With bad winter weather comes an annual spike in reports to councils and other responsible authorities about problems such as fallen trees, flooding and ever-forming potholes across the UK’s road network.
And with climate change creating increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather events, it has never been more important to communicate transparently with the public about what is and is not possible to fix. Not only does this help to reduce expensive unnecessary contact and failure demand, it also supports the prevention of citizen disengagement through disappointment with how reports are dealt with.
Since its launch in 2012, we have introduced in collaboration with our clients numerous features to our street, highway and environmental fault reporting solution FixMyStreet Pro to help them through periods of seasonal demand. Take a look at some of them below.
Staff users have the ability to log into the FixMyStreet Pro administration dashboard and set messaging to display across their installation of the service. These messages can also be scheduled to only appear at certain times, such as out of hours.
You might want to make report-makers aware that you are receiving a high volume of reports which may delay response times, or perhaps you want to direct them to seasonal advice or policies to help them understand how you prioritise reports.
Alternatively, you can use the site-wide messaging feature to provide emergency contact details for certain problems.
Take a look at an example from Northumberland County Council’s FixMyStreet Pro:
And another from Buckinghamshire Council’s version of the service:
As well as setting site-wide messaging, some authorities also upload videos to their FixMyStreet Pro service to give report-makers even more information about how they approach resolving local problems during periods of high demand.
For example, Buckinghamshire Council has uploaded a video to the homepage of its FixMyStreet Pro service to explain its winter maintenance priorities and manage expectations.
Meanwhile, Oxfordshire County Council uses video to illustrate its intervention criteria and ensure its residents understand what can and can’t be fixed.
Another clever way to manage report-makers’ expectations is to include photos and extra questions within the FixMyStreet Pro report form to help qualify the seriousness of the problem at hand and proactively explain whether it meets your intervention criteria.
Bath & North East Somerset Council does this for reports of blocked drains to help collect the most accurate information about the severity of the issue so that they know how to respond.
During periods of high demand, it’s crucial that emergencies don’t get lost in a queue of other less urgent problems. For this reason, FixMyStreet Pro gives councils and other authorities multiple ways to communicate about and divert emergencies.
In addition to using the site-wide messaging and extra questions mentioned above, it’s also possible for staff to display emergency messaging for certain report categories, or even disable those reports entirely.
Here’s an example of how Shropshire Council diverts reports of fuel spillages:
Expectation management doesn’t stop after reports have been submitted. FixMyStreet Pro enables staff users to set up and edit response templates to correspond to different report statuses. These responses are sent to report-makers whenever a report’s status changes to ensure they and anyone subscribed to the report is kept informed of its progress.
See an example of how Lincolnshire County Council responds to reports via its FixMyStreet Pro service, giving users a clear indication of the time-frames within which a response can be expected:
When report volume is high, authorities can edit these templates or even create new ones specifically to communicate that responses may take longer than usual, or to educate about how issues are prioritised.
These templates can be managed from within the FixMyStreet Pro administration dashboard or they can correspond to an integrated asset management or CRM system.
It can often be the case that members of the public go to report an issue about which you’re already aware, so when demand is already high, keeping duplication down is paramount.
As well as suggesting possible duplicates within a customisable radius to report-makers and encouraging them to subscribe instead of re-reporting, FixMyStreet Pro also enables authorities to display on the map scheduled maintenance works to eliminate the need for reports to be made at all.
Oxfordshire County Council’s FixMyStreet Pro has special map pins dedicated to works reported and scheduled for repair by the council itself.
Just as no two councils are the same, no two of our FixMyStreet Pro installations are the same either. If you’re interested in learning more about FixMyStreet Pro and how it could work for you, please get in touch.
Image: Rob Wingate