Feeding back citizen experience

via Digigov
September 18th, 2009
David Pullinger

I’ve been pondering on what kind of online feedback would best help improve our public services.  Of course, government already has it in some places – on NHS Choices, through third parties such as Patient Opinion, and for many local government services (that’s where I live).

The citizen might give a description and rating of an experience (just like restaurant and hotel reviews), an observation note (low hanging trees over pathways, abandoned cars) or photographs with GPS reference.  What we lack is any kind of consistency.

  • How might the citizen expect to do it?
  • Where would they find where they could give such feedback?
  • What kinds of descriptions and information will be required?
  • Are they hampered by yet another interface, or are there similarities to make the feedback process familiar?

There are a number of approaches:

  • Set a common framework, so that when feedback mechanisms are implemented, people can learn what to expect
  • Adopt some leading examples and copy across the different public sector websites
  • Setup a few Web Services that deliver the feedback functionality to many different websites, so that users have the same experience wherever they go.

We not only hinder the citizen in their ease of reporting (thereby potentially adding to their distress or preventing them from complimenting the service), we also lose something much more valuable – the ability to analyse where small changes across public services could result in maximum effect.

Those are systemic aspects that are not visible because believed specific, until some grunt work is done on the feedback in a comprehensive way.  For example people’s experience of hospitals may  be coloured by the difficulty or ease of getting there, or delays in responding to enquiries may be a generic response within certain organisations, rather than team specific.  We don’t get that kind of information unless we start to listen to citizens in a more comprehensive way about their experiences of public services.

So how can we best do that online?