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Councils fall short on online service for bulky waste


New Socitm survey says majority of websites do not reach ‘good’ rating for the task – and report calls for digital best practice in outsourced contracts

Less than half of local authorities are providing a good service to residents ordering a bulky waste collection, according to the latest Better Connected report from public sector IT association Socitm.

Its survey of 356 councils throughout the UK led to only 40% being rated as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ for the task.

Several failings became apparent during the tests: many sites failed to provide all the information needed to order the service online; lists of items that could or could not be collected were unclear or incomplete; the number of items to be collected for one payment was not specified; or pages did not indicate how far in advance the booking needed to be made.

In some cases charging arrangements were overcomplicated or impractical, including those from the council that charges by ‘half or full lorry load’ and another by 15 minute slots - both criteria that the resident cannot gauge. The report comments that it is hard to imagine such instructions surviving even the most basic user testing.

Mobile factor

It adds that the proportion of ‘good’ ratings was probably depressed by the survey being carried out by mobile phone: 16% of councils have websites that are still not fully purposed for mobiles. In addition, only 38% enable online booking, and just 24% include mobile optimised forms.

Some councils with online ordering require people to open a customer account to place their order. The report acknowledges this is part of their channel shift strategies, but disagrees that forcing people to register is the right strategy, as service users are just as likely to respond by abandoning the online option and phoning the council.

It says that persuading people to register because other benefits can be delivered is a more sophisticated and effective approach. Registration could also be offered at the end of the transaction, as is common practice with e-commerce sites, rather than at the beginning, when the applicant just wants to get on with the job.

The findings have prompted Socitm to urge that councils outsourcing local services – which is common for bulky waste collection – should require that providers match best practice in providing the digital part of the service. This would involve making the provision of the digital service part of the discussion from the outset.

It would also apply to activities such as running leisure centres and libraries, and should hold whether the outsourced service provider is a private sector company, a community interest company or an organisation formed by former council staff.

By Editor580, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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