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Are you an April fool?

Forcing residents to subscribe to garden collections every April is odd and unnecessary. Get more 'green bin' customers by making sign-ups simple!

For a long time, public services were designed by the local authority to use an available budget in the best way. The mechanics of how those services were delivered were not really visible to the public so were built to work within the council’s systems and structures.

Many council services are still designed this way. Even in the age of commercialisation they structure services to conform to what they already do, looking inwards rather than outwards. It’s still, unfortunately, rather novel for council waste services to start from the customer need.

And so we get to one of my personal bugbears. Garden waste collections are commonly charged and run for fixed periods, sitting within the April to April financial year. That’s convenient for the council because they can think about the annual income and match it to their annual budgets, but it offers nothing to residents who just want their bin emptied every fortnight, starting now.

Young redhead woman relaxing with phone in the yard of the house in summer. Negative people emotion. Upset 30s women is using a smartphone

Can you imagine buying car insurance and being told that it would have to start on 1st April because that was the start of the financial year for the insurance company? And what insurance company would want to do all the admin for its entire customer base on one day each year?

It’s absurd. In a world where we regularly consume subscription services for phones, financial services, car leasing and entertainment, why do councils force us to buy products in this weird way?

Worse still, some services are then further hindered with complex workarounds to let people sign up later in the year. For example, councils may decrease the garden subscription price as the year proceeds – actively encouraging people to sign up later rather than sooner whilst confusing them with different ‘subscription windows’ and payment profiles.

It’s just not necessary. Allowing households to subscribe at any time for a 12-month period with a recurring payment reduces administration and smooths it across the year. Budgets are very predictable, churn is gradual and calculating the deferred income for budgeting requires little more than a chart on a dashboard. Most of all, it’s appealing to residents and maximises subscriptions throughout the year.

Councils are about to start on one of the biggest periods of service innovation for years. They will need to encourage residents to adopt changes that they don’t instinctively like, such as paid-for garden waste and separated food waste. They are much more likely to succeed if they make these things as consumer-friendly as possible.

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