Theme 2: Digital services

“This is not about polishing websites and making online copies of existing, paper-based transactions – broken services delivered onto a computer screen. It’s about a new, better approach to the design, operation and consumption of its services, focused on citizens and outcomes.” Digitising Government – Alan Brown, Jerry Fishenden and Mark Thompson 2014

We will transform the relationship between residents and the council by providing online services so good that most people choose to use them and can do so unaided.   

Where we want to be

Our desired outcomes are:

  • All council services that could be made available online, are available online, with digital as the default service supported by an “assisted digital” offer and alternative channels still available for those who need more help
  • Most users choose to use digital services over alternatives, so that the vast majority of interactions between residents and the council (75% or higher, excluding planned casework) take the form of online self-service
  • Of people using the council’s online services, the vast majority (75% or higher) can complete them successfully, unaided, first time, and rate them good or excellent
  • Information about the council’s democratic process, decisions, delivery and policies are easy to find, understand and (where appropriate) influence through online platforms
  • The council’s website and digital services are built with re-use in mind, so that our information and services can easily be found through search engines, and are accessible using 3rd party devices such as voice assistants
  • All council information is in open, accessible formats by default, removing any barriers to access for people with disabilities, and enabling online sharing and preservation
  • All online council services and official information have a consistent user experience, sharing a single design system and interaction patterns

Where we are now

We have made visible and impactful inroads into digitising our services in recent years, through our Customer Access and Digital and Enabling transformation projects.

As a result, there are around 180,000 registered users of the council’s “My Account” system, which enables access to more than 100 services online 24/7, including waste collection, housing services, council tax and appointment booking. This has reduced face-to-face demand in Access Croydon, cut waiting times and increased communication with residents, delivering savings of over £10m per annum. Our website is heavily used with 140,00 visitors per month looking for guidance and information. Our mobile app, “Don’t Mess with Croydon” has been downloaded over 3,600 times and enables residents to report fly-tipping, potholes and other issues with our public spaces.

These achievements notwithstanding, there is considerable potential to improve the quality and further reduce the cost of services to residents by providing more of them online, and by applying the user-centric design methods used by the private sector and central government to ensure that more people can use them successfully. Currently, around 30% of all contact between residents and the council takes place via online self-service. We want and need this to be much higher, making all council services digital by default, while also ensuring that we always cater for the digitally excluded.

Recent analysis has found that usage of My Account has begun to decline and a quarter of all website visits result in users contacting the council for help, suggesting their needs are not being fully met online. Our web estate has inconsistent design, has been rated poorly in some external reviews, and in places fails to comply with new, higher standards of accessibility. There is clear demand from residents for more convenient, truly accessible and higher quality digital services they can access 24/7, and more open and transparent information and engagement through digital channels.

Recognising the need for continuous and rapid improvement of our digital services, the council has recently invested in new capability, forming the Croydon Digital Service – a new directorate in the council that is already bringing about a step change in the council’s approach to delivering user-centric services for residents. We have signed the Local Digital Declaration, a public pledge to deliver digital services in accordance with the methods set out in the Government Service Manual and to ensure all new and updated services going forwards meet the high quality standards set out in the Government Service Standard. CDS is working in close partnership with the Residents First Programme, to ensure we understand our residents and customers so that we can listen and respond and work together to improve our front line services.

What we will do

To move forward in this area, we will:

  • Transform the council’s website, introducing a consistent, mobile-first design system across all official sites and digital services, applying the user-centric design methods as set out in the Government Service Manual
  • Review the technology underpinning our digital services, to ensure we have a resilient, supported and fit-for-purpose toolkit that enables us to rapidly and sustainably build, maintain, and continuously improve digital services to better meet the needs of our users
  • Overhaul our processes and standards for creating and maintaining content, ensuring all guidance content is succinct, clearly understandable by users and reliably up to date
  • Review and tighten up our criteria for permitting the creation of separate websites, with the aim of significantly decreasing the number of microsites and subdomains the council operates
  • Transform how we deliver digital services, working in multidisciplinary agile delivery teams capable of redesigning services from end to end, ensuring that a user’s needs are considered and met throughout the whole process, and that back office systems and processes are integrated with front end delivery
  • Introduce robust assurance processes to ensure all digital services developed by the council or its suppliers are of high quality, meeting the Government Service Standard
  • Redevelop the Explore Croydon website as a more effective ‘digital induction’ for new residents, a promotional tool for visitors and prospective residents, and a definitive local guide for existing residents, working collaboratively with other interested parties
  • Support the communications and customer contact departments to review and improve online engagement with residents, including formal online consultation, the council’s email newsletter, and informal engagement and customer support through social media
  • Continue to blog about our work on and encourage other service areas to do the same on a new corporate blogging platform, supporting them with the skills and technology to more openly communicate about the work of the council
  • Ensure that there is a sufficient “assisted digital” support for residents who cannot use council services online, through the contact centre and face-to-face touchpoints including Access Croydon, library services and the emerging localities delivery model
  • Investigate and experiment with emerging technology where there is an opportunity to better meet our users’ needs, including live chat, chatbots and voice operated services
  • Deliver an ongoing portfolio of improvements to existing online services and the creation of new digital services, prioritised on our public roadmap