Customer research either reinforces what you already know, or it is wrong. That’s a truism verging on a cliche – particularly of quantitative research. But the development of digital services mandates us to take a user-centred approach. Customer research therefore isn’t just a discrete workstream at the start of our project, but a daily task for all members of the team.
We’ve begun discovery phase for ‘Tell us it’s broken’. Most local authorities provide a ‘report it’ function ranging from streetlights and grass verges for some through to child abuse for others. We didn’t want just to focus on reports. Some of our customers can make insurance claims for damage caused by roads and streets issues. So ‘Tell us it’s broken’ became our working title.
Three parts of customer research told us we were wrong:
- Our ‘street walk’ highlighted that people might want to raise issues about general wear and tear on a street, rather than reporting one specific issue
- Analysis of call data revealed that lots of people want to know about a current issue (such as work that’s being done on a street) rather than reporting something we don’t know about
- Some residents were put-off simply reporting something, and were sceptical that the council would do anything about it’. They wanted something less one-way.
So now we’re working on the digital service ‘Maintain my Street’. It’ll have multiple entry-points. Routes for those who want to report an issue, for those who need to make an insurance claims, and people who just want to improve their local area.
We’ll undoubtedly learn even more as we test our prototypes with users and non-users. It’s customer research that’s made us think fundamentally about the nature of the service. It may be powerful enough even to stop me from jumping to conclusions!