The user experience for accessing pest control services online is inconsistent across local authorities, and inefficient for the user, pest control practitioners and local authority staff. Councils are duplicating effort to design these workflows and interfaces. Croydon, working with Southwark, propose to develop and publish a set of design patterns for online pest control services that all local authorities can reuse.
Providing a high quality and affordable pest control service ensures everyone benefits from a clean, liveable and disease-free environment, whatever their tenancy type. These services are increasingly important in urban areas and cities. As councils continue to experience population growth, the demand for pest control is expected to grow thereby becoming a reckonable source of income for councils if run efficiently.
Local government pest control services often operate as part of a traded service, which generate revenue to make the service sustainable. Legacy IT (such as PDAs), procedures and paper-based working are still common and the skilled tradespeople, apprentices and operational staff tend to lack digital knowledge. Environmental services are one of the most digitally excluded and do not often get priority for digital investment compared to other services who have more tech-savvy officers.
For Croydon and Southwark, this bid presents an opportunity to standardise processes and develop a set of design templates which are reusable by other authorities who want to transform their pest control services.
We will be able to share the outcome of our user research, design rationale, service patterns & wireframes into an online library, along with a usable online prototype. We will break the service into building blocks making it easy for others to pick and choose the service elements that work for them and ensure the solution can scale.
We plan to run a 4 month alpha, led by our in-house digital services teams. We will procure temporary resource to deliver and run fortnightly design sprints, user feedback sessions and build prototypes, supported by expertise from existing in-house teams and 3rd party suppliers on our web platforms and back office applications.
Both Croydon’s in-house web development team and Southwark’s 3rd party web platform supplier have agreed to work in the open and publish outputs as advised under the technology code of practice.
Dec 2018 – Jan 2019
|Recruitment & Preparation||Project planning & governance
|Design kick-off||User Research
Definition of scope
|Alpha UX design||Low level design
Creation of prototypes
Testing with real users
4 & 5
|Design Iteration||Develop business process entities
Mar – Apr 2019
|Integration||End to end Alpha design|
Compile reports & outputs
During discovery we identified the following potential service building blocks to inform our alpha design:
- Core customer journey: reporting a reactive pest issue
- Preventing customer contact (e.g. notifications, improved access to data & advice)
- Identity verification, (includes considering platforms like Gov.uk Verify)
- Datasets & information management
- Financial management and payments
- Case management
- Field technician mobile working
- Managing block treatments
- Service reporting
- Not part of MVP – nice to have features if time allows
- Service Integration: Housing Associations/Enforcement Teams
- Service Integration: Repairs
- Other related services (stray dogs, wild birds, commercial contracts)
The expected benefits of undertaking this work are:
- Improved efficiencies through streamlining back office processes and systems
- Improved customer experience by modernising the online service and providing transparent information for a paid-for service.
- Reduced missed appointments by adding reminders to technicians booking process.
- Reduced waiting times by providing mobile technology to enable technicians to access data, inspection forms, invoice, follow-up bookings and diaries.
- Increased revenue through increased uptake in the paid-for service, increased collection rates and better lead generation for commercial enquiries
- Reduces number of complaints caused by poor data processing
Design patterns will provide repeatable benefits across multiple authorities, and during user research we will gather specific figures to demonstrate possible savings – estimated at 2xFTE per authority & £15,000 on system rationalisation, along with £50,000 by repeating our published design patterns avoiding undertaking their own alpha.
Additional benefit estimates can be based on the following potential financial benefits to Southwark & Croydon identified during discovery:
- Move to 80% online transactions, saving £35,000 p.a. on customer calls
- Automate & streamline payments process resulting in 90% fewer payments taken in person – saving operative time and increasing collection rates predicted to increase revenue by £30,000 p.a.
- Efficiency savings through eliminating double-handling of calls. Reduced call volume into the back office annual saving £35k
- Revenue saving of £15,000 p.a. after systems rationalisation & support contracts
- Print and post savings on inspection forms, bed bug letters – £3,000 pa
- Aspiration to increase commercial revenue generation by £50,000 in 1st year by directing potential new customers to experienced pest control staff rather than contact centre operatives resulting in greater lead conversion – Est 1st year earnings £50,000
To understand how to design a better pest control service for residents, we carried out a discovery exercise. We spoke to staff, call centre operatives and mapped end-to-end as-is processes. We gained customer insight through reviewing our CRM case management system and complaints. Our research resulted in a core customer journey map, identifying pain points in the existing process.
Over 50% of customer enquiries are follow-ups, or requests for information. Fewer than 10% of all enquiries come in through our online forms, and customers who call complain of lack of service expertise. There is a 17% call abandonment rate. Customers tend to log formal complaints when reporting pest issues, instead of contacting the pest service per procedure.
The payment process causes a significant problem for the back office service team, as only 30% of payments are taken upon booking. The remainder need to be chased up and are often taken on the day of a technician visit.
There is significant opportunity for improving the customer experience, enabling channel shift and efficiencies in the back office team.
The experience is similar in Southwark and Croydon, and our research found that similar problems are seen in other Councils, suggesting a large number would benefit from outputs from this alpha.
This initial research has identified the need for
- Standardising the collection of data, particularly customer and payment data
- Improved signposting to pest service information and instructions
- Speeding up the customer journey and avoiding multiple contact
- Improving field operative access to digital systems and data to increase customer satisfaction with home visits
- Improved automation of back office tasks such as sending letters, management of the block treatment programme and follow-up enquiries to reduce time spent on these tasks
- Improved communication with residents and customers to provide reassurance and lessen the need for complaints
Alpha design and testing will be delivered by a joint multi-disciplinary team across digital and pest control services in Croydon and Southwark who will work in accordance with the principles in the Digital Declaration.
Further research will be undertaken to understand pest control services in other local authorities, with an aim to design service patterns that can be of universal use.
We will encourage future potential partners (e.g. London Borough of Enfield) to sign up to the Digital Declaration before being involved.
Partners will host show and tell sessions and use collaboration tools to work remotely. Progress will be published online to ensure the widest possible feedback to get a result that is relevant to a wide cross section of local authorities.
We will identify those parts of the pest control process that can be standardised, and those that are based on local procedures, allowing other LAs to use our design patterns based on their own local needs.
During the alpha we will produce:
- Sprint outcome reports & a final user research report, explaining our designs, concluding our findings and recommending whether to continue to beta.
- Documented user research findings & data
- Research of other LA Pest Control services we used as inspiration
- Design iterations, sketches, wireframes and testing insights
- Draft to-be user journey maps & wireframes for each of the service building blocks.
- A web demo of the user experience mocked up for a single Council
- An options appraisal recommending how to solve this problem and proceed to a beta phase, setting out how this phase would be achieved. This would include alternative solutions available and a ‘do nothing’ option.
- A business case setting out cost/benefits and potential savings for the proposed options
- Projected project timeline:
- Inception: Dec 3 2018 – Feb 4 2019
- Design sprints: Feb 4 – Apr 12 2019
- Final report & documentation: Apr 15 – Apr 30 2019
- Outputs to be published on or before Apr 30 2019
In our initial discovery phase we identified the following user groups for the councils pest control services:
- Council tenants
- Council leaseholders
- Private residents (renters, owner occupied and unoccupied)
- Commercial landlords and tenants
- Housing Associations
- Pest control officers
- Customer service officers
- Housing service officers
- Housing enforcement officers
- Housing Repairs officers
- Waste & Cleaning officers
- Complaints officers
- 3rd party suppliers of Council services
We will test our designs on real users across all the indicated groups to ensure a fit for purpose design that meets the agreed service goals and realises the benefits set out.
The following are our proposed user research objectives:
- To identify using analytics where users were most likely to abandon transactions
- To identify pinch points in the business process which slowed down their operations
- To identify parts of the user journey where users were unable to self-serve to satisfy the business process
- To gather customer experience analytics on the process of booking a pest control service
Extended research we would like to conduct during alpha includes:
- What information and data sources are required and how we might develop a common data standard for related environmental and enforcement services to allow for easier integration across multiple partners
- How we might link to housing, enforcement and pest back office datasets to build intelligence into the online form, avoiding unnecessary jobs or enquiries
- How we might benefit Housing Association and private tenants who struggle to get their pest complaints resolved by landlords by linking up our process to Housing Enforcement Teams
- How we might use digital technology to attract & manage new commercial customers to increase revenue
- How we might streamline the end to end process and mobile technology connecting customer to pest technician, saving time and increasing customer satisfaction
Though we are currently engaging with the LocalGov digital London peer group, as we continue to develop our digital capability across both councils we would want to take advantage of any existing digital libraries and training sessions particularly around user research and product ownership offered by the Local digital collaboration units.
- No funding has previously been applied for or received for this project.
- The previous discovery phase for pest control in Southwark was carried out by the in-house Digital Services team in Southwark.
- No funding has been received from either Croydon or Southwark for previous stages.