Oxfordshire County Council are transforming their approach to customer service using FixMyStreet Pro.
So they came to us with a simple question: could FixMyStreet be extended into a complete end-to-end service for citizens, staff and contractors alike? If so, they reckoned there was potential to unlock substantial savings in time, efficiency and cost.
Oxfordshire was the first council to implement FixMyStreet in conjunction with the Open311 standard, when they installed the service in 2013. So it was already clear to them how FixMyStreet was helping to best manage the many issues and reports they receive each day, and how the simplification brought by Open311 was already bringing benefits.
Inspiration came when they realised that, by taking advantage of new developments that were turning FixMyStreet Pro into an end-to-end service, there were still greater gains to be made. So throughout 2016 mySociety worked with Oxfordshire to make this vision a reality, co-developing the latest version of FixMyStreet Pro.
The result? As they hoped, Oxfordshire were able to make immediate savings by removing layers of legacy software. It gave the opportunity to redesign internal reporting workflows, and, where appropriate, direct issues to the correct teams in their District and Parish councils.
Over 50% of Oxfordshire’s budget had previously been spent on management overheads – rekeying reports into multiple systems, manually updating statuses of reports, and making reports on behalf of residents who had used the call centre – so considerable savings were there for the picking, and that’s budget that can now be put towards the actual fixing of issues, rather than lost in internal processes.
Oxfordshire found further, knock-on advantages to this approach too. For starters, citizens and council staff all use a version of the same service.
Their customer service staff use exactly the same user interface as their residents, all branded to look like the Oxfordshire Council site – they see exactly what the citizen sees, so there’s no chance of any miscommunication, and with their extra admin rights they can moderate reports or add an update directly on the page.
While the number of calls to the call centre has substantially reduced, if someone does make a report by phone staff can make a report as the caller, who’ll then be updated via email — or the report can be made anonymously on behalf of the council.
Meanwhile, inspectors’ lives are made easier, too. They can take FixMyStreet Pro with them on their mobile devices, setting their own task lists for the day. The service even works offline when they are in areas with poor mobile coverage, so they can sync up when they get back to the office.
And FixMyStreet Pro does some smart things with automated allocation, all of which Oxfordshire admin staff can control and amend without any need for technical staff to get involved. They can direct specific issue types to a group of staff, or allocate certain wards to specific inspectors.
However they need to slice and dice things, it can all be done via a few clicks on the simple internal admin interface.
But what about citizens? Well, from what we hear they love FixMyStreet too, and not just for its ease of use.
Residents don’t need to understand which part of the council is responsible for dealing with which type of issue – especially important in a large county like Oxfordshire. All they have to do is submit their problem, having quickly checked to see if someone else has already reported it on the map, and then they’ll get regular updates until it’s all wrapped up and resolved. To them it just works, with minimum hassle.
And that’s what an end-to-end, completely streamlined system looks like, for everyone.
We’ve seen how FixMyStreet Pro has brought savings to Oxfordshire.
However, the real world isn’t always simple. Ironically, what a council gains through increased efficiency can be offset by an increase in the number of issues reported — because the service is so much easier for citizens to use. So, to combat this we made sure it was easy for Oxfordshire to easily merge duplicate reports, ensuring that they only have to deal with genuine open reports
Users who go to report an issue but find it’s already on the system can subscribe to the existing report and keep an eye on its progress that way, without having to bother staff who are already on the case.
So while it can be deceptive to look at short-term gains, it’s clear that long-term savings will come from the internal culture change that new service development can support.
This was especially the case in Oxfordshire, where the roll out of the FixMyStreet Pro service has been accompanied by a major overhaul of their internal work allocation and team roles and responsibilities which has led to more motivated staff who feel in-control and able to deal with reports to everyone’s satisfaction.
“FixMyStreet Pro has reduced the average handling time of our calls from nearly 4 minutes to around 2 minutes. The team find the system simple to use and are actively encouraging residents, Councillors and Parish Councils to verify reports and create their own accounts so that they can track their reports, receive updates and benefit from much better locational information than use of email.”
Tim White, Oxfordshire County Council
As FixMyStreet Pro is used by so many different staff within Oxfordshire, we’ve supported their transition with individual and group trainings sessions covering service setup, customer service workflow, performance reporting and inspections.
Because FixMyStreet Pro is provided as a Software as a Service, like all our customers Oxfordshire continues to benefit from new service developments and improvements: it’s all part of the package at no extra cost.
And as there’s no limit on the number of users, the service can scale and adapt with the needs of the council.
FixMyStreet Pro is transforming Oxfordshire’s approach to customer service and is an exemplar for the rest of the organisation as to what can be done with a little imagination and cooperation.