A better feedback service – aiming for stronger collaboration

9.11.2021 - 14:40

The inhabitants act as eyes and ears for a city organization, that is on the lookout for various areas for further development in the urban environment.  A tree brought down by the autumn winds, a pothole in the road caused by torrential rain, or a broken street light easily catches the attention of passers-by.

-The city is common to all of us, and therefore it is great that feedback is given at a low threshold.  Most of the feedback reaches us through electronic services, says customer service officer Jaana Huttunen of the City of Kuopio. 

The electronic feedback service, with its timelessness, integrates the traditional channels, i.e. calling, sending an email or popping up on-the-spot at the customer service counter.   Also, spontaneous feedback, for instance to the maintenance staff, is still valid.  The feedback service acts as a good addition to other channels, because people are used to doing business digitally.

Through the feedback service the City of Kuopio receives an average of 4 000 items of feedback annually. The Geographic Information Engineer Marko Ahola of the City of Kuopio divides the feedback into three categories: 1000 items concern public transport, 1500 more items relate to maintenance tasks, and the rest concern other types of services.  

The new Kuntolaakso swimming pool is a good example of how the clients themselves can have an impact on the end result.  At the request of the local people, convenient swimsuit dryers were installed in the changing rooms of the swimming hall.  Residents’ wishes, ideas and proposals for improvements play an important role in the implementation of joint services and projects.

The urban environment is everyone’s concern

The City of Kuopio’s electronic feedback service has already been running for several years.  During this year the existing electronic feedback channel has been systematically developed.  Through a new digital platform residents will be able to participate in the planning of common matters even better than before.

-At the moment the feedback service is a bit difficult to find and slightly cumbersome, says the staff and financial manager Anne Simonen-Ruuskanen.

The objective is to produce a modern, easy-to-use and bilingual service.  In the future, the feedback can be submitted in English in addition to Finnish.  The new platform also invests heavily in easy integration with mobile phones.

-For instance, according to Simonen-Ruuskanen, an observation encountered on a walking trail can be registered with the service straightaway, and a photograph illustrating the matter can be attached. 

Ease of use is being developed, among other things, by clarifying the categories so that it will be easier than before for the client to direct the feedback to the right address. In the future, it will also be easier to choose whether the client wishes to give feedback, thank or perhaps leave a proposal for action. 

-The monitoring and openness of the service will be developed so that everyone can see what feedback has been given, and the response to it. With the help of a supplementary map, for example, it is easy to mark the location of a broken lamp, according to Ahola. 

Simonen-Ruuskanen points out that in spite of this openness, the feedback regarding the service area related to health and welfare will continue to be classified.   For instance, messages related to health services may inadvertently reveal something about the person who left the message, so they are automatically encrypted, for the purpose of protecting personal data.

-In other cases everyone can see the feedback that has been submitted to the service.  With openness we aim to leave feedback on the same issue only once and everyone can see how the feedback has been replied to, Simonen-Ruuskanen says.

According to Huttunen, the aim is also to draft a section of frequently asked questions, as well as to bring out informative issues better, so that users notice them.  With the advent of winter, ploughing is a subject for plenty of feedback, so a bulletin could mention e.g. preliminary schedules.

The new version will be published next year

The digital service has been developed through the Human-Centered Digital Municipality (IDK) project, and in its development work e.g. workshop procedure has been utilized. Some of the meetings have occurred in person, but a majority have been conveniently carried out through Teams.  According to Jaana Huttunen, in the development workshops the residents, persons replying to feedback, as well as the developers have enjoyed animated discussions.

-It always broadens one’s own views to hear other persons opinions also on the same issue.   It is good to look at matters from the viewpoints of the other parties, says Huttunen.

Marko Ahola adds that ideas concerning the development of the feedback service had already been noted and analysed earlier, in the development of the feedback process.

The development workshops and the basic work is done now, so concrete action is now required.  Actual service development starts next year, so towards the end of the year Kuopio residents will have a new and even better electronic feedback channel.

-I hope that the feedback service will be used a lot.  It is the easiest way to approach, and the fastest method to promote the client’s own issue, Ahola sums up.

The Human-Centric Digital Municipality (IDK) project (1.1.2020-31.12.2022) is funded by the European Social Fund, the Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment South Savo, the City of Kuopio, and the Savonia University of Applied Sciences.

Text: Heta Jyrälä/Oodia

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