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Create report response templates with FixMyStreet Pro

FixMyStreet Pro equips councils with several features designed to help improve the reporting experience for residents by closing the feedback loop. 

One of the most significant of these features is its response template functionality, which enables council staff with the appropriate permissions to create and edit pre-written responses to be sent to report-makers according to the status of the report. 

Why response templates are important

Example of some updates provided on Bromley Council’s instance of FixMyStreet Pro

According to research we carried out with YouGov last year, receiving updates in response to a report is one of the most important things citizens expect from a reporting service. It’s also the thing that would most effectively stop them from chasing updates via other channels, which drives up the cost of reports for councils.

By setting up response templates, you can easily provide detailed information to report-makers to help manage their expectations and avoid failure demand, without needing to manually write up a response for each and every report.

Plus, because all FixMyStreet Pro reports are displayed publicly on the map, the response will be shared with any other interested residents, which helps to deter duplication. It is possible for a slightly different response to be shared with the report-maker than the one displayed to the public (more on that below).

Common template responses deal with statuses such as: Report received; Scheduled for inspection; Not council responsibility; Scheduled for repair; Work underway; Unable to fix; Re-opened; and Resolved.

Automated and manual response templates

Different response templates can be created by you and applied to different categories, so that you can tailor the information provided to the problem at hand. 

This can either be done manually by staff – you choose from a drop-down menu, and if any template(s) is assigned to a state, those will be the ones shown when the update changes the state of the report.

Alternatively, templates can be automatically assigned via integration with backend systems or Open311. This means that when FixMyStreet Pro pulls a state-changing update from your system(s), and there is a matching template set up within the integration, then that template will automatically be applied. 

How to create a response template with FixMyStreet Pro

Within the FixMyStreet Pro administration dashboard, users marked as ‘staff’ who have been assigned permissions to ‘Add/edit response templates’ can access the ‘Templates’ manager.

Example of the templates manager in the FixMyStreet Pro administration dashboard

From here, you can input a title and some text for your template, then set which categories and states it should apply to. You may create different templates for each category/state, or use the same templates across multiple categories.

As mentioned above, it is possible to create two responses for each template: one to be emailed directly to the report-maker, and one to be displayed publicly on the map. This is useful for sharing any extra information that you may not want to display publicly, such as feedback surveys.

Example of one of Buckinghamshire Council’s response templates

There is no limit to the number of template responses you can create, and templates can be edited or deleted whenever necessary by staff, enabling you to quickly address any seasonal or situational changes.

If you have an Open311 connection, you can click ‘auto-response’ so that a template will be applied when the state is updated by the automated Open311 process. In this instance, if your Open311 server returns extra text as part of the update, you may put the placeholder {{description}} in the template here, and that placeholder will be replaced by the text from the Open311 server.

If you don’t have an Open311 connection, or your Open311 connection does not provide an immediate initial update, there is a special case where if a template is assigned to the Open state, and marked as ‘auto-response’, then it will automatically be added as a first update to any new report created that matches the template (ie. in the relevant category if assigned). This lets you give e.g. estimated timescales or other useful information up front.

By entering text in the ‘Text for email alert field’, the template text will update the report on the website and the email text will be sent to the user if they have opted into alerts.

Best practice 

When creating templates, you should consider:

  • What are the most common response types that you send back to report-makers? It may be worth examining recent responses to find out.
  • How should you word your response template text to make it as easy as possible for the report maker to understand the status of their issue?
  • What title should you give the template so that it can be easily identified from a drop-down list when it is being applied by staff users?
  • Consider whether you want to include a footer with any additional information (such as customer services information, or your website)

While this functionality can be a time-saver, we advise using it with caution to ensure that the template text is applicable to every situation in which it will be automatically applied. For example, we would recommend not assigning a ‘Resolved’ template to the ‘Unable to fix’ state, because this can cause confusion for residents due to the word ‘resolved’ implying that the issue is fixed. 

For more information on how to use FixMyStreet Pro’s response templates, including how to use HTML tags in templates, please read the Pro Manual

Got any questions, feel free to get in touch.

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