Everyone knows the DVLA. They're the Swansea-based bit of government that looks after your driving licence. A simple comms task? No, far from it...
by Victoria Ford
Here at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) we deal with over 130 million customer transactions a year, 67 million of them digitally.
This digital transformation is set to continue and brings with it a whole set of challenges for us as a communication team.
My top five? Here goes...
1. How do you reach over 40 million customers aged between 16 and 107? - Having this many diverse customers means we need to work across a variety of comms channels to ensure we get our messages understood. A simple newsletter on its own isn’t going to hit the mark (although we do have one of those, you can subscribe at http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla//publications/news_dvla.aspx). This is where our insight teams come into their own to get a real feel for what our customers actually want, how they want it and when they want it. Unless we start asking these questions we have no chance of delivering comms that allow our customers to understand their obligations and meet them in the easiest way possible. We have to keep listening, not just pushing out information and expect customers to do what we want them to.
2. Digital communications 1 – I want a team that knows how to engage with customers and staff through the channels that work for them. No this isn’t the end of traditional comms, but it is time to mix it up a bit. We have a Twitter channel at DVLA (@DVLAgovuk), now is the time to understand how we make it work as a customer service channel that delivers business benefits and hand over control (or at least some control!) to our customer service teams. Also what social media access do our staff need to engage with customers, improve their skill set and develop new digital ways of working?
3. Digital communications 2 - we also need to exploit technology to reach our own staff. I don’t want to (and can’t afford to) alienate those that don’t use digital comms channels, but I definitely don’t want to completely miss the growing number that do. We can’t ask our staff to transform our business digitally then continue to pass them pieces of paper when we want to communicate with them. Soon we hope to introduce video clips, web chats and digital feedback facilities. A little late? Maybe, but we’ve started the modernisation of all our internal communications offerings and now is time to pick up the pace.
4. Having no budget! The challenge to us as a government communication team is how we operate in a no/low cost environment. I’ve loved this challenge which has shifted ways of thinking and unleashed new creativity. We were recently set the challenge of informing customers of the need to renew the photograph on their photo card driving licence after ten years (yes, you do need to). One television interview, eight radio interviews and an in house produced video posted on YouTube later http://www.dft.gov.uk/dvla//publications/news_dvla.aspx our work helped increase transaction volumes by 50k. All for the cost of a couple of hours of my time and a few hours from our filming team. What we’re paid to do anyway!
5. Professional development – comms needs comms professionals with the skills to deliver excellent communications in the digital world. Enter GCN and the new Aspire programme for government communicators focused on digital, evaluation and low cost comms and we can start to transform our capability. Sit this alongside the opportunity to network and share best practise through organisations such as CommsCymru [@commscymru], not forgetting the comms Twitter community who challenge my own thinking every day and we really can notch it up a level. Communicators across all sectors need to share best practise and pool their thinking, skills and resource. Austerity isn’t an excuse to abandon development.
Victoria Ford is head of communications at the DVLA.