Friday, 11 January 2013

Should everyone use Open311?

Last week I posted about how at the moment digital is the preferred channel for reporting broken streetlights, flooding, potholes, fly tipping and so on to us, referred to as Fault Reporting.

Then I read what Tom Steinberg wrote explaining what Open311 is better than I ever could, which got me thinking.

In 2011 I created an Open311 service which is plugged into our Fault Reporting functionality and therefore our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. I then did some work with the very knowledgeable people at Fix My Street (FMS) so that their site used the service. This means, that like our own Fault Reporting, stuff submitted via FMS gets automatically logged and assigned to the correct team.

You might ask why don't we just use FMS, but that's a debate for another day.

What got me thinking about Tom's post is that third party sites that don't use Open311 generally send requests for service through as an email which is far less efficient than creating the case and customer records automatically.

There are various studies on channel cost however in 2012 SocITM estimated a phone call cost £2.83 and a website visit 15p, so an email must be around the same cost as the former, given the customer services representative still has to create the record, type the information and so on into the CRM.

So whilst sites that spring up offering online reporting might seem more efficient, they're no better than sending an email and far less than using our own Fault Reporting or an Open311 enabled site.

Is a natural progression of this, not to accept email responses from digital 3rd party websites, just via Open311, given that the former costs councils and therefore the taxpayer a lot more than the latter?

This is just an idea for discussion. As far as I'm aware no one is seriously considering it and I should add that I'm in no way questioning a resident's right to email, phone or send a letter to report something. For lots of reasons, not least the digital divide these channels need to be maintained.

If you'd like to discuss this then you can find me at
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.