We are excited to be working over the next few months with three districts in the South East to develop and pilot some behaviour change interventions to encourage customers to access and receive council tax services online. The main idea is to understand the behaviour which drives customers to currently either come into the town hall or phone up to have their query answered and then employ effective counter customer behaviour change techniques to encourage those customers to go online instead. We will be targeting customers who are currently comfortable transacting online and already do so in other areas of their life.
A glance at the SOCITM figures for the cost per transaction for different access channels (£8.62 per visit for face-to-face, £2.83 per call for phone, and £0.15 per visit to a council website) shows how attractive channel shift is, particularly at a time when local government finds itself facing the most severe financial constraints since WWII. It also presents an opportunity to deliver financial savings at the same time as improving the service to customers through increasing the convenience and ease with which customers can access services. This is a rare treat for officers and members when their time is taken up making extremely difficult decisions about which front line services they need to cut, restrict or reshape.
Customer behaviour change to encourage channel shift is already a core element of all our customer access projects, but this is our first project where we are considering behaviour change as a discrete issue. This will allow us to isolate, track and monitor our interventions to ascertain which ones really work and ensure their effect is not mixed in with other variables. Over the last few years, there has been lots of talk about the power of behaviour change underlined both by the setting up of the “Nudge” unit in the cabinet office underpinned by the MINDSPACE behavioural economic theory tool set developed by the Institute for Government.
It seems that over the last year or so, this talk has softened to a whisper – perhaps local government are a little stunned by the financial task in hand and so contemplating another approach, and one that requires a little bit of time and investment, is not an attractive path to tread. At BDO, we really believe that this approach is a key tool in the armoury of a local authority (evidenced from work carried out by our health team ) so we will make sure we shout about what we learn and get this whisper back up to a well deserved chatter again…