Council websites: How they can make the most of new technology

[caption id="attachment_365" align="alignright" width="250"]"Customer profiling" Customer profiling results in unique analysis of website users’ behaviour[/caption]

Technology experts Tim Pitts of Agilisys and Ben Darlington of the Network Corporation have written about the successful implementation of “customer profiling” and “journey shaping” on the Hammersmith & Fulham borough website and encourage more councils to try these new tools on their websites.

Customer profiling and journey shaping is all about “working out what every visitor is looking for (sometimes before they know it themselves) and then helping them find it by personalising the links that appear” in a box titled ‘You may like’ (similar to the ‘People you may know’ box we often see on Facebook). It also includes boxes that pop up, usually with an ‘OK’ or ‘Cancel’ option, also known as ‘roadblocks’, that can guide users to what they want to do.

According to the article, as many as 40,000 people a month have been helped by this feature and it has since been used by a number of other local authorities.

The writers explain that local government websites differ from commercial websites in that users do not have standard needs, their cases and queries are quite complicated – if individual requirements are understood and visitors are guided correctly, they will be able to complete their task online. If not, they will end up making a phone call to the council, which costs the council more and defeats the purpose of the website. This is where technology comes in: “More than 3 million people a month are now being profiled by the technology and the result is unique analysis of how people really behave on websites,” say Pitts and Darlington, adding that “crudely put, if you make the right suggestion at the right time, half will follow it – which could avoid a telephone call entirely or leave you more prepared for it.”

Directing them to the right place can also lead to more interaction and engagement: a visitor who wants to pay a council tax can also end up committing to attend a local community meeting.

To sum it up, “at its heart, customer journey shaping technology is about building better, stronger online citizen to government relationships.”


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