What price ‘Better Connected’ when the money has gone.

Budget cuts howl through the previously warm and snug corridors of local government like the arctic blast the country  succumbed to during the latter part of 2010. Minus 12 degC outside and chilling decisions being made inside.

Despite being the major means of dealing with councils, cuts are being made to web budgets. Lincolnshire, for example, cut budgets for web services before I left in early December and there’s probably more to come.

In my opinion it’s a short sighted view taken by some who are digitally and customer service illiterate. The web has proven to be the most cost effective method of dealing with the public. Moreover it’s the way that an increasing number of customers want to deal with councils.  Is it foolish then to curtail web provision’s ability to continue to grow as the main focus of customer service provision? Yes, especially as currently calls made to call centres are falling and web interaction with councils steadily rises .

I don’t suppose Lincolnshire will be the only council slashing web budgets, be that in development or in publishing power. Others will similarly make those chicken-licken style decisions and will leave the public all the poorer for it. That’s sad.

Having said that, just like any other service there must be things the web provides – or that are provided on the web – that are a luxury. Each web manager should take a long look at what is provided on their sites and make cost/value judgements on whether those fripperies  should stay.

British LG web sites are thought of as being amongst the best, if not the best, LG web sites in the world. And in some part ”Better Connected”, the yearly review by SOCITM, has been responsible for raising standards. There does come a point though when you’re near the top of the game, where raising the standard ever so marginally  – to meet some imagined need of SOCITM’s and thereby fulfill their requirement for Better Connected to exist and to make money – is just too expensive, and cannot, surely, be cost justified.

I would argue, especially in these trying times, enough is enough. Care not what SOCITM, in their desire to make a profit, say about you. It’s just too expensive a price to pay.

  • If you are providing good quality, up to date information via a readily navigable and/or easily searchable web site;
  • if your ethos is to be open and transparent and your web site demonstrates this;
  • if you let your site be driven by your clients by asking them to complain about a bad service or even lack of service  (remember you learn nothing from those who compliment you. It’s only the complainers who really drive you forward – read ‘What would Google do’ by Jeff Jarvis);
  • if your council, particularly officers,  think of  the web as the first method of dealing with the customer and provide the services and information accordingly,
  • generally if you think first about what the clients want, as opposed to what the council- members and officers – want, and deliver that via your web site, then you will have the basis of an excellent site – no matter what SOCITM may say to the contrary.

SOCITM would argue they have been the ones who have driven up standards. As I’ve said I lean towards agreement. However, having got us up to the top of the tree lets see how they can lead us down to more cost effective branches. If indeed you really need any leading. I would argue you don’t.

Peter Barton


Is all net traffic considered equal?

At the moment that would a ‘Yes” but Internet Neutrality is under threat!
So what I hear you say. Well consider this. How would you like your lovely and important  web site content deliberately slowed down at the receiving end unless you pay  to ensure it remains fast?  That is the threat the abolition of net neutrality poses . Sort of knocks a hole in the importance of the vaunted “ fast download speed’ requirement advocated by SOCITM and their suppliers of on-line tests.

At the moment it just relates to the wireless end but…

Greater and more informed minds than mine have written about this here,  here and here.

Would GOOGLE sell us down the river? Apparently a river only the wealthy will be able to cross?  Seems so. Google’s view is  here. And their explanation of their stance here.

Go take a look. Join the debate and have your say.
Which side of the fence are you? Will your council pay do you think?

What would Google do?

I was given a book recently: one I had not heard of but having read only the first 40 pages I wished I had read it much earlier.
It’s called “What would Google do” by Jeff Jarvis. I suppose it’s a parody of ‘what would jesus do’. I’m not here to discuss the omnipotence of Jesus or Google. That’s a whole different discussion better conducted by somebody who has an interest in such things.
No this is about Google, what they have done, what they do and how what they have done has changed forever business models across the world.
Now you may be thinking ‘It’s about business so it wont interest us in local government’. You could not be more wide of the mark if you faced the other direction.
Something I learned long ago in my marketing days was you should listen to people who complain. Afterall they have taken the time to write or call you to tell you about your service. You wont learn from people who tell you how good you are.
Jarvis promotes the theory that your worst customer is your best friend and I couldn’t agree more. Listen to your complaining customers and do something about what they say. You won’t regret it.
This book will show you more about customer service in the 21st century than most courses you could take. And it’s a hell of a lot cheaper.
Go look for it on Amazon or other book service site. It really will be worth it.