Are you snowed under?

By Dave Worsell, Director, Government Solutions, GovDelivery UK

I’ve been talking about snow a lot lately. It’s a hot topic, so to speak, for many Local Authorities. As one local authority recently explained to me recording and reporting school closures is a big problem. Their process for managing school snow closures is as follows:

  • Council contact centre staff start early (before 6am) to take the huge increase in incoming calls from schools, parents, staff and other residents wanting service updates.
  • Schools inform the council by phone and/or email if they are closed. Getting through on the congested telephone lines often delays announcements and causes schools frustration.
  • Contact centre staff record all school closures and pass the details to the web team.
  • The busy web team manually updates the list of closed schools on the website every 15 minutes. This means announcement are delayed further still.
  • Local media (i.e. radio) receives some messages direct from schools and hunts down other information on the council website for their broadcasts.
  • Parents swamp council and school websites & phone lines but become increasingly frustrated as high demand overwhelms systems (it happens to me every time it snows).

Not very efficient is it? Suppose the entire process could be automated by sending a simple email? Let me explain how GovDelivery makes this process more efficient and effective:

  • School sends an email to the Council GovDelivery system with details of the closure.
  • Email contents are automatically distributed to parents, school/council staff and local media simultaneously via email, SMS, Text-2-Voice[i] and through social media (Twitter / Facebook).
  • Lists of closed schools created automatically and displayed, real-time on the council website.
  • Widgets with School Closures are created allowing schools, media, district and boroughs councils to share information on their websites and social media channels.
  • Parents share messages/widgets via email and social networks to reach a wider audience.

Simple eh? So what are the primary benefits of this approach?

  • Easy to use as one email automates the entire process.
  • Proactive messages ensures those who need-to-know get timely, accurate information.
  • Phone lines are kept clear for urgent calls (and you need less staff to manage them).
  • Less demand on the website as parents get the latest information sent directly to them.
  • You save money on additional staffing and free staff to concentrate on other urgent work.
  • Parents are better informed and aren’t frustrated (in fact, satisfaction ratings should go up).

It’s not just school closures. You can use the same process for notifications on gritting routes, leisure/library closures, travel incidents and refuse collection changes. You don’t even need snow to see benefits.

Suppose the thousands of parents who subscribe to your school closure updates are also encouraged to sign-up for other council services like library news, recycling reminders, voter registration, council tax reminders, local events, community safety alerts, leisure facilities, …?

Abracadabra! You’ve got a highly effective and efficient way of engaging your audience across all your services. Imagine the impact this massive online audience would have on your channel shift agenda and the potential for avoidable contact savings.

[i] Available on exchanges that support SMS to voice translation.

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