When citizens are subscribed to receive email updates about a FixMyStreet report by council staff, they will now receive an email to acknowledge their subscription straight away.
If you’re familiar with our FixMyStreet Pro service, you’ll know that it allows citizens to subscribe to updates on existing issues rather than re-reporting. It’s a nifty feature that helps to give citizens a transparent view of how problems are being dealt with and reduces duplicate reports, saving councils time and money.
But did you know that council staff can also manually subscribe citizens to FixMyStreet reports if they need to?
Say, for example, a citizen has called your customer service centre to report a pothole that’s already been reported to you via FixMyStreet. If that citizen wants to stay informed about what happens next regarding fixing the pothole, you can subscribe them to the original FixMyStreet report. This way, they’re kept in the loop whenever an update is issued by staff within your case management system, and they shouldn’t need to call you back about the issue.
All sounds good, right?
It is, but there was one thing that Oxfordshire County Council pointed out could make it even better.
They realised that, on certain occasions when the time between the citizen being subscribed to a report by council staff and an email being sent with an update was a little longer, the citizen was sometimes forgetting why they were receiving the email, and would call the council again to ask.
So to combat this, we’ve now introduced a new subscription confirmation email to the FixMyStreet Pro service. This means that when council staff manually subscribe a citizen to a report, the citizen receives an email to acknowledge the subscription straight away. It’s a simple step that should help to alleviate any confusion in the event of the first email update about the report not arriving for several days.
The subscription acknowledgement email is now in place for all councils using FixMyStreet Pro.
If you have any questions about this new feature, or you have an idea for another, let us know.
Image: Steven Phillips on Unsplash
Were you aware that councils, as registered Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA) members, get free, unlimited access to Ordnance Survey’s Premium Maps API?
Peterborough City Council were, and so, using an API key, we’ve just completed some work updating the OS maps displayed on their instance of FixMyStreet Pro – and don’t they look magnificent?
So what’s different about these maps, aside from being very nice to look at?
Well, the high-level OS maps available in this way show a lot more detail to citizens, especially when tiles are zoomed in, which should help them to make more accurate reports about streets and highways defects.
Using the API should also produce a faster loading time for tiles and removes the need for watermarks.
Another benefit of displaying maps like this is that councils don’t need to provide us with the source data for the maps or worry about keeping it up to date; OS will take care of that.
Of course, councils who have their own map servers can already display data in this way via FixMyStreet Pro, but for those who don’t host their own map tiles, the OS Maps API offers a really neat solution.
Or, if you’re a council already using FixMyStreet Pro and you would like to explore connecting up your OS Maps API, let us know.
The arrival of March (how fast did that come around?!) brought with it the end of the fourth SocietyWorks sprint of the year, so here’s your update on what the team got up to.
This sprint we worked with Peterborough City Council to introduce some new maps to their instance of FixMyStreet Pro using Ordnance Survey’s Maps API (which is totally free for PSGA members such as councils). The high-level OS maps available this way show a lot more detail to citizens, which should result in more accurate reports. We might be biased, but we think the new maps look beautiful.
The new maps are available to all FixMyStreet Pro customers – let us know if you want to display them, too.
Also with Peterborough City Council, we created some new bin icons to include on their in-development waste management system. This system will be integrated with Bartec and will allow citizens to report missed bins to the council easily online. Find out more about our new waste service here.
In more waste-related news, our green garden waste project with Bromley Council continues. This sprint we have been focusing on the citizen forms and how to make the process of completing them as easy as possible. This was based on prototypes first, and is now being coded up after feedback from the client.
Thinking about how we can improve the FixMyStreet Pro citizen user experience further still, we worked on creating the functionality to populate citizens’ details if they’ve already logged in to FixMyStreet to make report-making even smoother.
Another FixMyStreet Pro improvement, we’ve been working with London Borough of Bexley, who have recently created new email templates to keep their citizens informed on report progress. This is a key part of the product, and is very flexible, allowing our clients to send custom wording per status and category.
Also this sprint, we started our first rounds of interviews for the new noise case management project we’re working on with Hackney Council – we’ll be creating separate sprint notes every two weeks for this too, so look out for them.
As there is light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic, we’ve also been looking at what the next three years could look like for SocietyWorks by creating a three-year strategy, giving us a clear path to follow and goals to work towards.
If you read our previous sprint notes, you’ll know that we’ve set ourselves the goal of celebrating our hard work more from now on. Sticking to our promises, we entered another award this sprint – this time it was the Digital Leaders Impact Awards. We decided on the Social Transformation category, focusing on the positive impact FixMyStreet Pro has on councils and their residents. Wish us luck!
Last not definitely least, we’re very excited to announce that we have recruited a new Project Manager, who will be starting next week! Once they’ve settled in we’ll introduce them to you all.
Got any questions about anything we’ve mentioned here? Ask away.
Image: Jack Bassingthwaighte on Unsplash
The SocietyWorks team has always been very confident in FixMyStreet Pro’s ability to create real, positive change for councils. Better user experience, more intelligent use of data, easier case management for council staff and dramatic savings – and that’s just to name a few.
But of course, the proof is always in the pudding. So we were very pleased to hear recently that, since making the switch to FixMyStreet Pro, Buckinghamshire Council has seen a significant improvement to their customer user journey when it comes to online reporting of highways defects. As a result of this, the Council has been able to create over £32,000 in savings per year.
Buckinghamshire Council chose to make the switch to FixMyStreet Pro back in 2018 as a way to improve their street and highways fault reporting customer experience. While residents still have a choice of channels through which they can make highways reports, the Council wanted to be able to offer the most intuitive digital process possible for reports that residents want and are able to make online.
Calls to Buckinghamshire Council’s Customer Service Centre about highways defects have decreased by 49%, which equates to over £32,000 in savings per year
It didn’t take long for FixMyStreet Pro to start delivering against Buckinghamshire’s desired outcomes. Since launching the service, calls to the council about highways defects have decreased by 49% – a clear sign that the online user experience has improved. In fact, for street light defects in particular, calls have decreased by 58%, more than likely helped by the Council’s intelligent use of FixMyStreet Pro’s asset layers, which can display ID numbers for street lights (as well as a number of other assets) to help the user make an accurate selection on the map and reduce duplicate reporting.
The benefits of this improved user experience stretch beyond just the user; for the Council itself the cost per highways report has dropped by up to 98.69%, taking an average report cost down from £7.81 to just 9p. According to Buckinghamshire Council, this equates to over £32,000 in savings per year. So it’s a win for the user and for the Council – and that’s what we love to hear.
We’re so delighted that FixMyStreet Pro has had such an impact on Buckinghamshire Council already, but we’re not stopping there when it comes to improving things even further.
In light of how successfully FixMyStreet Pro has improved the user experience when it comes to reporting street faults, we’ve been looking into how we could do the same for the process of making claims, too. Buckinghamshire residents can already make claims online to the Council about highways defects, but compared to the defect reporting process, the making a claim process could be much more user-friendly for both residents and council staff. Currently, residents need to provide lots of information up-front, even before it has been established that the claim can be upheld, while staff have to copy information over from the claims form into the Council’s backend management system Confirm, which includes downloading and re-uploading attachments.
After running some service discovery sessions on this, we’ve already made some progress here by improving the connection between Buckinghamshire’s existing claims form and Confirm to drive efficiencies for officers. The next step would be to expand our integration with Confirm and allow users to be able to file an incident report within FixMyStreet itself, as well as reporting the highways defect that caused the incident.
As always, we’ll let you know how the development on this project goes, and hopefully we’ll have some more positive results to share with you in the future!
If you’d like to find out more about FixMyStreet Pro and have an informal discussion about how the service could work for you, book a short demo here.
Image: Samantha Borges on Unsplash
FixMyStreet Pro customers can now take advantage of a new feature for the service: the ability to connect to Notify and send status updates via text.
Just like a lot of the new service features we develop at SocietyWorks, they often start off as a great idea from a client.
On this occasion, it’s Hackney Council we have to thank; they came to us a few months ago with the desire to connect their GOV.UK Notify account with their FixMyStreet Pro instance in order to give citizens more options for staying informed about their reports.
It made perfect sense to us, so together we’ve been working on this co-funded piece of development, which, now that it’s completed, is available to all of our Pro customers. The work involved adapting the FixMyStreet SMS authentication functionality and adding the Notify functionality as the new SMS backend provider for the verification step.
For Hackney, the integration with Notify means that when a report is made to them, the site asks the report-maker for either their email address or mobile phone number, which, once verified, will create an account and enable the Council to provide text or email notifications about the report.
If you’re a Pro client and you’d like to connect your Notify account to your instance of FixMyStreet Pro, send us a message in helpdesk.
Not a Pro client yet but interested in becoming one? Get in touch with us here.
Image: Ono Kosuki on Pexels
2021 might not have gotten off to the easiest of starts, but one thing that will be a bit easier from now on is street reporting in Central Bedfordshire, as we welcome them into the FixMyStreet Pro fold.
For residents of the area, this means that any and all street and highways reports can now be made through the FixMyStreet website or app, or via the council’s website. Wherever a report is made, they’re all going to end up neatly in the same place, thanks to our integration with Central Bedfordshire’s backend management system, Symology Insight.
Frustrated at finding themselves experiencing a higher volume of calls from residents over online reporting (somewhere in the region of 400 extra calls per month!), the Council was in search of a channel shift that would produce a better experience for residents and council staff alike.
While there are cheaper alternatives to FixMyStreet Pro, the savings Central Bedfordshire will now be able to make using a fully integrated system made the investment worth it. That coupled with FixMyStreet’s high-performing, user-centred interface and our years and years of experience integrating into any existing backend set-up made it the ideal solution.
“This is an exciting development for Central Bedfordshire residents as the FixMyStreet system is not only easier, faster to use, and more interactive, it can also connect with other systems to ultimately lead to smarter more efficient services.”
– Councillor Ian Dalgarno, Executive Member for Community Services
There were a number of key issues that Central Bedfordshire wanted to address through this integration with FixMyStreet Pro.
Firstly, they wanted to improve the accuracy of their highways reports, something that FixMyStreet helps to achieve thanks to its user-friendliness, its intelligent asset layer displays and its flexible categories.
Another requirement was to remove the ability for residents to submit reports anonymously, with a view to encourage better quality reporting, easier case management and to facilitate a stronger relationship between resident and council.
They also wanted to reduce the burden on and cost of their customer service team having to manually build reports, double key information and answer calls from residents wanting updates on their case. From now on, rather than having to call the Council for an update or needing to decipher an unfamiliar Symology Insight status code, residents will now receive clear updates on their reports automatically to the contact details they provide. Plus, our transparent approach to reporting means that anyone can view previous reports and subscribe to updates for easy progress tracking, which helps to reduce duplicates and creates a better user experience for residents and council staff alike.
Talking about what a difference this channel shift will make to Central Bedfordshire, Councillor Ian Dalgarno, Executive Member for Community Services, said: “This is an exciting development for Central Bedfordshire residents as the FixMyStreet system is not only easier, faster to use, and more interactive, it can also connect with other systems to ultimately lead to smarter more efficient services.
“As the new system allows users to submit reports against specific council assets, it will be a lot simpler for officers to locate and assess any problems.”
We’re no stranger to integrating with Symology Insight both on premise and hosted, but as with any integration into an existing business system, it takes a lot of hard work and hiccups can happen.
In this case, we ran into an obstacle getting updates to sync from Insight. Thankfully, Central Bedfordshire and Symology were quick to jump into action and we worked together to improve our connector and enable the systems to speak to each other fluently. The end result is a seamless experience for users, who are kept in the loop as soon as their report is updated in Symology by Central Bedfordshire staff.
Now that the button’s been pushed and the Central Bedfordshire version of FixMyStreet Pro is live, we hope it will help to make at least one part of 2021 a little bit easier to manage for the Council and its residents.
If you’re a council and you’d like to explore how SocietyWorks’ services can help you drive efficiencies and save money this year, do get in touch.
Image: Jack Bowers, Central Bedfordshire Council
We all know that 2020 was a bit of a bumpy year (OK, it was a lot of a bumpy year), but one thing that those of us at SocietyWorks had been expecting to be a bit less bumpy was the impact of pothole reports on UK councils.
With people traveling less frequently due to lockdown putting roads under less pressure (which, incidentally, would also create the perfect conditions for pre-existing potholes to be fixed by councils), we had thought that pothole reporting rates on our FixMyStreet service, which sends reports directly to the council that can deal with them, would have been lower than usual.
But we were wrong.
While we did see a considerable drop in reports when the first lockdown hit, and again towards the end of the year when renewed restrictions saw winter pothole reports rise less sharply than in previous years, 2020 still had the highest ever number of potholes reported through FixMyStreet and our council versions of FixMyStreet Pro (not including TFL’s installation), with over 111,000 reports about potholes made throughout the year.
As the above graph shows, the year started off with a clear trend towards many more potholes being reported through FixMyStreet than usual. When the first lockdown began in March, reporting rates dramatically reduced, but they quickly started to pick back up again as restrictions were loosened and cold weather re-emerged.
Towards the very end of year, when we would usually expect to see a sharp hike in report numbers like in previous years, Tier 4 restrictions and lockdown saw pothole reporting rates increase much slower.
Taking these reporting trends into consideration, it looks as though, had there been no lockdown, pothole report numbers would have been even higher in 2020.
As we know, the pandemic has put an added strain onto councils recently, meaning that potholes are just one of many, many things needing to be dealt with.
For councils already using FixMyStreet Pro to manage their streets and highways reports, any increase in pothole reports is much easier to handle when the cost per report has been made up to 98.69% cheaper.
Looking ahead, given that budgets are tight and key workers are currently making up the majority of the people using our roads, should 2021 prove to be another pothole-heavy year, it’s never been more important to make the process of reporting such problems as easy for citizens and as cost-effective for councils as possible.
If you’re a council and you’d like to discover how FixMyStreet Pro can help you smooth out the process of dealing with streets and highways reports like potholes, you can find out more here.
Whether you’re a council or a citizen, potholes are an all-round pain in the bum(per), aren’t they?
When it comes to citizen reports made on our FixMyStreet service, potholes are always up there among the most frequently reported problems. In fact, in 2020, despite lockdowns and less frequent travel, more potholes were reported through FixMyStreet than ever before.
For councils, dealing with pothole reports has never been a bigger challenge. Aside from being expensive to fix (and no sooner have you fixed one than another appears), staff shortages caused by COVID-19 as workers are required to isolate have made coordinating pothole fixes a much longer, more complicated process.
Be that as it may, at a time when most road travel is being carried out by key workers, it’s more important than ever to make the process of reporting potholes and responding to such reports as easy and as fast as possible.
This being the case, we thought we’d highlight all the ways in which FixMyStreet Pro can and does make dealing with pothole reports easier, cheaper and much less bumpy for councils and their residents.
Now more than ever, councils need to save money wherever they can. Investing in a channel shift to FixMyStreet Pro for the management of your streets and highways reports could help you save up to 98.69% per report, just like it did for Buckinghamshire Council.
As well as needing to save money, councils and their customer service teams also need to save time – especially time wasted on dealing with duplicate reports. FixMyStreet’s transparent approach to reporting helps to dissuade duplicate reports by allowing citizens to view reports that have already been made nearby and subscribe to updates from the council as the issue is resolved.
We know how annoying, nevermind expensive, it can be when your backend IT systems aren’t quite getting along the way you’d like them to. With FixMyStreet Pro, we promise to integrate into whichever systems you’re using to facilitate a smooth user workflow for everyone. See how this worked for Oxfordshire County Council, who, by switching to FixMyStreet Pro, were able to make immediate workflow improvements and savings by removing layers of legacy software.
No one council is the same as another; you have different needs, different priorities and different ways of doing things. We take all of this into account when we’re setting up your version of FixMyStreet Pro, building it around yours and your residents’ needs. As an example, when it came to potentially hazardous reports (such as dangerous potholes), Island Roads, the company that handles highway maintenance on the Isle of Wight, requested to implement emergency categories to their version of FixMyStreet Pro to help safeguard against accidents and allow them to deal with problems faster.
Want to get started making your pothole reports easier to navigate? Get in touch with us.
When it comes to drawing up plans for future features to add to the FixMyStreet Pro roadmap, it’s really important to us that we consult with the people who will actually be using them before we commit to anything.
That’s why we like to run user groups – events to which we invite clients to join us for a couple of hours to learn about what we’ve been working on and get involved in exploring any features which would be of benefit to them if we were to design them next.
Our most recent user group ran earlier this month as a perfect way to round off the year and influence our 2021 plans.
As part of the session, we broke off into small groups in order to answer this question: What’s the one thing you wished FixMyStreet Pro did that it doesn’t currently do?
Using Miro, each group was given 15 minutes to bounce ideas around for new features they would like to see on the FixMyStreet Pro service by pinning a digital post-it note to a board. Each idea was then discussed to determine what the feature is, what problem it solves and who would benefit from it.
Before reconvening, the groups selected their favourite idea to be presented to everyone. The top ideas from each group were then voted upon to determine which was best, using a very snazzy feature of Miro’s platform.
On this occasion, the winning new feature suggestion was to introduce the functionality to quickly create a report on a mobile device from a photo. Alex Brown from Island Roads, whose idea this was, explained more:
“If you’re familiar with iPhones and Android, you’ll know that there’s a share function which gives you a shortlist of things you can do with your photos.
“For example, you can open up a photo, press the share button, select your messages app and it takes you straight into the app where you can send the photo to one of your contacts.
“We’d like something similar to that [for FixMyStreetPro], where you can take a photo with your camera, open it, share it, hit FixMyStreet and it takes you straight into the app so you can log your report.”
As our Designer Martin said at the time: “Brilliant!”
A simple, yet smart idea that would make it even easier for citizens to act when they spot a problem within their local area. Plus, as we uncovered recently, reports with photos are around 15% more likely to be recorded as fixed than reports without a photo, so anything we can do to encourage the use of photos within reports can only be a good thing.
And here lies the beauty of running these user groups: not only is it the perfect opportunity for local authorities to discuss and share solutions to problems they’re facing, but it’s also the ideal environment to nurture brilliant ideas that we hadn’t thought of before.
Going forward, we’re taking Alex’s idea, along with a few other suggestions from the day, into some discovery sessions in order to determine whether and when we can add them to our roadmap.
So, watch this space!
If you would like to come along to one of our future user groups, or you’d like to discuss any ideas of your own, do drop us a message.
Image: Dstudio Bcn on Unsplash
Well, it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?
2020 certainly won’t be one SocietyWorks will ever forget, not least because we didn’t exist as you know us until April!
At the start of 2020, it was all about FixMyStreet Pro. And while our beloved FixMyStreet Pro is very much still the jewel in our crown, we’ve been busy this year exploring how else we can improve local government services for everyone, under the new brand, SocietyWorks.
New authorities to integrate with FixMyStreet Pro this year are Hackney, Highways England, Transport Focus, Cheshire East and — just this minute — Central Bedfordshire, bringing the total number of Pro bodies to 22.
As well as welcoming new authorities into the SocietyWorks fold, we have also appreciated longtime friends after working together to scope out new services, such as doing some consequence scanning with Hackney Council and helping to create a simple and intuitive mapping interface with Transport Focus.
By the end of 2020, more than 500,000 reports will have been made through FixMyStreet this year.
And in a year where we’ve all gained a new appreciation for and desire to protect our local areas, that figure just reminds us of how proud we are to be the home of a service like FixMyStreet.
With any luck, 2021 will be a little less…turbulent, shall we say, than 2020 has been. Whatever happens though, we at SocietyWorks are looking forward to continuing to help bring about improvements through our services for local authorities and citizens alike.
If you would like to, you can read mySociety’s complete annual report here.