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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.

Fix­My­Street Pro is a pro­gress­ive web app. Here’s how that benefits you

At SocietyWorks we always design our websites as ‘mobile first’, meaning that they work well on any size of device, automatically resize to fit any screen dimension and facilitate a simple, touch-friendly workflow for completing forms.

But did you know that FixMyStreet Pro, our street, highway and environment fault reporting service, is also a progressive web app (PWA)? 

Loosely speaking, this means that each of our clients’ FixMyStreet Pro sites has been designed with ‘app like’ qualities. They look and act like an app and they can be downloaded to a mobile’s home screen like an app.

How do PWAs benefit you?

According to some research we carried out earlier this year, only 22% of citizens want to use an app they have to download to make reports to their local authority,  while 43% would simply prefer to use a website that works well on mobile devices.

However, we know that some of our public sector clients like to be able to offer citizens an app to download to access their services, in addition to a mobile-friendly website.

PWAs provide the ideal solution. Unlike a dedicated app, PWAs give citizens the ability to choose how they want to use the service – whether that’s like a website or like an app –  with no obligation either way. 

They also enable you to provide exactly the same experience to citizens whichever way they are using the service, with new features and functionality automatically available. Conversely, a dedicated app may require updates to be downloaded after the initial installation, and if auto-updates aren’t available, the app won’t work to its maximum potential.

Another handy thing about PWAs is that they permit the addition of offline capability to your website, by downloading a bit of JavaScript (called a service worker) to your device. If you can’t connect to the website then it falls back to the service worker, which can also save reports when you have no connection and then upload them when you do. 

How to save a PWA as an app

To use FixMyStreet Pro as an app, simply load your cobrand site from your mobile’s browser, and from your settings select “Add to home screen”.

A shortcut to the PWA will then appear in the same way that an app does, except when you click it, a new browser tab will open instead of a dedicated app. 

Here’s a step-by-step example of how it works for Buckinghamshire Council’s version of FixMyStreet Pro. 

Image shows Buckinghamshire Council's PWA being added to a homescreen like an app, and how it looks when opened

The PWA’s design makes it feel like you’re using a ‘normal’ app, with its mobile-friendly features, but you’re benefiting from using a web-based service that doesn’t require you to keep updating it. 

As you can see, the favicon for the ‘app’ can be branded to use your own logo.

Please note: if no logo is supplied for the favicon, the FixMyStreet logo will be used by default.

Please speak to your account manager for more information about the PWA version of your FixMyStreet Pro instance. 

Or if you’re not yet using FixMyStreet Pro but you’d like to know more, please get in touch.

Image: Lucas Hoang

Automatically triage reports to parish and town councils with FixMyStreet Pro

Recently we’ve been working with Buckinghamshire Council on introducing some new functionality to FixMyStreet Pro, our integrated street, highway and environment reporting service, to enable automatic triaging of reports to town and parish councils, and better ways of passing reports between authorities.

Parish and town councils

Map showing all the town and parish councils in England and Wales

Parish and town councils cover almost the entirety of England and Wales, except for the main urban areas. There are 10,000 parish or town councils in England (National Association for Local Councils), and over 730 town and community councils in Wales (Welsh Local Government Association).

These councils take responsibility for a variety of things within the community, such as bridleways, bus shelters and litter bins, and they sit within larger principal authorities which may also sometimes be responsible for the same things in certain cases.

For this reason, when there’s a problem that needs reporting, it can be hard for citizens to know which level of authority is responsible for what problem and when.

New functionality for FixMyStreet Pro

FixMyStreet has always been able to automatically divert fault reports to other councils and authorities, based on the location and category of the report – but not at the parish level. Until now.

With the new functionality in place, parish and town councils can be set up as sub-bodies to a principal council within its instance of FixMyStreet Pro, and on the national FixMyStreet site. 

This way, categories can be assigned to more than one body, and asset layers can be placed over the map to enable the service to work out for the report-maker whether the report needs to go to the principal authority or the parish level council.

Case study: Buckinghamshire

Buckinghamshire’s town and parish councils

Buckinghamshire Council is a unitary authority, but the county itself is made up entirely of parish and town councils. Residents can report numerous issues via Buckinghamshire’s FixMyStreet Pro site, some of which are the responsibility of the unitary council, others the responsibility of the parishes.

Previously, Buckinghamshire staff were forwarding reports to individual parish councils wherever necessary, but this wasn’t ideal, so they asked us to make it possible for FixMyStreet Pro to work out for the resident where the report needs to go, and to send it there without the need for any manual intervention. 

For example, any reports of fly posting are now diverted straight to the correct parish, based on the geo location information provided within the report.

In more complex cases, such as grass cutting, the recipient of these reports depends on the speed limit of the road. So, at one end of the road a grass cutting report might need to go to the parish, but at the other end of the road the report needs to go to the unitary council. 

Aylesbury Town Council’s own section of Buckinghamshire’s FixMyStreet Pro service

Thankfully, the report-maker never needs to worry about this, because Buckinghamshire’s FixMyStreet Pro uses a speed limit asset layer, in addition to the geo-location and category, to work out where to send the report.

Additionally, from Buckinghamshire’s FixMyStreet Pro site, you can now view each individual parish or town council on its own map, along with the reports it has received. 

Wider benefits to councils

While Buckinghamshire and its parishes were the focus when building this new functionality, a few of the features we introduced are beneficial to all users of FixMyStreet Pro.

Updating report statuses via email

Arguably the most important one of these features is the ability to provide updates on reports without integration into a backend system. 

As you can imagine, most small parish or town councils don’t have expensive backend systems from which to manage inbound reports. In the past, whenever there’s been no backend system with which to integrate FixMyStreet Pro to facilitate a two-way flow of data, the only option would have been to email the reports.

In the spirit of keeping the feedback loop closed and being able to publicly display a report’s status (eg ‘fixed’ or ‘in progress’) on the site, we’ve made it possible for parish councils to update reports via email using a special code in the subject line, which will correspond to the new status of the report.

Of course, lots of councils or other authorities receiving reports from FixMyStreet may not have a backend system, so this feature is a really positive step forward in ensuring that feedback can always be provided transparently via the platform.

Private text updates

Another feature that will be of use to more than just parish and town councils and their principal authorities is the ability to specify different text to be displayed on the public report update and the private update sent directly to the report-maker. 

This is useful for sharing any extra information that you may not want to display publicly, such as feedback surveys.

Recategorising reports

Finally, Buckinghamshire wanted to be able to recategorise reports, because citizens sometimes select the wrong category. This could lead to reports being sent to a parish council when they should go to the unitary council, or vice versa. 

Now, council staff have the option to reassign a category if needed, which will ensure the report gets to the right place in the end.

For more information about FixMyStreet Pro, you can contact us here.

Image: Beth Jnr on Unsplash

Schedule out of hours messages to display on FixMyStreet Pro

Evenings and weekends, bank holidays or special occasions – there are lots of times when councils and other local government bodies using our street and highway fault reporting service FixMyStreet Pro need to communicate out of hours information with citizens. 

On such occasions, it’s important that this information is shared with them before a report is made, to manage expectations, divert emergencies and reduce the likelihood of failure demand.

Happily, doing exactly that just got a lot easier, thanks to a new feature of FixMyStreet Pro, which enables staff to schedule out of hours messages in advance.

 

Easily share out of hours information

This new feature builds upon some existing functionality, which, until now, enabled a message to be hardcoded onto the homepage of FixMyStreet Pro sites, to be displayed at all times, most commonly used for communicating emergency contact numbers.

Now, not only can messages can be easily set up from the FixMyStreet Pro dashboard for both the homepage and reporting pages, a separate message can also be scheduled to display during pre-selected out of hours time periods, to explain, for example, how reports will be handled during this time, when to expect a reply and where to go if the issue is an emergency.

This is especially beneficial to councils and other agencies that have different procedures for handling emergencies within and outside of working hours – procedures which citizens cannot be expected to know off by heart.

For example, your out of hours emergency phone number might be different from the one you want citizens to use during normal working hours.

An example of how Central Bedfordshire Council uses FixMyStreet Pro’s emergency message functionality on the homepage of their Pro site

 

Setting up messages

Messages for both the homepage and reporting pages can be set up by your staff within the admin dashboard of FixMyStreet Pro, with the option to write a different message for each page if required. 

During scheduled out of hours time periods, the out of hours message will be displayed to report-makers. At all other times, the normal message will be displayed. 

If you only require messaging to be displayed during out of hours, then only the out of hours text box needs to be filled in and a time period selected. Equally, if no messaging is required, then both can be left blank.

There’s no limit to how many time periods can be scheduled, and schedules can be edited or removed easily whenever necessary.

 

Thinking outside the box

As with most of FixMyStreet Pro’s features, the out of hours message scheduler originated as a great idea suggested by a council using the service. 

Although it was originally intended for sharing emergency procedures and out of hours information, the message function can also be used for other purposes.

For example, Bromley Council uses it to advertise its green garden waste service.

Bromley Council uses FixMyStreet Pro's message functionality to signpost to its green garden waste service

To find out more about FixMyStreet Pro, why not request a short demo with the SocietyWorks team?

Image: Frank Busch on Unsplash

How FixMyStreet intelligently diverts reports of litter on England’s highways

Litter is one of many local issues that can be reported using FixMyStreet, mySociety’s nationwide, map-based street reporting service. 

Each report received by FixMyStreet is sent to the council or authority responsible for dealing with the problem, which is established by the selected category and geo-location information within the report.

Reporting issues on England’s highways

Should a report be made about an issue on one of England’s highways, FixMyStreet knows to send it to National Highways instead of the local council, thanks to integration with the highways agency. 

National Highways also offers its own branded version of FixMyStreet Pro, enabling citizens to make reports directly to the agency using the platform’s intelligent functionality. 

Because all Pro sites are connected to the main FixMyStreet platform, wherever a report is made, they all end up in the same place, and the map will be able to display all existing reports to report-makers to help reduce duplication and improve transparency.

Not our problem

National Highways manages a vast stretch of motorways and some A roads, but not all problems found on those roads are its responsibility. Depending on the type of road, some issues, like litter, actually fall to the local council to take care of.

It would be unreasonable to expect citizens to know who is and isn’t responsible for different issues on different roads, which is where FixMyStreet’s ability to create an asset layer-based connected network for reporting  problems really shines. 

As mentioned above, the national FixMyStreet site automatically sends reports to the correct place based on the category and location of the problem. So if a citizen uses FixMyStreet to report litter on a road managed by National Highways but on which the council would be responsible for litter, the service will work this out behind the scenes and ensure the report goes to the correct place.

Screenshot of National Highways' FixMyStreet Pro site. Map on the right hand side with a green map pin showing the location of an issue. On the left hand side a message in a blue textbox explains that National Highways is not responsible.

If a citizen goes to National Highways’ own FixMyStreet Pro site to make a report about litter on a road where the council is responsible, when the pin is dropped on the map and the ‘litter’ category is selected, a message will appear explaining that National Highways is not responsible. 

From here, the report-maker is encouraged to continue onto the nationwide FixMyStreet site, where the details of the report will be carried over, the remaining information can be filled in and the report can be submitted to the correct council.

FixMyStreet was built to make it easier for citizens to report any local problem, without needing to know who is responsible. FixMyStreet Pro gives councils and other public authorities the opportunity to adopt the service as their own – hosted and managed by us. 

To find out more about FixMyStreet or FixMyStreet Pro, request a demo

Image: Wilhelm Gunkel

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

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.

5 ways FixMyStreet Pro helps to keep customer contacts down during seasons of high demand

With winter weather come the inevitable problems that need reporting by citizens across the UK’s network of roads and highways. From potholes to floods to fallen trees, every year the councils and public authorities responsible for investigating these reports rise to the challenge of dealing with increased contacts from citizens.

For over ten years now, our FixMyStreet Pro service has been helping to reduce the load on those authorities, while also improving the reporting experience for citizens, by closing the feedback loop and increasing transparency.

With councils helping to drive our product development roadmap, we’ve added a whole host of features and functions that help to keep contacts down, especially during seasons of high demand. Check out some of our favourites below.

1. Show existing reports on the map

One report per defect. That’s our ultimate aim in publicly displaying existing reports on the map for citizens to take a look and see whether the problem they have spotted has already been brought to your attention.

When a citizen clicks on the map to make a report and selects a category, FixMyStreet Pro will find any similar reports within the same area and suggest them to the citizen before they continue with their report. If the problem has already been reported, the citizen can simply subscribe to the existing report instead of creating a new one.

For you, that means no duplication of effort, and a faster way to keep any interested citizens updated on the report’s progress.

2. Share scheduled remedial works

What’s even better than stopping duplicate reports? Removing the need to report a problem in the first place – something FixMyStreet Pro does by enabling you to display upcoming remedial works on the map.

If a problem’s location and category corresponds to some works you’ve already scheduled, display a message detailing the works and expected completion date to reassure the citizen that no report is needed, just like Bath & North East Somerset are doing in the image to the left.

Alternatively, you can display works as alternative pins on the map, to display when ‘All reports’ are selected by citizens, just like Oxfordshire County Council.

3. Provide updates on report progress

It’s always great when citizens care enough about their local neighbourhood to report any problems to you. And because they care, they tend to want to know exactly what’s happening about fixing the problem not long after reporting it, especially if the issue is affecting their everyday life.

By integrating with any and all back office systems you use, FixMyStreet Pro makes it easy for your teams to keep report-makers updated on the progress of their reports. Tell them that it’s due to be inspected, let them know when works have been scheduled, even send them a photo when the problem’s been resolved – all at the click of a button.

This way, you can reduce the likelihood of citizens jumping straight onto the phone or emailing you to chase for an update on their report.

4. Divert emergency issuesBuckinghamshire Council shows a message asking report-makers to use an alternative phone number if the problem is an emergency

Some problems need to be dealt with faster than others. Trees blocking roads, serious flooding or dangerous potholes are all examples of problems you might need to know about a bit faster than via a digital report.

In those cases, you can display emergency messaging on FixMyStreet Pro and signpost to the best way for citizens to tell you about emergencies, whether that’s a phone number or an email.

5. Automatically reroute reports that aren’t your responsibility

In areas like London where multiple authorities are responsible for fixing different problems, FixMyStreet Pro’s intelligent functionality to reroute reports to the correct place really comes in handy, helping you to avoid having to process reports that you can’t fix.

Depending on the location and category of the report, FixMyStreet Pro will automatically work out who’s responsible for a problem, and direct the citizen away from your service with no interruption to the reporting process and no intervention required from your staff.

 

For more information about how FixMyStreet Pro can help you to improve reporting for you and your residents, why not book a quick demo?

Image: Jonathan Bean

 

FixMyStreet version 4.0 is here

We have released a new version of our open source report-mapping software on FixMyStreet Platform, which enables citizens across the world to set up and run websites like FixMyStreet and match geographical points to email addresses, for free.

FixMyStreet 4.0 incorporates numerous new features, and is available to anyone running a site on the platform, including our own fixmystreet.com, the versions we provide for councils and other public sector organisations and the many international FixMyStreet websites run by others from Croatia to Uruguay.

Here’s an overview of what you can expect from version 4.0.

Multi-page reporting form

An even more simple and logical reporting form which takes a ‘one detail at a time’ approach, helping the report-maker to provide the most accurate information without getting overwhelmed. You’ll also notice that we’ve switched from a category drop-down to radio buttons, for the particular benefit of mobile users.

 

Photo redaction

Version 4.0 also includes photo redaction support, enabling you to moderate parts of a photo that should not be public without removing the whole photo. Photos can be modified individually, and once saved, the changes to the image will be reflected everywhere it is displayed. If you need to revert a redaction or you want to remove the entire image, you still can with no hassle.

Development Docker environment

There’s now a development Docker environment, which should make it easier for anyone wanting to create their own website using the platform to spin up a local copy of the code for development. If you have Docker and Docker Compose installed, a fresh clone and then docker/compose-dev up should set everything up for you.

Other improvements

Report-makers can now specify a radius when signing up for an email alert, the mobile site has an improved navigation menu and the search box supports Maidenhead Locator references.

See the full list of version 4.0 features and all the information you need for upgrading on the FixMyStreet Platform blog.

Image: Sri Jalasutram

New joined-up admin functionality across FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks

View and monitor reports for each of your service areas through one visual heatmap, built into the dashboard of FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks.

Back in 2019 we worked with Bromley Council to introduce a new heatmap feature to FixMyStreet Pro’s arsenal of tools for council staff. 

The heatmap converts report data into a visual format that is easy to understand, allowing council staff to see at a glance which issues are most prevalent, and where they are being reported.

Since being rolled out to all Pro customers, the heatmap has become one of the service’s most popular and useful features, which is why we built the same functionality for our new waste service WasteWorks.

Bromley also co-designed WasteWorks with us, and so is one of the first councils to go live with the service and benefit from being able to track and manage more than one service area from a single, central dashboard.

Now, when Bromley staff log in to their FixMyStreet Pro dashboard and select the heatmap overlay, as well as being able to view street and highways reports, they can also see where reports and requests are being submitted through WasteWorks for waste services.

The heatmap looks and works in the same way as before for Bromley. Hotter colours represent higher report volume, cooler colours represent fewer reports, and dropdown filters allow staff to view report data by category, status, timeframe and ward.

By default, the heatmap shows every report made to the council in the last month, so initially the map will look something like this:

Bromley Council's heatmap on FixMyStreet Pro

But now, without needing to leave the page, Bromley staff can view reports about, say, fly-tips, made in the last 12 months, which have been closed

Bromley Council's heatmap on FixMyStreet Pro

…or, green garden waste subscriptions, which have been completed in the last 5 days.

Green garden waste subscriptions shown on Bromley Council's heatmap

Heatmaps for both FixMyStreet Pro and WasteWorks are available to all UK councils. If you’d like to see how they work, you can request a demo.

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