Digital Transformation Project - Case Study
North Norfolk District Council, 2013–14
Financial pressures compelled the council to reduce avoidable contact coming into the organisation. I was part of the team tasked with delivering the solution.
Each visitor to reception costs the council over £6 (the cost of providing the Customer Services staff). Each phone call costs them over £2.50. Contrast that with the cost of each transaction over an automated phone line running in at 10p, and the negligible cost of any given transaction over the web site, and you have a compelling argument for driving transactions towards lower cost-to-serve channels wherever possible.
The real problem was that no-one knew where to focus our attention first.
No part of the process was simple. Customer services kept unreliable paper tallies of the number of customers who came in and what they came in for, which were manually input into a spreadsheet at the end of the week.
There were multiple separate telephony services in the building, so it was not possible to trace how many calls had been received into the building, or how many had been transferred internally.
The website was better, with good analytical data, but we still couldn’t tell whether any given visit resulted in a successful outcome, or whether the customer called or visited us as a result.
Reception was our first port of call. I designed and developed a web app for capturing visitor information.
Intended to be a simple and frictionless as possible, the Contact Log captured the category and topic of the customer’s query, as well as recording the duration of the contact. We soon had a reliable flow of data, which we would later use to prioritise new digital services.
Next up was telephony. We ruthlessly tracked down all the rogue extensions, ‘ghost’ numbers and unanswered voicemails. It was not possible to capture 100% of traffic, but we got close enough to give a good overview of volumes coming in and bouncing around the organisation. These calls were mapped to services, adding to our data store from the Contact Log.
Thirdly came the website. Here we already had volumes, but no measure of customer satisfaction. Furthermore, if a customer had come looking for a phone number or our reception opening times, they may well have gone away satisfied, but another avoidable contact would have slipped through our fingers!
I researched many third-party survey providers, but they were too bloated, or not specific enough for us. I designed and developed a light-weight, super-simple form that could be deployed on every page of the site and capture the precise information that we needed. We did some A/B testing with a small sample and launched the preferred solution. Within days we had captured some very revealing data about our visitors behaviour, intentions and perceived successes.
Finally, we took it to the people. There are many stakeholders, internally and externally, when it comes to Local Authority service provision. The planning application pages were the most visited on the site by a wide margin, so I interviewed members of the planning team to scope their requirements. It turns out that their main external contact is with local architects, so I interviewed several of them to harvest their opinions of council services. Turns out there was a wide gap between internal assumptions and external expectations.
We organised a series of four workshops for staff to keep everyone up to speed and gain buy-in internally. With fifty people at each workshop, we had a great opportunity to perform card-sorting exercises, where we asked staff to categorise services under different headings. This would be used later when addressing the web site’s information architecture.
With large amounts of data now at our fingertips it was now clear where the low-hanging fruit were.
The single most requested piece of information across all channels was ‘what bin do I put out this week?’ I designed and developed a public-facing web app that tells you what bins to put out on what day, based on your address. This was driven off of an API that linked straight into the refuse collection agency, which was very reliable.
I redesigned the forms that were used for reporting littering, dog waste, fly tipping and other environmental issues via the website to make them more user-friendly, accessible and uncluttered.
The Planning pages were verbose and labyrinthine. Working closely with the team I helped halve the number of pages, by heavily editing the copy and introducing new space-saving UI elements.
Finally we re-architectured the site to focus on the new transactional structure uncovered during the staff sessions. All services were categorised, not just by department and team as before, but also under the banners of Pay, Report, Apply and View. Popular content was prioritised at every level, as were services that were not getting the attention they deserved.
The bin collection app was a huge success, with lots of positive feedback and more than a third of residents making use of it. Bin collection queries fell correspondingly across all other channels.
Feedback about the streamlined web content was also positive, with a noticeable drop in short visits to reception across all departments. Website usage started to climb, several percentage points week-on-week.
Most crucially the project demonstrated the feasibility and cost-efficiency of digital transformation to senior leaders within the Council. The project paved the way for the current website, implemented since my departure from the organisation, which maintains the same architecture and user flows that we developed, in a much more modern and extensible format.
Overall, a huge win for both the people of North Norfolk and the staff of North Norfolk District Council.
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