Our Customer Panel

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The birth of the Customer Panel Community

The BwD Customer panel started as a small idea to gather feedback. We had spoken to User Researchers from other local authorities to see how they gathered their customer’s thoughts and feelings and this was a commonly used solution.

We decided to create our community as we wanted to give our customers a voice and ensure they felt heard. We started simple by asking customers to tick a box when they signed up for a BwD account.

The question was “Would you like to be part of our Customer Panel?”

We quickly realised that although we had over 1000 people interested in joining our panel it was not clear they understood what they had signed up for. We were not actually engaging with the customers and we quickly realised we needed to do more!!

Redesigning our Panel

Emails were sent out to all those customers that had expressed an interest in joining the panel. We clearly explained how the group would work, what the panel entailed and what customers could expect from us as a team. We asked questions so we could gather the individual’s interests in areas of the Council and how they would feel most comfortable providing their feedback. Some of the options we have are surveys, quick fire questions and face to face meetings.

A customer relationship tool was created so we could manage a database of customers who had volunteered to provide feedback on specific topics. This helped us to build groups of users for specific areas of interest so we can quickly and easily contact people by their preferred method. When we needed user research for our Highways project, we were able to look at our database and quickly identify the customers who wanted to be involved.

Our mailbox grew and customerpanel@blackburn.gov.uk became the main vocal point for the community. We advertised the mailbox on the bottom of all online form emails that are sent out to customers. This increased traffic of emails, and more of our team were trained up on responding and helping with the queries.

How we recruit to our panel

In the summer of 2021 we carried out some really successful user research work with volunteers in our borough, and we then started to see an increase in sign-ups to the panel. Word of mouth become a very powerful tool with other volunteers.

We also began to take opportunities to sign people up when carrying out work with different groups. In particular this worked well when engaging with taxi drivers in the borough. Part of the work on digitalising the application process for the drivers was to attend taxi forums. Drivers were really willing to provide feedback to improve the service we offer. We then recruited some of them into the panel.

A key area in a successful customer panel is to keep members interested and keen to keep on supporting us in the work we carry out. This is done by keeping up regular communication on their interests.

We currently have nearly 100 members within the community and we reach out to them when our Service Design team are working within the area that they have chosen to be involved with. We are committed to carrying out user research to better understand our customer’s needs. All we need is a willingness to give opinions. The input the panel provides helps us improve the user experience of the services we provide.

The BwD Customer Panel Community has been showcased to both Birmingham City Council and Essex County Council as best practice as we share our successes across other local authorities.

In the future we hope to increase the diversity of the groups we have. This way we can use the feedback to continually improve our designs and services that we offer while getting customers involved in all stages of both new and established services.

If you would like to find out more about how to develop your own Customer Panel Community please contact zahida.khan@blackburn.gov.uk

If you would like to be part of the BwD Customer Panel Community you can sign up here

By Zahida Khan on 22nd Sep 2022
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