Should Everyone Use Open311?

Last week I posted about how at the moment digital is the preferred channel for reporting broken streetlights, flooding, potholes, fly tipping and so on to us.


Then I read what Tom Steinberg wrote explaining what Open311 is better than I ever could, which got me thinking.


In 2011 I created an Open311 service which is plugged into our Fault Reporting functionality and therefore our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. I then did some work with the very knowledgeable people at Fix My Street (FMS) so that their site used the service. This means, that like our own Fault Reporting, stuff submitted via FMS gets automatically logged and assigned to the correct team.


You might ask why don't we just use FMS, but that's a debate for another day.


What got me thinking about Tom's post is that third party sites that don't use Open311 generally send requests for service through as an email which is far less efficient than creating the case and customer records automatically.


There are various studies on channel cost however in 2012 SocITM estimated a phone call cost £2.83 and a website visit 15p, so an email must be around the same cost as the former, given the customer services representative still has to create the record, type the information and so on into the CRM.


So whilst sites that spring up offering online reporting might seem more efficient, they're no better than sending an email and far less than using our own Fault Reporting or an Open311 enabled site.


Is a natural progression of this, not to accept email responses from digital 3rd party websites, just via Open311, given that the former costs councils and therefore the taxpayer a lot more than the latter?


This is just an idea for discussion. As far as I'm aware no one is seriously considering it and I should add that I'm in no way questioning a resident's right to email, phone or send a letter to report something. For lots of reasons, not least the digital divide these channels need to be maintained.


If you'd like to discuss this then you can find me at


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Jason Williams 8 Years Ago
Have had a considerable amount of sales calls and demo recently for report it type functions where Open311 wasnt an out of the box option but a Can do. For me we have to be using a full integration to our CRM as you say to ensure we make efficiency savings. Once the third party suppliers cotton on to that then perhaps they will have a much more rounded product to demo. The flip side is that suppliers of CRM need to understand that this should be an out of box connector and not an add on. We need to as a public sector insist that this type of "tech" comes as standard with every product.
Phil Rumens 8 Years Ago
Exactly. Not just this but every product should conform to open standards.
Jason Williams 8 Years Ago
Agree, for me this is the area where localgov digital can perhaps raise the awareness and perhaps get some changes. I have a dream that one day I can connect system a to system b without 6 months of work!! or even better extract and display system a with data from system b in a format thats useful to our customers. Crazy talk I know.
Glen Ocsko 8 Years Ago
The integration (or lack thereof) with our CRM system was a reason I was given why we don't use or promote FMS and instead are investing in evolving and developing our own local solution. I'm sure we're not alone in this and others too are spending time and money creating comparable solutions of their own. Open311 almost seems too good to be true - where is the catch?
Phil Rumens 8 Years Ago
It's not too good to be true, it's just a set of standards for connecting stuff, you still need to either create the web service yourself or buy it in. FMS is good, but as far as I know, even with Open 311 intergration it still doesn't offer a full end-to-end service, it just raises a case in the CRM. It also doesn't make use of mapping layers councils might hold. Glen, what's your CRM, if you don't mind me asking?