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Counties get mixed review for online bus pass applications



Socitm task survey shows half of counties provide a good service for older people, while others fall short on key criteria

Almost half of county councils are providing a good online service for older people to apply for bus passes, according to a report from public sector IT association Socitm. But the other half warrant no more than two out of four stars in its assessment of the service.

It said that a task survey run as part of its Better connected programme showed that 30% achieved four stars for their online service, 19% three stars, 33% two stars and 19% one star. The top performing councils were Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey.

Having an online application facility was the essential question for this task, which explains why some sites that scored well otherwise achieved only two stars for the task. When the same question about online applications was asked in a Better connected survey two years ago, only eight counties (30%) offered a complete online application, compared with 52% today.

The likelihood of customers applying for free bus passes having mobility issues is a good reason for making online applications available, says the report, saving trips to council facilities to present documents and all the associated inconvenience. However, when implementing such a facility, care needs to be taken to make it easy to use, given there are eligibility criteria and that submission of photographs is involved.

Common failing

Socitm says that just having an online application facility is not the whole answer to a usable online service, since at least one of this group scores sufficiently badly on other key criteria to achieve just two stars.

Sites that do not perform well on this task tend to fail on details of presentation and navigation that are set out in the ‘all council’ task report. For example, reviewers noted that the term ‘concessionary travel’ was often used to describe the service when ‘bus pass’ is what most people will be looking for.

The naming of the free bus pass also varied, and included terms such as ‘senior citizen’s bus pass’, ‘older person’s bus pass’ and ‘age-related pass’. Some sites had localised branded offerings such as ‘Gold Card’ and ‘NoW Card’, which would sometimes find their way into a top level menu without a supporting explanation.

‘Apply for older person’s bus pass’ is one of twelve tasks to be tested by the Better connected team in 2015-16, with four tasks being assessed for each council type (ie English counties, Scottish, Welsh and English unitaries, London boroughs, metropolitan districts, shire districts and Northern Ireland districts).

Tasks are assessed through a structured questionnaire that tests whether they are easy to find, with essential information available and a coherent customer journey from search engine or home page through to completion. There is also an ‘essential question’ within each question set that must be satisfied before a task can achieve three or four stars.

Results for 10 further Better connected task surveys are due out before the end of April.

Image:Motacilla, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons




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