Chelmsford City Councilhas said it has been successful in its trialling two services – applications for residents’ parking permits and senior railcards – online, as part of the council’s website with the aim of lowering costs and meeting demands of residents for online channels.
The online channels for these services were introduced in November 2013 and in March 2013, 47% of parking applications and 40% of railcard applications were completed online, freeing the council’s Customer Service Centre resources for residents without internet access.
The trials were introduced in November last year and next on the agenda are pest control bookings, special waste collection and council tax payments.
According to Elaine Peck, customer services manager for Chelmsford City Council: “We were surprised by how many people were willing to do it, particularly for senior railcards, which is the customer group perceived most difficult to self-serve.”
She pointed out other ways in which online channels could be used: “For example,if we said complete an online form before people came in, then that would start to shave time off interviews we have with them, and would advise them of the evidence they needed to bring in ahead of the meeting.”
Currently online transactions work alongside phone/face-to-face services but Peck said that some transactions may become online-only: “We need to look again at the contact levels we are getting on the phone and face-to-face and see where we can reap the greatest reward with online channels.”
“We know there is public demand for more services to go online, but to do it effectively we have to have integrated systems on the front- and back-end. And that is where it gets expensive,” she concluded.