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You can now customise FixMyStreet Pro’s duplicate report radius per category

An update has been made to FixMyStreet Pro’s duplicate report suggestion feature to enable staff users to customise the radius within which potential duplicate reports are suggested to users on a per category basis.

Councils and other public sector organisations using FixMyStreet Pro benefit from the ability to suggest potential duplicate reports to users. 

If the problem that’s about to be reported is indeed a duplicate, FixMyStreet Pro encourages the user to subscribe to the existing report instead of creating a new one, saving time for the would-be report-maker and creating no extra work for the authority.

 

A screenshot of Lincolnshire County Council's FixMyStreet Pro service, showing the duplicate report suggestion feature
A screenshot of Lincolnshire County Council’s FixMyStreet Pro service, showing the duplicate report suggestion feature

 

The duplicate suggestion tool uses the location and category of the in-progress report to scan for existing reports of a similar nature within a certain radius. By default the tool scans for open reports, but authorities can customise this to also include internal, closed, fixed or even related sub-category reports.

Last year we announced an update which enabled the different councils and authorities using FixMyStreet Pro to customise the radius within which reports are suggested for their individual version of the service.

Now, a second update means the radius can also be customised per category. 

This allows even more flexibility for authorities, who can incorporate many different service areas into their FixMyStreet Pro service, the categories for which may benefit from a larger or smaller radius.

For example, a larger radius can be useful for reports about issues that are likely to cover a large area, where users may drop a pin in a number of places to report the same issue. 

Meanwhile, a smaller radius can be more helpful for categories of problems in areas where there may be lots of reports of similar, but not identical problems.

For more information about this feature, or about FixMyStreet Pro in general, please get in touch.


London boroughs of Kingston and Sutton take requests for bulky waste collections with WasteWorks

Following the recent implementation of WasteWorks in the London boroughs of Kingston and Sutton, both councils’ versions of the service can now be used by residents to book bulky waste collections online.

WasteWorks was chosen by Kingston and Sutton in 2022 as part of a programme of ongoing improvements to residential waste services for both boroughs. The service is already used by residents to easily and conveniently access information about their bin days, report problems with collections, request new containers and subscribe to green waste collections.

The addition of the bulky waste collection functionality incorporates another aspect of the councils’ waste service into WasteWorks’ user-friendly interface, which was designed in collaboration with Bromley Council to simplify access to residential waste online and reduce avoidable customer contact.

Image shows a desktop and mobile version of the bulky waste collection service of WasteWorks for Kingston and Sutton

For Kingston and Sutton, WasteWorks is integrated with the Selected Interventions Echo in-cab system, which is used by Veolia, the waste contractor for both councils. This integration enables a seamless two-way flow of data between residents and Veolia, sharing up-to-date information about waste collections, such as when a bin will next be collected, or why a collection was missed, and enabling residents to reserve available collection slots for bulky waste.

To allow residents to pay for their collections within the same workflow, WasteWorks is also integrated with the Capita Pay 360 payment system for Kingston, and the Barclaycard system for Sutton. 

Residents can also use WasteWorks to report a missed bulky collection and submit cancellation requests.

Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks, said: “The delivery of WasteWorks for Kingston and Sutton has been a significant collaborative effort between SocietyWorks, Kingston and Sutton, Selected Interventions and Veolia. All parties share a dedication to improving waste services for residents, and we are thrilled to be able to support them with this with scalable, citizen-centred technology.” 

Find out more about WasteWorks here


New category search functionality added to FixMyStreet

Users of FixMyStreet can now select an appropriate category for their report using a newly added search bar.

After locating the problem they want to report, either by typing in a location or locating themselves automatically using GPS and dropping a pin on the map, users can type in the search bar to find an available category.

The search functionality will begin to suggest available categories to the user, who can either select one, continue searching or choose from a list of all available categories, the latter of which was previously the only option.

It’s important to note that categories are set by each individual council or authority to reflect the issues they can deal with. 

Improving accuracy and user experience

The category selected by a report-maker is responsible for the routing of the report and dictates any automated messaging sent to them, making it a very important thing to get right.

We carried out some independent user testing with members of the public to see if using a search bar to find a category made things easier and more accurate. 

Image shows how the FixMyStreet search function works on both desktop and mobile devices

 

We found that searching for a category on FixMyStreet does in fact make it not only faster for users to find the category they’re looking for by narrowing down their options, but also assists them in finding the best one to help the responsible authority respond appropriately.

For example, should a member of the public type in the word ‘sign’, FixMyStreet will display a list of available subcategories relating to problems with and adjacent to signs, helping them choose the exact problem they have found.

Next steps: local language and controlled vocabularies

A challenge we’re currently exploring solutions to is how we teach the search functionality to accommodate the fact that there can be multiple words for the same thing. For example, what the council calls a drain, might not be the same as what a member of the public calls it. 

There are also linguistic differences in terms of what something is called in one area of the UK versus another. 

To mitigate the risk of confusion and improve accessibility we are prototyping the use of controlled vocabularies to organise search terms, including attaching variants and related terms to so-called  ‘preferred’ or ‘standard’ terms. 

Whatever we do, we need to make sure the search functionality doesn’t produce an unwieldy list of potential matches. 

It’s a work in progress, and we’ll hopefully have more to share soon!

For councils or other authorities using FixMyStreet Pro, the search functionality will be rolled out to your individual instance of the service soon. Please speak to your account manager if you have any questions.

For everyone else, here’s where you can find more information about:

  • FixMyStreet – the national reporting service for local problems run by civic technology charity mySociety since 2007;
  • FixMyStreet Pro – the fully integrated version of FixMyStreet, run by SocietyWorks (the wholly owned subsidiary of mySociety) and developed in collaboration with councils.

Groups and multiple categories added to FixMyStreet Pro dashboard filters

Councils and other authorities using FixMyStreet Pro can filter and export all of their report data via the administration dashboard. 

Reports can be filtered and exported by date, category, ward, state (eg. open or closed) and role (eg. as well as reports made by citizens, some might be made by customer service operatives while others might be by on-the-ground engineers and officers).

A new update to the dashboard means staff users can now do more with the category filter, having the option to select groups of reports via parent categories or even select multiple categories at once for export.

This update should make it easier and faster to refine data selections. For example, if you were interested in seeing all reports about problems related to street lighting, instead of clicking each and every street lighting category you can simply select the parent category  ‘All street lighting’.

Here’s an example of how it looks on Oxfordshire County Council’s FixMyStreet Pro:

Screenshot of Oxfordshire County Council's FixMyStreet Pro administration dashboard showing the category filter drop down menu

Alternatively, you might want to view all reports of faults with drains and bollards, so you can select both at the same time. See below an example of how this works on Camden Council’s FixMyStreet Pro:

Screenshot of Camden Council's FixMyStreet Pro administration dashboard showing the category filter drop down menu

Data exports can be accessed via the dashboard web page or by programmatic access via the API, the latter of which can be used to import the data straight into a business intelligence platform.

Want more information about FixMyStreet Pro? Find it here.


Managing expectations during periods of seasonal demand with FixMyStreet Pro

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.

Set some site-wide messaging 

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:

Screenshot of Northumberland County Council's FixMyStreet Pro homepage showing messaging detailing emergency contact details and winter maintenance policies

And another from Buckinghamshire Council’s version of the service:

Screenshot of winter messaging added to Buckinghamshire Council's FixMyStreet Pro service

Upload videos to provide extra information

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.

Screenshot of the homepage of Buckinghamshire Council's FixMyStreet Pro showing the winter maintenance video

Meanwhile, Oxfordshire County Council uses video to illustrate its intervention criteria and ensure its residents understand what can and can’t be fixed. 

Screenshot of Oxfordshire County Council's FixMyStreet Pro homepage showing their video which explains what the council can and can't fix

Include photos and extra questions within the report form

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. 

Screenshot of an extra question used by Bath & North East Somerset Council which appears when a user selects the blocked drains category

Divert emergency reports  

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:

Screenshot of an emergency message which appears on Shropshire Council's installation of FixMyStreet Pro

Edit response templates 

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:

Screenshot of some of the responses sent to report-makers by Lincolnshire County Council

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.

 

Display scheduled works on the map

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. 

Screenshot of Oxfordshire County Council's FixMyStreet Pro map showing special pins to indicate scheduled works

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


Faster data export downloads from FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks

Staff users of our FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks solutions will now benefit from much faster data export downloads thanks to a new update we’ve made to the export functionality. Exports should now be ready to start downloading within a short space of time.

The faster download speeds apply to both user access through the dashboard web page, or programmatic access via the API, making it particularly useful for those of our clients which use Power BI to track performance levels. 

Example of the administration dashboard of FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks from which staff users can filter and export report data

In order to be performant, data is now pre-generated overnight ready for export, so it’s worth noting the CSV export won’t include information from the current day.

Standard data exports contain all the information about reports or requests made via FixMyStreet Pro and/or WasteWorks, including categories, states and device types, and can be filtered by date, ward, category, status and administrator role. Exports can also be customised according to the requirements of individual clients.

FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks customers also have access to a heatmap showing the concentration of reports by area

If you’re a client of FixMyStreet Pro or WasteWorks and would like any help with data exports, please open a ticket via the support desk system.

Or if you’re interested in finding out more about our solutions, get in touch

Image: Carlos Muza


Small items collection functionality added to WasteWorks

In collaboration with Brent Council we have added some new functionality to WasteWorks which enables residents to book a waste collection for small items including batteries and textiles.

WasteWorks is our front end residential waste platform designed with and for councils to provide simple online access for residents to information about their waste collections. It has the flexibility not just to integrate with any in-cab system or payment provider, but to also easily incorporate extra elements of a waste service as required by councils, including bulky waste, green garden waste, assisted collections, and now small items collections.

The new small items collection functionality was built for Brent Council’s installation of WasteWorks. Now, along with being able to view and download their waste collection schedules, report problems, request new containers and pay for garden waste subscriptions, residents in Brent can also use WasteWorks to access the council’s free bookable small items collection service. 

Examples of how Brent's small item collection booking service looks on desktop on mobile

Integrated with the Selected Interventions Echo in-cab system used by Brent Council’s waste contractor Veolia, WasteWorks takes residents through an intuitive request workflow within which they can select from a list of items included in the small items collection service and book a time slot according to availability. Each request created via WasteWorks is automatically sent into Echo for staff and contractors to manage directly.

Using this feature, residents can also cancel a booking for a small item collection, or report that a collection has been missed. The integration between WasteWorks and Echo will allow the council to keep residents informed on the progress of their requests and reports.

Councillor Krupa Sheth, Cabinet Member for Environment, Infrastructure, and Climate Action, said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for residents to get rid of your items in the most environmentally friendly way possible, as well as making it easy as possible. I welcome this partnership and look forward to working with SocietyWorks on this service.”

Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks said: “We take pride in the fact that each of our digital solutions is developed in collaboration with councils. This new feature of WasteWorks built in partnership with Brent Council is another great example of how the product continues to grow in line with the needs of councils and their residents.”

Find out more about WasteWorks or if you’re an existing WasteWorks client and you’d like to use this new feature please speak to your account manager.


Abandoned hire bikes and e-scooters can now be reported via FixMyStreet

Citizens in London can now report abandoned hire bikes and e-scooters via FixMyStreet, which will send reports directly to the operator responsible. 

A new report category has been added to FixMyStreet to enable citizens to report abandoned hire bikes and e-scooters in and around London. Reports of such problems can also be made via FixMyStreet Pro, the individually branded and integrated version of the service used by several London borough councils and by Transport for London (TfL).

Importantly, any reports submitted under this category, whether made on the national FixMyStreet site or via an authority’s own branded FixMyStreet Pro service, are sent directly to the operator responsible for the abandoned bike or e-scooter. FixMyStreet is currently able to triage reports to Lime, Dott, Forest and Tier.

 

Abandoned hire bikes or scooters can be reported via the mobile and desktop versions of FixMyStreet and will be sent directly to Lime, Dott, Forest, Tier or TfL

 

Upon selecting the ‘Abandoned bikes/scooters’ category, FixMyStreet asks report-makers to select which operator is responsible for the bike or e-scooter in question. Reports are then sent to the appropriate operator, containing all the other useful information included as standard in a FixMyStreet report, such as the report-maker’s details, easting and northing, latitude and longitude, nearest postcode to the pin placed on the map and more.

There is also the option to report abandoned Santander Cycles to TfL via FixMyStreet, which has been available since 2020. Whenever a report-maker selects the ‘Abandoned Santander Cycle’ category, these reports will be automatically triaged to TfL, even when made via a London council’s own FixMyStreet Pro service or TfL’s. 

 

Brent Council’s FixMyStreet Pro service takes reports for abandoned hire bikes or scooters and sends them straight to the relevant operator

 

Angela Dixon, Managing Director at SocietyWorks, said: “The provision of cycle and e-scooter hire schemes helps councils to support greener local travel and alleviate capacity pressures on peak time public transport services. However, when incidents of abandonment occur they create a nuisance for residents and put an unnecessary strain on council customer services, who have to manually triage reports to their contracted operators.

“We hope this new feature of FixMyStreet and FixMyStreet Pro helps to ease some of that pressure and its associated costs by ensuring reports of abandoned bikes and e-scooters are sent straight to the people who can deal with them, and in turn get neighbourhoods tidied up faster for residents.

“While currently only available in London, we hope to be able to replicate this across the UK in the future for the benefit of more citizens who live in areas where such schemes are in operation.”

FixMyStreet can also be used by citizens to report other local problems such as potholes, fly-tipping and broken street lights. The service has been run since 2007 by civic technology charity mySociety, while the integrated Pro version of the service is run by the charity’s subsidiary SocietyWorks.

Visit the FixMyStreet website for more information about the national service, or if you’re a council or other public body who would like to use the software as your own, find out more about FixMyStreet Pro here.


Share preemptive messaging with residents through WasteWorks

Through integration with in-cab systems, our front-end residential waste solution WasteWorks can retrieve updates and display them to residents in a user-friendly way. 

These updates are intended to preempt common questions residents might have about their waste collections to reduce the need for them to contact the council via phone or email. 

Depending on the type of information available within the in-cab system, updates can relate to anything from sharing when a resident’s bin will next be collected to confirming that a collection has happened or explaining why a collection was unsuccessful.

In doing this, councils can eliminate avoidable customer contact and its associated costs by enabling residents to self-serve key, time-sensitive information. 

How does preemptive messaging work via WasteWorks?

Updates are retrieved via API integration with in-cab systems and can be served as messages to users in a number of ways.

For example, if a resident goes to report that their collection has been missed and the in-cab system knows the reason is because there was a vehicle obstructing the road, messaging can be displayed to inform the resident of this and explain next steps.

Example of some preemptive messaging displayed via Bromley Council’s WasteWorks service

Equally, messaging can be displayed to explain that no collection was carried out at an address because the waste was not presented, and the missed collection report form can be disabled until the next collection round has begun. 

Additionally, councils may want to share messaging on the homepage of their WasteWorks service about planned changes to collection schedules in advance of bank holidays, so that residents know what to expect.

Notifying residents of changes to bin collection schedules

In the event of councils needing to make changes to scheduled collections, this information is best shared with residents before they need to go looking for it.

Example of how residents can download their collection schedule from WasteWorks

WasteWorks gives residents the ability to download the collection schedule for their property to their device’s calendar. Any changes made to the schedule will be reflected directly and automatically. 

It’s also possible to integrate the service with GOV.UK Notify to send notifications to residents via text or email about waste collections. 

Want to learn more about WasteWorks? There’s more information here, or why not book a short demo with the team.

Image: Centre for Ageing Better


What makes a good report status update?

One of FixMyStreet Pro’s key features is its ability to enable councils to automatically keep residents informed on the status of their reports as they progress.

Status updates are important because, 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.

Templates for report status updates can be created and managed directly from the FixMyStreet Pro administration dashboard, or they can be pulled from an integrated case management system used by the council. Each time a report’s status is changed, an update will be sent to the report-maker and to anyone else subscribed to the report.

Common status updates relate to scenarios such as, but not limited to:

  • Report received 
  • Scheduled for inspection
  • Not council responsibility
  • Scheduled for repair
  • Work underway
  • Unable to fix – and why
  • Re-opened
  • Resolved

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

So that’s what status updates are, but what makes a good one?

Best practice for report status updates

Be transparent 

For updates to be effective in reducing avoidable follow-up contact and failure demand, they need to accurately reflect what’s happening with the report. That means as well as explaining what you are going to do about a problem, you also need to explain if you are not able to do anything and why that is. 

Honest and open updates help you to educate residents on your intervention criteria, manage expectations during periods of high demand and discourage despondency and disengagement even if a problem cannot be fixed. 

An example of a public-facing status update from Lincolnshire County Council

Make it relevant 

Tailor your updates to the different types of problems residents are able to report to you so that they know what to expect once a report has been submitted. It helps to outline the timeframe within which you will respond to different problems, or explain why a particular problem may be higher or lower on your priority list.

Use accessible language

Take care to ensure your updates are understandable to everyone who may receive them. Avoid using technical jargon that only makes sense to members of staff, or codes from your integrated systems that won’t mean anything to residents. 

Additionally, consider using the local words for things where appropriate to apply an extra level of accessibility to the language within your updates. 

Signpost to more information

While it’s good to provide detail in your updates, it’s also important to keep them concise. Put the essential information in the update and include a link to another web page or document where the recipient can find more information if they want to.

Signposting can also be used to direct residents to emergency contact details, additional services and even customer satisfaction surveys.

Don’t create a dead end

If the update you provide is to inform the report-maker that the issue is not your responsibility, try to provide information on who is responsible, or assistance on where they might be able to find this out for themselves. This will help to reduce the likelihood of the report-maker getting back in touch. 

An example of one of TfL’s status updates explaining that the problem was not their responsibility, but had diverted the report

Acknowledge the value of the report

Finally, don’t forget to thank the resident for their report. Research shows that the main reason why residents report problems is because they want to improve the place where they live. Acknowledging this in your responses helps to improve the experience for residents and encourages continued commitment to helping you care for your area. This is particularly important in instances where the problem cannot be fixed. 

Additional advice

Alongside transparent status updates sent to residents after they have made a report, FixMyStreet Pro equips councils with a few useful ways to manage expectations beforehand, too. 

One of these is its site-wide messaging functionality, which displays a message from the council to report-makers in multiple places to inform them of, for example, expected delays in responses due to increased seasonal demand. 

Councils can also schedule these messages to display only during certain times, such as out of hours or during bank holidays.

Another way FixMyStreet Pro helps with this is by enabling councils to assign in-category messages which display during the report workflow. These can be used in a number of ways, such as to help educate on intervention criteria to ensure the report can be actioned or divert emergencies. 

For more information about FixMyStreet Pro and its features, get in touch with us.

Image: Reuben Juarez


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