The City of Edinburgh Council - web transactional capabilities prove the key to excellent customer service delivery
The Council identified that to achieve this aim, a number of objectives needed to be met including - more effective integration of information across services; improved internal performance and delivery of a positive customer experience.
The Council's web services are already of a very high standard and making a significant contribution to these overall objectives.
This has been recently affirmed with the internet site being awarded the top 'four star' rating in the Society of IT Managers (SOCITM) Better Connected 2011 review.
It is rated as the top site in Scotland and one of only nine web sites in the UK to receive four stars.
The success of recent web site developments have also seen the number of unique visitors to the Council's web site jump from 2.2 million in 2007/08 to nearly 3 million in 2009/10.
These achievements are a result of the Council working in partnership with Jadu since October 2009 to deliver its web strategy.
This has seen the design, development and launch of a new web transactional platform (Jadu CMS - Clearwater) in September 2010; a number of satellite web sites (Jadu Galaxies) - Activity, Streets Ahead and Lothian Pension Fund (please see gallery for examples), an intranet site (Jadu Intranet 2.0) in March 2011 and a range of other Jadu online services including online forms, e-payments, search, Council Papers Online (CPOL) and e-consultation.
Some of the key web services that are already contributing to the 'Achieving Excellence Programme' include improved website transactional capabilities and a greater visibility and acccessibility of information as described below.
Transactional capabilities - the route to 'self service'
The Council has already established a number of online customer 'self service' capabilities including e-Payments and online forms.
Customers have been able to pay online for Council services for a number of years and this capability has been supported by Jadu e-Pay since November 2010.
The Council regularly processes a large volume of transactions - currently an average of over £900,000 a month.
For the eight month period from November 2010 to June 2011, 39,520 e-payment transactions were made producing a total online payment value of £7,210,038 for the year so far.
The main benefit to the Council of this initiative to date has been to enable consolidation of the payments process into the Jadu system.
In addition to the significant take-up of e-Payment services by citizens, the introduction of additional online forms has also encouraged greater online usage and communication by customers providing more efficient services.
The use of electronic forms to capture citizen information as opposed to alternative methods such as face to face or telephone is growing and 82,715 Xforms were completed during the nine month period from September 2010 to June 2011.
Top 10 most frequently utilised XForms by Edinburgh citizens:
- Pay your Council Tax/Non domestic rates
- Request a recycling box/bag/garden waste bin
- Renew residential parking permit
- Challenge a parking ticket
- Set up a direct debit to pay Council tax/rates
- Pay Council bill
- Apply for student Council Tax exemption
- Pay Council rent
- Report a problem with a road, pavement or drain
- Make a general suggestion, compliment or complaint
In addition to the improved efficiencies resulting from increased adoption of online forms by citizens, efficiency savings are also being generated due to the non technical requirements for form development which can be devolved to departmental level.
Departmental input and control has enabled increased form customisation and security of information has also improved. Additional benefits for citizens includes the increased accessibility and visibility of information.
Systems Integration delivers cost savings
The Council implemented its Council Papers Online (CPOL) system in May 2003 to provide public access to all Council committee documents, agendas, reports and minutes.
Whilst this development was not initially integrated with the Council's web site it delivered a number of immediate benefits, citizens were informed of the Council's key decisions and processes and this resulted in increased citizen involvement and greater transparency in the democratic process.
The CPOL system also enabled Committees and members to be specific about the key information required for meetings, reducing the production of unnecessary paper based information and increasing efficiencies.
Whilst the initial CPOL development enabled open access to Committee agendas, papers and reports, there were a number of issues with the system that resulted in increased running costs including the following:
- The user interface was not intuitive and the online search facility was
poor, partly due to reports being manually scanned in to the system.
- Users were being directed off-site from the main Council website to a separately hosted web front-end with increased costs.
Since January 2011, this change in approach and a small level of customisation has produced a greatly improved CPOL service delivering the following benefits:
- The 'customer experience' has improved as an accurate and comprehensive search facility is now in place.
- Rationalisation of web services and systems has been possible through
the transition from the existing bespoke system and to a single
- The operational cost of providing the CPOL service has reduced.
An Edinburgh Galaxy site; Activcity
An Edinburgh Galaxy site; Streets Ahead
An Edinburgh Galaxy site; LPF
"The web changes have introduced a range of improvements including more efficient and customer focused services with financial savings. Achieving a 4 star rating in the SOCITM review demonstrates that our development of the sites has been hugely successful."
Andrew Unsworth, Head of e-Government, The City of Edinburgh Council
The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 Local government council areas.
The council area includes urban Edinburgh and 30 square miles of rural area.
Located in the south-east of Scotland, Edinburgh lies on the east coast of the Central Belt, along the Firth of Forth, near the North sea.