Socitm Probes Council Mobile Response To, Er, Pressing Bin Issues

Jan 29, 2016

More than three quarters of county councils provide a good or very good service for people seeking information about their local tip, even when they are doing so from their mobile phone.

The picture is less good where people want to report a missed bin from a mobile, however, according to the latest 'Better Connected' survey from local government IT leadership group Socitm.

‘Find out opening times for council tip’ and ‘report a missed bin’ – both via a mobile device – are  the latest tasks to be tested and reported by the research programme which is evaluating the web and digital performance of all UK local authorities.

78% of councils tested (county councils only) score four or three stars for ‘find council tip opening times’ compared with 41% tested (all other council types) on ‘report missed bin’.

Both tasks were tested on mobile phones over the Christmas holidays – a busy period for visiting the tip and a time when many residents will to want to check bin collection arrangements.

Waste and recycling services are among the most visible services councils run and resident satisfaction with them can be a barometer for overall satisfaction with the council. Councils have financial incentives to reduce landfill, and it follows that excellent digital services are needed to support council activity in this area.

The Department for Communities Local Waste Service Standards project has also estimated that significant savings could be made if the whole process of managing bin collections were made a fully digital. A good online service to report missed bins is only part of this, but one important step on the journey.

It is also the case that rubbish and recycling is the single most important category for enquiries to council websites accounting for more than 17% of visits, according to data from Socitm’s Website Performance service.

Better Connected tested the ‘find tip opening times’ task through a structured questionnaire including questions like ‘does a Google search lead me to the task?’, ‘Is it clear when the facility will be closed over the Christmas? ‘Is clear information provided about waste that is accepted?’ and ‘Is information given about other recycling options ?’

‘Report missed bin’ was tested through a similar process, involving questions like ‘Am I provided with a checklist of reasons why my bin might not have been collected prior to starting the reporting process?’, ‘Is there a postcode lookup to find my collection day?’ and ‘Does the form only seek what information is necessary to accept the report?’

Both surveys also test site functionality including optimisation for mobile, quality of site search and navigation, use of maps and absence of out of date content.

Four of the five councils that got two stars or less for the ‘find council tip opening times’ task had not optimised their sites for mobile, with significant impact on the user experience.

Sites that performed particularly well on this task were Warwickshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire Kent and Nottinghamshire, it adds, while for sites that performed less well, deficiencies included over-wordy content, jargon and broken links. 

Some of the higher performing sites that had otherwise mobile-friendly sites had not optimised their maps for mobile use, a shame when likely customer scenarios – for example, people trying to locate the tip when on the way there – are considered.

The ‘report missed bin’ task drew widespread complaints from reviewers about councils requiring residents to sign up for customer accounts before they could report a missed bin online. Best practice is to encourage customer account sign up by providing a list of benefits (eg being able to track the progress of a report) rather than mandate it, which will encourage visitors to abandon the online route and resort to the phone.

Another major reason sites were marked down was where Google search took a user straight to an online form with no access to information as to why a bin might not have been collected. This is unhelpful and inconvenient and could lead to forms being completed when they should not be, wasting time for resident and council alike. A simple link to and from the relevant information is all that is required, says the team.

Sites that did well on ‘missed bin’ and are mentioned in the service report include Barnet, Cambridge City, Dover, Flintshire and Wolverhampton.

Results for a range of other Better Connected task surveys are due out before the end of April.

(c) 2016 24n.biz

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