Let's Whisper This. Is Digital Always Best?

Robin Barber, Pre Sales Consultant, questions whether digital is right for everyone and every situation.

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We’re drowning in social demographical profiles about smartphones, tablets and 4G showing how to deal with citizens in the most cost effective channel. You can spend your whole career and budget chasing stats for websites, compliance for accounts, and quickest customer journeys. With so much information it’s easy to get carried away looking at what others tell us, rather than what matters on the ground.

When I’m working on digital transformation projects, I’m often drawn back to an event in the 1990s when I was on a Youth Training Scheme.  A man with his young sons entered the reception area, pointed at a letter in his hand and announced that he wanted to see the head of planning. To my surprise the head of planning came and took the family into a meeting room. He handed the boys some colouring pencils and then proceeded to talk to the individual, listening to his concerns and taking time to explain the background of the letter. It wasn’t until afterwards that I discovered the individual was illiterate; he needed to talk to someone about his application.

It’s experiences like these that act as checks and balances to our proposals. They ensure that recommendations not only improve digital access to services, but address the needs of those who don’t have the tools or skills to go digital. The colouring pencils removed the distractions around services delivery and the most appropriate method of communication was used: face to face.

 Travelling across the country I’ll often spend time in reception areas before going into meetings.  I browse the leaflets and marketing material available to members of the public, I see who’s queuing up for help and listen into on their requests. It gives me a chance to reflect and ask myself: how would Arcus’ solutions and proposals affect these visitors? Would a “myaccount” mean they wouldn’t need to go to the office or would it just mean that the drawbridge is pulled up and access to services is reduced?

 My opinion and approach may differ to others in the market, and even within Arcus. Having a digital channel shouldn’t be the only way to engage with your services; the face to face conversation above wouldn’t have happened if we only allowed for a digital service, meaning a potential breach of planning permission and the associated costs. We need to ensure that the way in which we engage with citizens is not only the best way for us but also the best way for them.

And of course, digital transformation can and does free up resources for those services and people who really need it.