Socitm: 'Digital by default' should be the aim of councils

Socitm, the local authority IT managers association, has published a guide to help make public services "digital by default".

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Socitm, the local authority IT managers association, has published a guide to help make public services "digital by default".

The guide explains the case for "digital by default" services, as urged by the country's 'Digital Champion' Martha Lane Fox, and outlines what organisations need to do to deliver them.

The 24-page "Digital by default - why and how: a guide for local public service management teams" guide draws on two recent reports from Socitm. These focus on customer management in local authorities, the quality of their websites, and their readiness to make significant efficiencies by shifting customer enquiries to the web.

The guide says there is ample evidence that many public service users prefer to interact with councils on the web.

Those councils that are leading with online delivery said they get 70 percent to 90 percent of enquiries this way already. Financially, said Socitm, online has a much lower cost-to-serve ratio than other channels.

Socitm's channel value benchmarking service shows that enquiry handling through the web costs about £0.32 per enquiry, as opposed to £2.90 for telephone enquiries and £7.40 for face-to face.

Significant channel shift to the web, says the guide, is only likely to happen where councils move control and management of access to services from departments to corporately-run customer functions managed from the top of the organisation.

However, "a pre-requisite for successful and permanent channel shift is that the council has an excellent website that is able to answer customer enquiries first time, every time", the guide says.

Earlier this month, Socitm said councils should share web content to facilitate shared service arrangements. It explained: "Spending cuts are forcing public sector organisations to embrace self-service as a tool to deliver effective services at low cost. But very few local councils have considered sharing resources when it comes to their websites."

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