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Blog Customer Account User Research


“We need to do this because it’s what the customers want.” This is a phrase we hear a lot in Local Authorities, but too often people are just paying lip service to the statement. We’ve certainly been guilty in the past of designing services based on our perception of what the customer wants, without doing the simplest of things – actually talking to them.

In the last year we had about 158,000 transactions completed online. This is the second most popular way for our customers to contact us. So when we decided to embark on the project of developing our customer account to improve the online experience for residents, we knew it needed to be designed collaboratively with the people who were going to be using it.

Initially we created a questionnaire to quickly discover if a customer account was something our online customers wanted, and the main benefits an account could bring. Within a week we had nearly 70 responses. 65% of those who responded already had an account. The most popular improvement the users said we could make to the account was: ‘If it could give me alerts such as disruptions to bin deliveries’.

Of those who didn’t already have an account, over 75% said they would be interested in having an account if it had the right functionality, which included:

  • It saves me time filling in forms in the future
  • It gives me a log of everything I’ve reported
  • I can get progress reports on something I’ve done

This information gave the project a great kick off.

Next, we needed to improve the registration process. We’ve had the customer account functionality on our website for some time, but currently we only use out-of-the-box registration questions. We invited residents from Maidstone to come into our offices and have a go at registering an account from beginning to end. By observing the users, and having open conversations with them, this provided us with great insight into the things we were missing, what was confusing, and what didn’t need to be in there.

Within a few days we had turned the information we gained from this user research session into a full prototype of the new registration process. You can find more detailed information on our user research on the LocalGov Digital User Research Library.

Our next steps are to go from prototype to a live beta registration process. We’ll get some users to test this to make sure we haven’t missed anything. Then it’s on to developing the next component that will make up our customer account.

Kathryn is the Lead Service Designer in the Transformation and Digital Services Team. If you have any questions you can contact transformation@maidstone.gov.uk.  If you would like to find full details of the customer account project you can do so on Pipeline.

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The Digital Service team at Maidstone Borough Council lead on the research, design and development of user centered services for residents in Maidstone

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