Bromley was one of the first councils to implement FixMyStreet Pro as their fault reporting system, back in 2012. They’ve been an active partner ever since, in our shared quest for what Bromley call “outstanding public services through greater transparency”.
Seven years ago, FixMyStreet Pro was a simpler offering. But thanks to councils like Bromley, who have worked with us to advise on features that reflect the real life needs of response teams, FixMyStreet has come a very long way, now offering a range of features that benefit both the report maker and council staff.
This process of evolution has been beneficial all round — and the advantages also extend to all our other council clients, since changes to FixMyStreet are rolled out across the board.
Let’s take a look at our relationship with Bromley over those seven years, from initial expectations through to the current set-up.
Like many councils at the time, prior to 2012 Bromley had been managing their street reports through a suite of online forms, developed inhouse — but they recognised that this system just wasn’t sustainable.
As the internet evolved, customers were coming to expect more from online experiences. From an imperfect user experience to inefficiencies in report processing, it was clear that there was much room for improvement.
Here’s what team members said at the time:
“The world is changing, and we’re responding to that. Increasingly, our website’s becoming far more transactional.”
Jim Grainger, Customer Contact Manager
“Efficiency, effectiveness and listening to what residents want – they’re at the heart of our values as a council. The product needs to reflect that.”
Andrew Rogers, Communications Advisor
Online forms might provide a simple solution for councils, but they’re not ideal for people making the reports. Apart from anything else, they ensure that information only travels in one direction.
With full integration between FixMyStreet Pro and Bromley’s Confirm CMS, the customer experience was immediately upgraded. Now, updates are pushed back to the report-maker as soon as they’re registered internally. So, if a report is marked as received, an inspector goes out to assess a fault and marks it as needing attention, or a contractor confirms it as fixed, those statuses are immediately reflected online and in an email back to the citizen, every step of the way.
Of course, that integration also completely removes the need for a member of staff to take the information from a report and type it into Confirm. That’s one efficiency right away.
Another comes with FixMyStreet’s positive effect on the number of duplicate reports a council receives. Bromley had identified this as an issue right from the start:
“Time taken on dealing with duplicate reports is time that could otherwise be better spent.”
James Reay, Development and Integration Manager
Because reports are published online, everyone can see whether the issue they’re about to submit is already in the system.
Seven years ago, this was good news. Now, we’re doing even better, with a new feature that’s currently being tested and is set to go live soon: this will alert users when they start to report an existing issue that FixMyStreet detects is similar and within a small radius.
Like all councils, Bromley had recognised the value of channel shift in the current climate of slashed budgets — and FixMyStreet Pro was an obvious step towards that goal.
So: better communication, more efficiencies, and channel shift. It’s interesting to revisit these aims, in the light of the councils’ own hopes and desires for the service. This is how they were encapsulated by Andrew Rogers at that time:
“To be ever more efficient and effective is where we’re going — within the context of the council motto, which is ‘Serving the People’. Efficiency, effectiveness and listening to what residents want – they’re at the heart of our values. The product needs to reflect that.”
Seven years down the line, how has that worked out?
FixMyStreet Pro’s great strength has been in its close collaboration with councils as it has grown. Bromley were one of our first clients and were quick to express their needs. In return we were able to develop groundbreaking functionalities and prove — to ourselves as well as to the outside world — how responsive we can be. Here are a few of the innovations that have come out of this partnership:
Bromley being a London borough, some of its streets are maintained not by the council, but by TfL. By importing a new layer with data on where these ‘red routes’ begin and end, we were able to forward all relevant reports to TfL rather than wasting the council’s time with reports they aren’t responsible for. You can read more about this here.
This ‘data layers’ approach has been extremely useful in other areas, too. Like several other client councils, Bromley has provided us with data on the precise location of its many streetlights, vastly improving the accuracy of report locations and cutting down on the amount of time contractors need to find the light they’re working on. See more about asset layers here.
Bromley wanted to see at a glance which issues are most prevalent, and where in the borough they are being reported. As part of the staff dashboard, we developed heatmaps which staff can see on a map overlay. These can be used with the category dropdowns to highlight the report patterns for just one or any number of categories in conjunction.
“Developing new functionality such as heat mapping allows Bromley to start using the wealth of geographical information provided through FMS reporting to identify issues and trends right down to a local/community basis and start to consider how best to address those as a whole rather than simply reacting to reports in isolation.”
Jonathan Richards, Technical Support Team Manager
FixMyStreet Pro is now well established at Bromley Council. The value it brings to the council has been recognised at the 2019 LGC Awards where it has been shortlisted in the category “Driving Efficiency Through Technology”. Some of the reasons highlighted by the council are:
Bromley now calculate a massive channel shift, where 71% of report-makers have switched to digital. That is far beyond their expectations, or even hopes, at the beginning of the process.
Feedback from Bromley residents has been very positive.
But just as importantly, the council’s contractors Veolia and Kier enjoy working with the system. Bromley hear from them that notifications are timely, the interface is simple for everyone to use, direct communication between the customer and contractors has been to everyone’s benefit, and overall there has been reduced pressure on everyone, all down the line.
Another important component in the council make-up, councillors, are also enjoying being able to monitor their own wards, so they know exactly what the issues in the neighbourhood are, and can intervene when needed.
As we approach the LCG Awards, we’ll leave the final words to Colin Smith, leader of Bromley Council:
“Maintaining the streetscene is very much a partnership between the council and Bromley residents, with online reporting being an ever more important tool in delivering that outcome.
“There is no doubt that the most efficient way to process fault reports is online, with faults able to be routed direct to the appropriate contractor or member of the in-house team and actioned more quickly as a result.
“The transparency of the system demonstrates the council’s total commitment to working with our residents as proactively as possible at all times, increasing the number of reports we receive and process, whilst at the same time, improving our capability to deal with them more efficiently, in pursuit of providing an ever improving and more responsive service.”
We hope to come back again in another few years to report ever more progress and innovation. Many thanks to Bromley for being such a responsive and proactive partner.