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Smart move

When funding for garden waste collection was withdrawn by the Government in 2012, North Kesteven District Council was keen to find a way to save its service. Karey Barnshaw describes how it did so

Although a small, rural local authority, North Kesteven District Council operates across a large area, making the delivery of popular services to residents quite challenging.

In late 2012, the council proposed launching an opt-in green waste collection service, open for registration from the end of February 2013. To maximise sign-up, it had to make this service as efficient and accessible as possible. It decided to offer residents the option to register and pay online, in addition to traditional telephone registration.

The council needed a suitable e-forms solution that could be used by residents across a range of PCs, tablets and smartphones. Crucially, it wanted a solution that would integrate with its back-office systems, including payments processing, environmental services and property systems.

It had already seen demonstrations of Firmstep’s software, and its successful deployment among neighbouring councils prompted North Kesteven to implement a solution using AchieveForms in January 2013.

In the space of four weeks, the council was able to procure, design, develop and implement an online form capability, allowing it to launch the garden waste collection service in time for its go-live target date.

The response from residents was impressive, far exceeding the council’s expectations. In just 10 weeks following its launch at the end of February last year, 25,000 households – more than half of those served by the authority - had signed up and paid the £25 annual fee for the green waste service, generating over £600,000 in service revenue for the Council.

More than 50% of the applications were submitted online, reducing the need for the council to recruit additional staff to process subscriptions.

And the Council found that almost 30% of those who signed up online did so from a mobile device, showing the importance to councils of having self-service channels that work on smartphones and tablets as well as conventional PCs.

High online take-up also meant that for customers who preferred to register via telephone, enquiries were dealt with far more efficiently.

Because the district has an older demographic, the council has always focused on face-to-face and telephone services. So, before the launch, doubts were understandably raised over levels of interest in an online option. But garden waste collection is now one of North Kesteven’s most popular services, with 53% of residents taking part to date.

Having the right software was a critical factor in the project’s success. The e-forms solution has offered customers a choice of access methods, and the savings made by not having to employ additional staff more than covered the initial costs.

Working with local press and customers, and advising them early on about what the council was doing, as well as why it was doing it, helped to get buy-in to the scheme. And having the right staff in place - from refuse collectors, garden waste advisors, multimedia access technicians to the project manager and head of service - all made a significant impact on the success of the project.

Karey Barnshaw is Customer Engagement Manager at North Kesteven District Council

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