Automating Reminders and Confirmation to Bookings and Transactions

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

Problem Statement

Our problem is how we better automate communication & contribute to the reduction in missed appointments & request feedback.

Our discovery looked at the problems & challenges for parents separated from their children.  How this leads to a high number of no-shows & late cancellations supervised contacts. But in a wider context this could be about any LA service appointment.

Key Objectives

Our main objective is to enable automated messaging to deliver communications to services users, by integrating GovNotify with Exchange linking appointment bookings to confirmations, reminders & to automate a feedback request.

We are looking to deliver a common service pattern that can be shared across many local authorities with open source code enabling the scalability across many services.

We want to produce shareable code enabling other LAs to replicate the work using quality documentation to support a modular approach to integration, where LAs do not have the level of technical capacity to start from scratch.

Measuring Success of the product

Robust testing will evidence minimal failure rate (percentage failure).

Delivering reductions in no-shows & cancellations of appointments contributes to the wellbeing of both parents & children for our exemplar

Quality feedback enabling both operational management & service design & future development. (percentages of users giving feedback)

Measuring success of the project

Delivery of this project would create a shareable code & materials to enable all other LAs using exchange to implement the solution across all appropriate services where active communication within the booking process is required.  Generating significant savings opportunity with automation, removing manual text & email compilation at an advantageous costing model against other publicly available solutions.

The project will be developed in house utilising skills across the digital team, ICT & service areas  & working with our collaborators.

Events & Milestones during development will include:

  • Understanding the user journey  & user needs – discovery user research
  • Understanding the service design & dynamics in a complex area – discovery user research
  • Show & Tells
  • Prototype building
  • Reiteration
  • Project retros
  • Final report approved
  • Outputs published

Project Management

The project will be managed in an agile way through a series of sprints to maintain regular communication across the dispersed project team & ensure that the project progresses as required to ensure delivery by the end of March 2019.

The lead officers from each authority will meet monthly in a virtual project board format to review progress & ensure that risks & issues are identified & the required action taken to maintain progress.


Project Plan


In context, for NELC, we have arranged 1,159 contacts from January to March 2018 & 28% were cancelled including cancellations & no shows.  Currently this means letters for all contacts & follow ups which are costly & time consuming to administer. As our main objective is to have an electronic communication tool & for NELC in this  service area, we would hope to realise a reduction in staff time arranging appointments & rearranging, reduced postage for example, all will be a measurement of success but more importantly the customer (parents) will be communicating in their first choice channel which will result in less cancellations & no shows. A new & effective communication tool that other services in the local authority could reuse & employ.

Success for the project would deliver:

  • Open source code to enable use of the GovNotify API to connect to & be driven by events in exchange
  • Quality documentation & training materials to share across the public sector
  • Lessons learned & information governance issues that may need to be addressed

How much could this save

As publicised by the NHS the scale of the costs of missed appointments is of the order of £1Bn and scaled across the whole public sector makes this a really big problem to solve and one worth doing.  

This is reflected in the amount of rework, rebooking and the risk of escalation of needs to service users which could ultimately result in crisis.  This means of the 4,636 appointments for contact supervision no shows and cancellations account for 1,312 appointments pa which are no shows or cancellations costing £110 each means an impact of £144K pa.  Assuming this is halved, potential savings are £72K pa. Scale this service over a larger council and the whole public estate and across many services across each council, this is a massive opportunity to save hundreds of thousands.

Benefits Map

The main benefits of this project will be:

  • Understanding of where savings and improvements can be made.
  • Increased use and response to SMS as a channel.
  • Roadmap for a Beta product.
  • Increased understanding of what a better product could look like, leading to a design pattern and prototype for wider sector use backed up by user research and evidence.
  • A Product / Service user that meets user needs, leading to greater user satisfaction.

We will communicate with other councils fully through Local Digital and in accordance with the Local Digital Declaration we all signed up to.  In addition we will each collaborate on a regional basis through our existing networks and benchmarking arrangements. We will share user research and test our thinking in this phase of the work to ensure this meets the needs of the many.

We will communicate the findings of our research and prototypes throughout the project via Blogs, social media, Closed Slack channel that interested parties can subscribe to and via a Slack open day.

Our discovery phase looked at the channels of communication from the service to the users and from the users back to the service. Traditional communication channels, letters and telephone were the only ones consistently used but these were not the preferred channels selected by service users as part of the discovery. These methods are expensive and when appointments are missed this impacts both in staff loss of productivity, postage and rework, estimated at £144K.  They are also not resulting in an acceptable rate of positive outcomes increasing stress within those families.

This solution was chosen for the economies of scale and the flexibility, to choose mode of communication across email, SMS and letters using the DWP print mechanism with great cost benefits.

The solution to use SMS text to inform and remind service users was because it was the    number one choice of communication by the parents of the contact service which came out in the discovery.

Whilst our Alpha is specific to an NELC service around Contact Supervision, this is a national challenge to tackle no shows and drive reminders to change behaviour. The overall structure and service pattern will be able to be replicated across many services for example, booking a bulky waste collection,  booking an MoT test and requesting feedback, to registering a death and many more, perhaps extending to collection reminders for waste rounds.

Delivering this service pattern will meet customer expectations, capitalise on the changing technology space of mobile devices and support improved service redesign built on customer experiences given through feedback.

User research and discovery work detail available:


Username is LDDNEL

Password is NELldf18#


We will establish the project group through a scoping meeting, understanding the proposals and agreeing the collective approach to building the Alpha.

We intend to use use tools that enable us to collaboratively manage the project and the work such as Slack & Trello with our collaborators, in fact anything that will ensure that the project will progress. We will not rule out face to face meetings if all agreed that it was necessary.

We will communicate with other councils fully through Local Digital and in accordance with the Declaration we all signed up to. In addition we will each collaborate on a regional basis through our existing networks. We will share user research and test our thinking in this phase of the work to ensure this meets the needs of the many.

We will communicate our findings via Blogs, social media, Closed Slack channel that interested parties can subscribe to and verifying our findings by getting others to test our work including a slack open day.

Business Case

We will produce the business case for change and expected behaviour change as a result of the Alpha prototype.  This will identify the savings to be made and how this scales up nationally and as is recently publicised by the NHS,  the order of approx £1Bn per annum is lost due to ‘no shows’. We know that the cost of NELC cancellations or no shows is £110 based on staff costs and resource alterations that are then required. The cost to the parent and child is hard to quantify but in terms of relationships what we do acknowledge that this is not helpful and traumatic.

What we will produce

We will produce and publish a user research report identifying user views, preferences and how we made decisions to iterate the solution over time.

We will produce:

  • Open source code to enable use of the GovNotify API to connect to and be driven by events in exchange.
  • Quality documentation and training materials to share across the public sector.  
  • Lessons learned and information governance issues that may need to be addressed.
  • We will further produce a clear conclusion and recommendation for the progress to Beta and the form that the product should take with an understandable service list where the solution could be implemented.

For our exemplar, contact supervision, our users are parents, children, foster carers, social workers and contact supervisors.

For wider services that require communication methods linked to bookings driven by exchange this could be an enormous array of services and all residents and visitors to NELC.  Part of the discovery will include a service analysis of potential uses of the Alpha to inform the Beta roadmap where we can have the greatest financial impact across allLAs.

We will engage for our Alpha when suitable consent is given at relevant venues where all users can openly share feedback about the experience of the service and the effectiveness of the prototype we are looking to develop to an Alpha.

Our objectives for the user research is to:

  1. Validation of the iterations
  2. Testing the prototypes
  3. Gaining insight and feedback
  4. Observing users using the solution
  5. Valuing the user and putting them at the heart of the design
  6. To enable iteration based on the insight and feedback

We think there is a need for national collaboration in holding large product providers to account and that this is something the Local Digital Collaboration Unit and the MHCLG as a whole may be able to give focus and support.

As is the model for GDS GaaP products with the economies of scale, we feel this should also be so in the private sector.

Successful regional frameworks such as mail provision, have seen contracts with Whistl as opposed to Royal mail with aggregated financial advantage across all participating local authorities with great savings and benefits as with the potential for GovNotify.

For this project it would be beneficial to start some of the research to support the Beta roadmap developing an understanding of where wider integrations across CRM systems that need to interact with exchange and the state of vendor development in this area.

None for NELC and partners