The council wanted to make it easier for people to get in touch with them, to report things like fly tipping and vandalism. They also wanted to implement an outbound communication method which would enable them to easily notify local residents about issues which might affect them, such as planning alerts or rubbish collection information.
They concluded that text messaging is often the chosen method of communication for many people; it is quick, cost effective, discreet and instant, plus it also meets regulatory compliance initiatives. People will happily send a text, but they might not bother to take the time to telephone the Council to report issues, so texting was identified as the way forward.
Simon Turner, ICT Manager at South Oxfordshire District Council took ownership of the challenge. He needed to find an SMS solution and then a project within the Council which would be suitable to run as a fixed trial.
A fully-featured inbound and outbound Text Messaging Solution from ProcessFlows was selected and installed. Simon Turner comments: “It was easy to deploy and works seamlessly with our email system. Adding SMS means we can offer a wider range of communication choices to our residents.”
It was decided that the imminent local elections could provide an ideal way of testing the implementation. The proposal, which was aimed to engage voters and reverse the often apathetic interest in the subject, was to deliver election results by text, directly to the mobile phones of voters who chose to subscribe to the service via the Council’s website.
The project was publicised by a poster campaign and on the Council’s website. The process was easy – to register, users simply text the word ELECTIONS, followed by a space and the number of the ward they would like results for to a dedicated number (the ID numbers of wards were listed on the website). Subscribers were able to sign up to receive results for as many wards as they wanted, but needed to send separate texts for each ward, or they could elect to receive the results for all wards by texting an alternative number.
Simon comments that given the very short lead time, they were very encouraged with the take-up and the trial was voted a success, which paved the way for the further use of SMS across the organisation – Text messages are now used to keep in touch with subscribed residents, notifying them about a wide range of Council service updates and changes.