3 months! In the commercial world if there were alternatives I would tell my ’social network’ contacts to avoid using them. Even with a Government service if there were alternatives such as going to local offices I may recommend people to go visit them and not use the online service. If enough people did this the Govt could miss their take up targets and so not make the projected cost savings.
So what could be done to improve the customer experience and reduce the transaction costs?
- Make the online form intelligent. Link sections that have to be completed to other sections and if not filled in flag it as an error.
- Only show sections of the forms as necessary. In my case it was a 12 page form – in full. A number of sections were not to be completed depending on previous answers. Hide the options and only activate if required. A simpler, less busy presentation will reduce likely error completion.
- Only allow the forms printing for signature or online submission when all have been completed and no errors (as far as the system can tell!) have been made.
- Use ‘pop-up’ text and video based instructions as both a user activated option and where sections have been completed incorrectly
- Allow ‘crowdsourced’ comments and feedback from previous customers. For example I had my own specific experience. I cannot imagine I would be the only one. If there was a Forum or Community section I could share those experiences and add my own tips on how to avoid the problems I had. It maybe people from the Help desk can also provide quidance and suggestions by commenting on my comments. These could be sorted by topic and shown as an overall resource or selectively displayed like the video at each relevant section. The objective being the same – increase successful online completion and reduce errors.
- Finally there may be 3rd parties (organisations like citizens advice and local charities and support organsiations etc) that can help. Maybe the web site can have an ‘access local help section’. The Call Centre Help team would still be there but if local offices are closing and some people still need ‘face-to-face’ help this can be done in the community. They themselves may have helpful advice online that can allow the transaction to be completed rather than the citizen needing to physically visit the offices.