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Latest news and innovations for councils and the public sector from the SocietyWorks team.

How to increase transparency with FixMyStreet’s report statuses

FixMyStreet, our map-based reporting tool for street and highway problems, and FixMyStreet Pro, the fully branded, hosted and integrated version of the service, enable you to assign a status to each report you receive that is visible to the public and reflects the issue’s journey to resolution. 

With all reports displayed on the map, this report status adds an extra layer of transparency for councils and other public sector organisations using the service, allowing citizens to see not only what problems have already been reported, but also what’s being done about them.

A tool for transparency

When used properly, report statuses help to build trust and increase transparency, while also deterring duplicate reports and failure demand, which pushes report-makers back onto the phone to your customer contact centre in search of clarification or more information.

Councils and other public sector FixMyStreet Pro customers can choose from a number of statuses, designed to help you accurately share where a report is up to within your internal processes in a way that is easy for citizens to understand. 

The standard report states on FixMyStreet are currently as follows:
  • Open

Report is open and confirmed (automatically applied to all new reports once report-maker has verified their email [if not signed in at the time of reporting])

  • Action scheduled 

Report has been reviewed and action has been scheduled

  • For triage

Report is awaiting internal review or re-categorisation

  • In progress

Report’s resolution is in progress/action is being carried out

  • Investigating

Report is under investigation

  • Planned

Report’s resolution has been planned/scheduled as part of a wider maintenance project

  • Closed

Report has been closed for one of a number of reasons (this is a generic status only to be used if another cannot be assigned, such as ‘fixed’, ‘not responsible’ or ‘no further action’ – reasons for closure can and should be included within the response template, which can be done manually or automatically via integration)

  • Duplicate 

Report is about an issue that’s already been reported

  • Internal referral

Report has been referred to another team within the council/public body

  • Not responsible

Report is about an issue that is the responsibility of another council/public body/private organisation

  • No further action

Report’s issue cannot be fixed/issue does not meet intervention criteria

  • Fixed

Report’s issue has been fixed

Best practice

We leave it up to you to decide which statuses best suit your internal processes – report status names can be modified across the FixMyStreet platform (this includes the national, free-to-use FixMyStreet.com site) to better reflect those used by your customer service and inspection teams, and terms used within your integrated back-end systems. 

You can also make use of hardcoded statuses, which are named differently on the front and back end to make them easier to understand for citizens on one side and staff on the other.

Equally, additional statuses can be added if required, or you can restrict those which you do not want to be visible to the public.

However, we do recommend that, when changing the status of a report, you make use of FixMyStreet’s ability to provide a tailored, explanatory response update that will be attached to the report and emailed to all subscribers, giving more context about what the status means to help manage expectations. 

Screenshot showing an example of one of Bromley Council's response templates used via their FixMyStreet Pro portal. The response template is attached to the 'In progress' report status and reads: "Thank you for your report, this is not being investigated. Information on our services and the timeframes we aim to respond in can be found: [URL to Bromley's website]"
Example of a response template used by Bromley Council for reports marked ‘in progress’ on their instance of FixMyStreet Pro
For example, when marking a report as ‘no further action’, it’s important to say why this is to help the report-maker and anyone else who’s interested understand your reasoning.

Similarly, when marking a report as ‘action scheduled’ it is worth explaining your service level agreements to set expectations for when the action should be carried out.

You can also use automatic templates that can be added to the FixMyStreet Pro front-end workflow based on back-end codes. For example, multiple codes used in your asset management or CRM system can be attached to different ‘action scheduled’ responses. 

Or if you’re using FixMyStreet Pro as your case management system, you can create your own templates and simply select the most relevant as you go.  

Avoiding confusion

Whichever way you organise your report statuses, our golden rule is to ensure that reports are not marked as ‘fixed’ until the problem has actually been resolved, or assigning one of the closed statuses (eg. ‘closed’, ‘no further action’, ‘not responsible’) without providing an explanation as to why and what this means to you.

For example, ‘closed’ to you could mean ‘action scheduled’, but to the report-maker ‘closed’ could be interpreted to mean that the issue has been fixed, so when they see that the problem is still there, it may provoke them to call you or try to reopen or duplicate the report.

Sometimes this occurs because your customer contact centre hasn’t been provided with enough guidance on what each status means in relation to your processes or how to use the response templates. Other times it’s because your front-end status mapping isn’t quite matched up to your back-end (asset management and/or CRM) status mapping.

We can help with training sessions or report status mapping, so please speak to your account manager if this is something you’d like to explore.

Want to know more about FixMyStreet or FixMyStreet Pro?

Take a look on our website, or why not request a short demo with our team?

SocietyWorks is launching a new online applications and licensing portal for councils

We’re thrilled to be introducing a new product for councils into our suite of citizen-centred digital services: ApplyWorks will provide a user-friendly front-end workflow for taking online applications and payments for a variety of residential and business purposes.

From dropped kerbs and H-bar markings to trading licences, taxi licensing and skip hire ApplyWorks will adapt to whatever combination of service areas a council requires, while providing the same easy and intuitive user experience for applicants, and for customer services making applications on their behalf.

 

Sequence showing how ApplyWorks will work from a resident's perspective

Like all of SocietyWorks’ cloud-based products, ApplyWorks will enable integration with councils’ existing systems to streamline the application experience and close feedback loops. In this case, it will be payment providers and CRM systems, such as Confirm, Civica Pay and Worldpay. 

Using our smart geo-location technology and in-application prompts, ApplyWorks will help people to make more accurate and comprehensive applications. 

Specialised licensing features will be available for more complex service areas such as market trader pitches and taxi licensing. These features include asset layers, calendars and attendance registers.

ApplyWorks will be launching later on this year. If you would like more information or to get involved with the development process, please drop us a message.

SocietyWorks provides the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames with a new online waste portal

The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has chosen SocietyWorks’ self-service waste portal WasteWorks, for managing resident access to waste online more efficiently and transparently, starting with garden waste and looking ahead to incorporate wider domestic waste services.

Residents of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames will now be able to access the council’s garden waste services via a dedicated version of SocietyWorks’ new online waste portal WasteWorks, which was launched in 2021 in collaboration with Bromley Council and Veolia. Using the portal, residents will be able to view their garden waste subscriptions, order new containers and use one-off card payments for non recurring subscriptions, all within the same workflow. There will soon be a Direct Debit function for residents to use for recurring subscriptions, too. While initially focused on improving the resident experience for garden waste, plans are in place to roll WasteWorks out to manage the council’s wider domestic waste service transactions. 

Optimised to work on whatever device residents want to use, WasteWorks will enable the Council to provide a more convenient and seamless online experience for residents thanks to integration with the council’s in-cab system provided by Veolia Echo and payment provider Capita. WasteWorks will also help to deliver a more transparent waste service by enabling a two-way flow of information to keep residents informed on the status of their waste subscriptions, payments, reports and requests. Customer services will be able to use the same user-centred workflow to manage waste subscriptions on behalf of residents over the phone.

The introduction of WasteWorks, which was recently shortlisted for a LGC Award 2022 in conjunction with Bromley Council, is a joint venture between the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the London Borough of Sutton, whose own dedicated version of the portal is currently in development. This comes as part of the ongoing improvements being established by the South London Waste Partnership, of which both Kingston and Sutton are members. The two councils approached SocietyWorks to help further digitise their existing online domestic waste system and move towards a consistent approach to online waste services across the boroughs, which will also benefit their shared waste provider Veolia by improving communication between its in-cab system, the councils and residents.

Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks said: “We’re delighted to be helping the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames bring its online waste system in line with resident expectations. It’s always a pleasure to work with councils that not only put resident needs first, but also work very collaboratively with neighbouring councils and their other external partners to deliver more wide-reaching improvements. We look forward to helping more councils across the UK do the same.” 

Councillor John Sweeney, Portfolio Holder for Business, Recycling and Customer Contact added: “We are excited to be one of the first boroughs to use this innovative system. This new online portal will allow residents to more easily keep track of their subscription payments. It is great to know that this system has been developed with another London council and we look forward to rolling it out across the borough.”

Scott Edgell, General Manager, Veolia SLWP said: “Our teams work hard to serve over 70,000 Kingston households with recycling and waste collections, including 14,000 signed up to the garden waste collection service. We’re so pleased to be supporting Kingston Council with the implementation of their new waste portal with the help of SocietyWorks, so that the high quality service we strive to deliver to residents is reflected in a better experience online, and look forward to the platform’s development in Sutton.”

Take a look at The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames’ new green waste system or contact us to discuss how WasteWorks could work for your authority.

Reporting problems with multiple bins at once with WasteWorks

When it comes to reporting problems with domestic waste bins, citizens tend to wait until there’s a problem with more than one of their bins to take action. 

Usually, this requires the creation of a separate report for each problem or bin. So if you have a problem with the lid of your domestic black bin and an issue with the wheels on your green garden waste bin, you would have to make two different reports.

As well as being time consuming for citizens, this also creates more work for council waste teams, who need to process multiple reports and organise separate resolutions all for the same address.

This cumbersome process is one of many user experience pain points that we wanted to address when we designed our domestic, green and bulky waste portal WasteWorks.

WasteWorks has the functionality to enable councils to let residents report problems with multiple bins at their address within the same workflow. 

Here’s an example of how it works for Peterborough City Council.

Screenshot of Peterborough City Council's instance of WasteWorks, showing the reporting from which allows users to select different problems with different waste bins.

All problems for all affected bins are neatly packaged into one report, which automatically enters Peterborough’s in-cab system Bartec via direct integration, meaning no manual intervention from staff and no duplication of effort for frontline waste teams. From the single report, different reference numbers will be provided from Bartec back to the resident to help with tracking the progress from report to resolution for each issue.  

It’s a simple but significant feature that counts toward the many ways in which WasteWorks helps to make it easier for citizens to access domestic waste services online, while also creating a more efficient, streamlined process for council staff.

WasteWorks customers don’t have to allow the reporting of multiple bins at once; this is an optional feature that is dependant on the type of in-cab system you use and the configuration of your reporting processes.

Want to find out more about WasteWorks and how it could work for you? Request a short demo with the SocietyWorks team.

Image: Pawel Czerwinski

SocietyWorks is going to the LGA Annual Conference 2022

We’re excited to be exhibiting at this year’s Local Government Association Annual Conference, taking place next month in Harrogate.

SocietyWorks will be based at stand Q21, right on the edge of the LGA Hub & Innovation Zone. If you’re interested in providing accessible, integrated and user-centred digital services for citizens, come say hello to us and let’s have a chat.

Floorplan of LGA Conference at the Harrogate Convention Centre, showing where SocietyWorks will be based

Who will be at the stand?

Amelia Nicholas, Business Development ManagerAmelia Nicholas, Head of Sales – Amelia joined SocietyWorks earlier this year and has really hit the ground running getting to know our public sector customers and helping them realise their digital transformation goals. Ask Amelia about our digital waste portal WasteWorks, which was recently shortlisted for a LGC Award.  

 

Clare Armiger, Account Manager – Clare will be joining Amelia in Harrogate. She has a wealth of experience working with local authorities, understanding their needs and helping to turn them into actionable projects. Be sure to ask Clare about ApplyWorks, our in development digital applications and licensing service for councils.

 

Sally Bracegirdle, Marketing & PR Manager – Completing the group is Sally, who helps the councils and other public sector organisations with which we work communicate effectively with citizens about their new digital services. She’s the one to ask about case studies for how we’ve helped our clients successfully introduce new and improved services.

 

The LGA Annual Conference takes place at the Harrogate Convention Centre on 28 – 30 June. You can find more information about the event and book your tickets here.

We’ll see you there!

Peabody makes it easier for Thamesmead residents to report environmental issues with FixMyStreet Pro

Peabody Housing Association joins Transport for London and seven borough councils in using FixMyStreet Pro to provide an easy way for people to report local problems and improve satisfaction.

Residents living in Thamesmead, London will now be able to report local environmental issues such as fly-tipping, pest control, public lighting and problems in or around the canals and lakes to Peabody using a new dedicated online system powered by SocietyWorks’ FixMyStreet Pro. 

FixMyStreet Pro’s technology allows residents to pinpoint a problem’s location and report it within a matter of minutes via their mobile phones. The reports, which will be sent directly to Peabody’s dedicated environmental services team in Thamesmead, aim to enable the housing association to deliver a more efficient and effective service to local residents, working in tandem with the neighbouring boroughs of Bexley and Greenwich, both of which also use FixMyStreet Pro to manage reports from residents.

The homepage of Peabody's FixMyStreet Pro service for Thamesmead

Peabody, one of London’s largest and oldest housing associations, owns around 65% of the land in Thamesmead and is leading on the 30-year regeneration of the neighbourhood. This will create around 20,000 new homes; thousands of new jobs; a wealth of leisure, cultural and commercial facilities; improved green spaces and waterways; and better connections with London and the South East. Alongside its long-term plans for Thamesmead, Peabody is delivering ongoing improvements across the neighbourhood to enhance the day-to-day experiences of residents. FixMyStreet Pro is yet another step forward in achieving this. 

John Lewis, Executive Director of Peabody, said: “Getting the basics right for residents is a key priority for us all at Peabody. This means providing an effective repairs and maintenance service, investing more in our existing homes, and providing simple and easy access to our services through technology that’s quick and easy to use. It also means delivering services that best meet the needs of local communities.

“FixMyStreet Pro is an excellent example of how we can offer a modern and responsive environmental maintenance service to Thamesmead residents. It’s great to be launching it here, and I look forward to hearing resident feedback about it over the months ahead.”

Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks said: “This is a huge step forward for the residents of Thamesmead, who can now benefit from a truly joined-up reporting system for local problems. With Peabody and its two closest borough councils, Bexley and Greenwich, all using FixMyStreet Pro, the three bodies can work in synchronisation, making it easier than ever for residents to successfully report problems and care for their local community. We hope to help other areas of the UK achieve the same kind of progress.”

If you’d like to explore how FixMyStreet Pro could work for you, find out more here.

SocietyWorks has been shortlisted for a LGC Award

We are delighted to announce that we have been shortlisted for the Public/Private Partnership award at the LGC Awards 2022 for the work we completed with the London Borough of Bromley to develop a new, self-service digital domestic and green waste service.

The service, WasteWorks, is a secure, user-centred and fully integrated front-end system, designed to meet rising resident expectations for on-demand, self-service access to waste, while also helping councils to reduce costs and improve customer communications.

Within just a few months of launching WasteWorks, Bromley Council was seeing a 40% drop in avoidable customer contacts thanks to the system’s functionality to provide clear, citizen-friendly response templates that can be adjusted in real-time.

The council was also able to realise a long held ambition to provide an integrated Direct Debit option for payments for Green Waste services. Despite only being available for a short time, Direct Debits already account for a quarter of all transactions and are greatly reducing time and resources in issuing and processing renewal correspondence.

Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks, said: “We are incredibly proud of the partnership we have built with Bromley Council over the last ten years. Bromley’s dedicated team shares our desire to improve the accessibility and transparency of digital council services, and this is reflected in the scalable, user-centred solutions we produce together and their positive impact on residents and staff.

“We are thrilled to be shortlisted for this award and to celebrate the cohesion and trust between our teams, as well as the hard work that went into the creation of WasteWorks over the last twelve months, especially during a time when waste services have never been more important or under pressure.” 

Find out more about WasteWorks here.

Assign reports to inspectors with FixMyStreet Pro

For councils that don’t have an existing case management system, FixMyStreet Pro’s inspector tool allows staff to receive, manage and respond to reports directly from the front-end of the service.

The inspector tool works by enabling council staff to build up a shortlist of reports that they’re responsible for dealing with. It’s a neat little feature – and it just got even more useful.

Up until recently, reports had to be found and self-assigned by the individual staff members who would be taking ownership of them. 

Now, after working with our clients Cheshire East Council, we have developed the functionality to allow managers to directly assign inspectors to particular reports on their behalf.

Assign inspectors to reports with FixMyStreet Pro's inspector tool

This means that, when logged in to the front-end of FixMyStreet Pro, managers can view who’s been assigned to each report, and can assign or reassign reports to individual team members. 

Managers can also filter by report status to see how reports are progressing, and can bulk assign or reassign reports as needed.

Council staff can filter by report status via the inspector tool on FixMyStreet Pro

For inspectors, the tool’s new feature means less time assigning themselves to reports and more time carrying out their inspections. Plus, because FixMyStreet Pro provides offline support, reports can be updated on-the-go, even without connection to the internet.

For councils like Cheshire East, the inspector tool replaces legacy pen and paper systems, improving the way reports are assigned and managed without the need to integrate with an external case management system.

The inspector tool has been made available to all FixMyStreet Pro customers.

Got any questions? Let us know.

Peterborough City Council adopts WasteWorks to improve resident access to waste services

Peterborough City Council has broadened its partnership with SocietyWorks to handle domestic waste online through its new WasteWorks service.

Peterborough City Council has adopted WasteWorks, a new waste service from citizen-focused local authority services provider SocietyWorks, to improve the way residents access waste online. The new service will empower residents to easily self-serve reports and requests from any device, while helping the council to streamline processes, deliver faster resolutions and reduce demand on customer contact centres thanks to an automatic two-way flow of data from front to backend system.

Integrated directly into Peterborough’s in-cab system Bartec and branded to complement the council’s website, WasteWorks will allow residents to manage all of their waste requirements from one place, whether it’s to report a missed bin collection or to pay for a bulky waste collection – which is currently being worked on and set to be delivered later this year. Behind the scenes, the service will seamlessly feed information between citizen, administrator and inspector, helping the council to better manage expectations and close the feedback loop through automated notifications and intelligent tools for on-the-ground inspectors.

This is the second SocietyWorks service to have been adopted by Peterborough City Council, which has been successfully using FixMyStreet Pro to take reports from residents about street and highways problems since 2019. The council will be able to access both WasteWorks and FixMyStreet Pro reports from a central dashboard, which includes a live heatmap to track category, seasonal and area-based trends.

Councillor Nigel Simons, cabinet member for Waste, Street Scene and the Environment, said: “We are fully committed to improving waste services across Peterborough and as part of this commitment, we want to enhance the way residents access services online. The new WasteWorks service will make a positive difference and I would encourage residents to log on and see for themselves.”

Councillor Marco Cereste, cabinet member for Digital Services and Transformation, added: “We want to engage better with residents online and enhance the overall user experience. This is a big step forwards and just the start of improvements to our online services.”

Mark Cridge, Chief Executive at SocietyWorks said: “We’re thrilled to be working with Peterborough City Council again. By integrating both FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks into its line of business systems, the council and its residents will benefit from a truly joined-up reporting service that puts user-friendliness at its heart.

“Peterborough is a really forward-thinking council, and it’s been a real pleasure to collaborate with the team on this project and build a service that works around the real-life needs of residents and staff.”

Residents in Peterborough can access the new waste service right now.

WasteWorks is available to all UK councils. Request a demo to find out more.

New research: citizen expectations for local authority reporting services

Our new report Citizen reporting in the UK 2022, which explores whether and how citizens make reports about problems in their local area, has been published. 

Based on a nationwide YouGov survey commissioned by SocietyWorks, the report aims to help councils and other public sector organisations that need to take reports from citizens about a variety of issues to stay informed of ever-changing expectations. 

Among some of our key findings, we discovered that the majority of citizens surveyed said they haven’t reported a problem in the last few years due to experiencing previous disappointment caused by unresolved reports. 

We also learned that only 22% of respondents wanted a dedicated mobile app for making reports, while 43% would prefer a website that works well on mobile devices.

Alex Parsons, senior researcher at our parent charity mySociety, with whom we collaborated on this research, said: ‘Citizen reports of problems both help citizens feel guardianship over their area, and alert authorities to problems. Managing the feedback loop and the expectations of citizens is important because problems being reported and not fixed makes citizens less likely to report again. 

‘The philosophy of our services is that citizens should not need to understand how overlapping systems of government work to report problems, and this is validated by strong support for a tool that can route the request to the right place. 

‘Making it easy to report problems and keep citizens informed about progress improves the relationship between local councils and citizens and means citizens don’t need to follow-up through other methods.’ 

Councils that are keen to transform their service delivery for citizens can carry some key priorities forward from this research to help them harness the full potential of proactive citizen-made reports, without increasing the burden on customer services teams.

Read the full report, Citizen reporting in the UK 2022, here.

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