Connecting people with the best advice

Kylie Havelock
Aug 5 · 3 min read

This blogpost is the first of two in which I describe how we’re developing our product strategy at Citizens Advice. Read the second part here.

Mobile Citizens Advice horse box during the Second World War

Our service is remarkably simple — we give advice. That means our most valuable assets are our advice itself (the what), and how we give that advice — through our advisers and our online content (the how). At a national level, we’ve spent a number of years scaling our ability to create, update, and maintain our advice to a high standard. The bulk of this work is done by our brilliant Expert Advice and Content Design teams.

However, advice in its raw form is only useful if it’s applied and tailored to a client’s specific situation. For every topic area, there are dozens of variations in the advice we give dependent on the client’s context. At the moment, the way we tackle this on our website is by presenting each option in turn and asking the client to interpret what’s relevant.

Our webpage on Applying for a Blue Badge

This isn’t ideal. It places the burden of interpretation on the client, at a time when they are seeking help for potentially distressing problem. It takes longer, and is more difficult to understand.

The value of interpretation

The most obvious way to solve this problem is for an adviser to step in. Our trained advisers are skilled in how to understand a client’s situation and provide the advice that meets their needs.

In the past we often referred to face to face as the gold standard for advice giving, and for good reason. A real-time conversation with a human can be incredibly effective for helping people both practically and emotionally.

But like almost every public service, demand far outstrips what we can provide. We will never have enough advisers to provide 1:1 support for every client interaction. Appointments are precious, and we need to make the most of them in order to get the best outcome for clients.

We need to be able to match our clients with the right information as quickly and efficiently as possible — whether that’s with the support of an adviser, or through our public advice directly.

We believe technology can help

No other organisation helps so many people across the country, with so many different kinds of problems. That gives us a unique insight into the challenges people are facing today. We have access to an unrivalled volume of data that we use extremely effectively at trend level. But there’s so much more we can do on an individual level to help inform and improve the advice we’re giving.

Our in-house case management system is best in class. We’re also re-platforming the underlying technology that powers our websites to give us the freedom to test and prototype new, innovative ways of providing advice.

We’re developing the skills and capability to design, build, and operate modern digital services. As you may have seen, we’re hiring the product leadership that’s needed to transform the experience of our public advice.

Read the next blogpost to find out how we plan to put this into practice.

Thanks to Nathan Good

Kylie Havelock

Written by

Head of Product @CitizensAdvice. Passionate about inclusive, equitable tech for good. Co-present @OneTeamGov #podcast. Person of @kitterati 🏳️‍🌈 she/her

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