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National Customer Service Week: Putting the ‘you’ into user research

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Defra service design, User research

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In National Customer Service Week user researcher Will Roissetter explains how being customer-centric is helping design a new service for packaging producers.

Hi, my name is Will, and I’m leading the user research in the Local Authority Payments digital team here in Defra. I want to take a bit of time to explain what we’re doing and how we use customer centric principles when developing this tool.

The way UK organisations responsible for packaging must carry out their recycling responsibilities is changing. Under the extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging, packaging producers will need to pay for the full cost of disposing of packaging waste. This money will be granted to local authorities to cover recycling and disposal costs.

Via the Local Authority Payments tool, local authority representatives will be notified of their upcoming payments. They will be able to understand how these payments have been calculated, and query payments they think are inaccurate.

Local Authority Payments is the digital journey within the extended producer responsibility scheme that enables local authorities in the UK to engage with the scheme to receive fair compensation for their work in managing packaging waste. Users will be able to register to:

  • get payment information needed to plan their budgets in advance
  • receive payments for their work collecting and disposing of packaging waste
  • submit data and evidence of their waste collection and disposal activities (in the future)
  • get assessed on the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations so they can improve them (in the future)
  • get support, raise queries or complaints, and access detailed guidance on the extended producer responsibility scheme.

Private beta, explained

We’re now gearing up to start working in private beta next year. A private beta is a stage in the software development process where a limited number of external users or testers are invited to use and test a pre-release version of a software product or service.

It’s typically conducted after the alpha stage (which we’ve recently passed) has been completed, but before the software is made available to all users in a full-scale release.

Private beta serves as a crucial quality assurance step in developing services, helping us catch and resolve issues early, reduce the risk of bugs in the public release, and ensure the service meets our users' expectations. It also allows for valuable user feedback to be incorporated into the software's design and functionality.

What we’re doing, and what we’re learning

So, this is our first real opportunity to get working software into the hands of customers. It's really important for us to do this for a variety of reasons.

  • Real-World Testing: Private beta testing is designed to expose the software to real-world usage scenarios and a diverse range of user environments. Beta testers use the software as actual end-users would.
  • Feedback Gathering: Beta testers are encouraged to provide feedback regarding any issues they encounter, such as bugs, usability problems, or suggestions for improvement. This feedback is invaluable for identifying and resolving issues before a wider release, meaning customer feedback is at the heart of improving the service.
  • Iterative Development: We’ll make iterative updates and improvements to the software based on the feedback received during the private beta phase. This process helps refine the product and enhance its quality.
  • Testing Objectives: Private beta testing helps the development team evaluate how well the software performs in the hands of real users, identify any unexpected issues, and gather data on performance, security, and usability.

In summary, being customer-centric when developing our services is essential for delivering effective, efficient, and responsive governance. It promotes user satisfaction, trust, and inclusivity while ensuring that government resources are used effectively to meet the diverse needs of our users.

Customer-centric services are designed to meet user expectations and make interactions with government agencies more positive. High levels of user satisfaction can improve trust in our department and foster a sense of partnership between our customers and the government. We’ll continue to aspire to this aim as a means of building trust and confidence in the services we build.

If you work for a local authority and you would like to take part in our private beta, then please get in touch with us here.

Will Roissetter is a user researcher on the extended producer responsibility scheme team.

Look out for more updates about the work of Will and his team on this channel in the coming weeks.

National Customer Service Week is a week-long celebration of customer service, offering an opportunity to reflect on how you serve your customers, recognise your team’s achievements, and show your commitment to service excellence.

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