Waste and recycling services are among the most visible services councils run, and the single most important reason for visiting the council website, accounting for more than 17% of visits according to data from Socitm’s Website Performance service. There is also considerable scope for savings from local authorities making management of bin collections a fully digital process. The Department of Communities’ Local Waste Service Standards project has estimated that as much as £600 million in savings could be made nationally over a 7-year period. Providing a good or excellent service to report missed bins via the council website is only part of what this would involve, but it is nevertheless an important step on the journey.
All UK councils except English county councils.
In 2014 Better connected tested this task on the desktop, for all councils apart from county councils, which do not collect bins. 57% achieved the standard. When the same cohort was tested in December 2015 for the same task but from a mobile phone, 41% achieved the equivalent standard. This is an improvement on the result reported in March 2015, when the task was tested for shire districts only, also on a mobile phone, and 34% achieved the standard. The fact that in this most recent testing more than half achieve only one star for this task (poor, in Better connected’s new currency) indicates that many councils, and particularly shire district and Northern Irish councils, are struggling to provide a good experience from a mobile phone, despite the fact that 81% do enable online reporting from mobiles. The task was tested on either an iPhone 6 Plus, a Samsung Galaxy A3, or a Samsung Galaxy S5.
Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2016-17 results
Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey
Better connected rankings
*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off
The headline results for this task show improvement in the number of good and very good sites from 34% reported in March 2015 to 41% reported now in Janaury 2016. Neither result is as good as the desktop result of 57% reported in March 2014, although it is fair to say that the question sets in 2015 and our latest 2015-16 survey are more demanding. Failures in the ‘essential question’, and appearance of any out of date information during the testing, automatically reduces a site’s score to 2 stars or below.
The vast majority of sites start this task successfully, by having information well signposted from Google. For most the item appears in the first or second search result.
From there, the best experiences are found where councils have invested time and effort in providing not just mobile-optimised sites, but also mobile-optimised forms.
The key challenge is then to achieve simplicity. Customers need to find out quickly if the council will accept that their bin has been missed, and then be able to report it easily.
A well designed task journey means that no matter at what entry point customer starts their journey (link in an email or social media, search engine, website home page, A-Z result, etc), they will consistently end up finding the same information no matter what.
Google searches sometimes delivered a couple of results that could be followed. One might direct customers to an information page about reporting a missed bin, and the other link directly to the reporting form. Following the latter link might mean customers failing to see important guidance about what the council will and won’t do regarding missed bins.
One solution is to ensure reporting forms have a clear link to checklist setting out conditions that need to be met before the council will incur the cost of sending a bin lorry back. Clear communication saves time for the customer and money for the council because phone calls to check information and wrongly reported bins are avoided.
The content of checklists provided by councils varies widely from accusatory statements through to apologetic approaches: 'we got it wrong and we’ll make it up to you’. Quite a few fail to put bin collection calendars or checklists before the missed bin reporting form.
More than a few councils mandate registering a customer account before a bin can be reported, a requirement that is a barrier to encouraging channel shift. Councils with customer accounts that handle this well are the ones that say you can report without registering but list reasons why you might like to do so. A clear link to ‘proceed without registering’ is important if this is an option.
On a number of sites where there were no service interruption notices posted ,the reporting form wouldn’t work. Ensuring everything is working as intended before going on Christmas closedown (which is when reviews took place) is essential and some sort of monitoring should be in place to ensure downtime is minimised during this very busy period. That said, fewer websites were simply unavailable in the way they have been in past years’ testing of this task.
Where no link was found to a form at all, it is possible that councils may have deliberately removed the reporting form, probably because of changes in collection dates over the Christmas period.
Wide variations could be seen on reporting forms, particularly where third party products like Achieve Forms were being used. One council’s implementation might have useful icons, sometimes multicolour, to aid indication of what type of rubbish had not been collected, whereas others simply had a list of radio buttons, or even just a plain text box to write a text-based message and little indication provided of what information the council would find useful to have.
The best forms were the simplest, those that asked a minimum of information to accept the report. Most councils should be able to validate a report for an address by house name or number, perhaps street name and its postcode. Why should customers have to enter a locality, post town, county or even a middle name?
Its good to see forms that validate information entered before allowing submission. Things like asking, after the address is entered, what day the bin was missed and then responding with the date the bin was actually last emptied.
One final point to bear in mind is that maps can be hard to use on a mobile device. Some sites presented maps as part of the postcode lookup and, where not mobile-optimised, this was really off-putting. One council even made interacting with a map an essential part of the reporting process. As a general rule, don’t use maps unless necessary and relevant to the task.
Finding the task
Completing the task
Where customers are able to complete an online form:
The sites mentioned below are a selection of those recommended by reviewers. All sites recommended are noted as such on their individual resullts pages.
I particularly liked that the start of the form I was told what information I'd need to complete it and the likely length of time it would take to do so. A thoughtful, neat touch.
Great, clear list of reasons given to why your bin may have been missed.
First rate. Cambridge adds value to the customer report by informing me before I hit submit that I will receive an email acknowledgement with a reference number and that this number will need to be quoted in the event of a follow-up enquiry. A small consideration perhaps, but it demonstrates (for me) consideration by the council for the customer's total user experience. One of a number of councils that failed this task in 2015 but have now achieved 4 stars
Excellent site, very easy to navigate this website as it is nicely optimised for mobile. Like the way that although I could register for an account I was given an option that I could continue the process without have to do this. The next part of my journey within the form was to give my address which forces me to check my bin collection day. As it is part of the form this also means my journey was not interrupted by being signposted off elsewhere in the website. As the for then knew when my bin should have been collected it new I was over my time limited of when I could report the missed bin by. SO I was not able to go any further with the report and no-ones time was wasted.
I really like the simplicity of this site's design and brevity of service description which remains comprehensive and tells me all that I would need to know.
Really easy to find and follow customer journey. Form nicely optimised for mobile with informative supporting information.
Fully mobile-friendly, good checklist and prompt to check collection day. I was impressed that there is a prominent customer notice advising that reports of missed collections will not be actioned until 4th January 2016. That's a thoughtful touch during council closedown, an annual event that many councils don't think to make mention of on individual service descriptions.
Telford & Wrekin
Nicely presented mobile website and some good informative content, in some way more usable on mobile in terms of logical journey than the desktop where it uses tab navigation features. The form is very clear and easy to complete on my mobile. Did not look up my collection by postcode but could do it from my address which is fine, my only observation is the labelling of the field to enter my house number.
Very good. Was able to get to the form and information very easily from all entry points, and liked the way that I was prompted to check my collection date and on this page I had a link to get back to the form. Completed the circle of the journey. A very simple implementation.