Socitm: Two-thirds of council enquiries are now digital

Two-thirds of customer contacts with local authorities are now through digital channels says public sector IT managers' association Socitm.

According to Socitm research, of the 600 million-plus customer contacts received by English local authorities each year, the majority are now coming in through online and other digital channels. It said 24 percent of council web visits are being made to carry out transactions like paying parking fines or reporting faults.

The figures, compiled by Socitm Insight as part of a research project for the Government Digital Service (GDS), are published in "Channel shift: grasping the opportunity", a briefing available to Socitm Insight subscribers.

Earlier this year Socitm set out the different costs for dealing with council enquiries, as part of its campaign to get councils to fully deploy online transaction services.

The typical costs were £8.62 per visit for face-to-face meetings, £2.83 per call by phone, and 15p per "visit" via a council website. These costs had remained pretty much constant since 2009, said Socitm.

For the new research Socitm Insight has estimated volumes of both online and offline contacts coming in to English local authorities. Socitm estimated that the total number of face-to-face and phone contacts across the local authority sector might reach 201 million contacts per year.

Based on data from its website take-up service, Socitm estimated the total number of web visits in 2011/12 was 388 million. On this basis, the current average ratio of offline to online contacts is 34 percent to 66 percent.

The calculations are also based on the average number of offline contacts recorded, per head of local population, by councils participating in Socitm’s channel value benchmarking service in 2011.

Socitm said councils could save far more if they fully adopted the government's strategy of "digital by default", which aims to deliver 80 percent or more of public services online.

Martin Greenwood, programme manager for Socitm Insight, said: "With measures in place to get more people online, and the advent of ‘assisted digital’ for those that can’t, councils need to galvanise commitment across the council, collect the data to inform their channel shift strategy, and communicate their online services to local citizens."

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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