Bournemouth reduces customer demand & improves satisfaction ratings using email marketing
“Now we know the email service is really valuable to our audience, and the council (in terms of reducing demand and creating more informed communities), our key objective is basically to tell more people about it!”
– Tina Stokes, Digital Engagement Officer, Bournemouth Borough Council
Bournemouth Borough Council’s email alerts service is a model for other councils and government departments which need to connect with more local residents and businesses. If your organisation needs to encourage more citizens to “participate” and behave in ways that positively influence their wellbeing and the spaces in which they live, we recommend pausing for a second to take a look at what Bournemouth are up to. Why, you ask. Well, because they’re consistently achieving phenomenally high email engagement rates, and any organisation that can sustain above average open and click rates must be doing something right.
Bournemouth’s recent subscriber survey (results further down) revealed that the email service is:
- helping to keep more people informed about the council’s work
- reducing avoidable contact from residents
- increasing public participation in events
- and improving citizen satisfaction with the council in general.
Focused email marketing strategy
The council delivers a suite of attractive and concise email bulletins to over 21,000 subscribers who’ve signed up to receive updates on the things that matter to them – from events, parks and leisure opportunities, to business news and job vacancies. As demonstrated by Bournemouth’s impressive engagement rates, it pays to align your email subscription topics with your organisation’s strategic objectives and priority programmes (which should also sync with your audience’s most pressing needs and interests).
For example, one of the council’s priorities (and obligations) is to improve the health and wellbeing of residents, and to reduce differences in health outcomes between communities. Bournemouth’s monthly Health & Wellbeing email newsletter (now serving 3,000 subscribers) is a core channel for helping residents lead healthier lives. The regular updates provide support and advice, and promote opportunities to get involved in national and local programmes.
The council also uses email to communicate with more than 3,500 residents about local waste and recycling services, ultimately to increase recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill or incineration. Waste and recycling-related customer enquiries account for a huge proportion of local authorities’ customer contact time and resources, therefore by being upfront and timely with service updates and education around positive recycling behaviours, Bournemouth has an opportunity to reduce the demand and improve customer satisfaction.
A must-read for anyone in local government; check out 5 Ways to Improve Waste and Recycling Services with Digital Communications.
Bournemouth Borough Council has a clear vision and great team behind its email outreach. In the past 12 months, they’ve sent a modest 214 bulletins to 730,000 recipients, sticking to a regular frequency for each subscription topic. Some are monthly updates (for example the Health & Wellbeing e-newsletter) whereas others are more frequent weekly messages (for example the Jobs bulletin).
Sample of bulletins sent over the last 12 months:
Exceptionally high engagement rates
On average, Bournemouth’s email engagement rate is 84%, meaning that of all the people who received an email alert or newsletter over the past 90 days, 84% have either opened the message or clicked a link from the preview pane, indicating that they are an “active” subscriber (or engaged audience member). You may find that unsurprising given that all 21,000+ subscribers have proactively opted in to receive the comms. However, when we think about the barrage of emails we all receive every day, it’s important we don’t take any subscriber for granted and organisations in the public and private sector must work hard to retain their audience. Bournemouth’s focused approach to email and content marketing helps keep its messages relevant and timely – two key components of any successful outreach activity.
To put that 84% average engagement rate into context: according to the Benchmark Report for Public Sector Communications, the median average rate for emails sent by government organisations as part of their citizen outreach activity is 57.7% in the UK and 53.3% globally.
We’ll be publishing the 2017 Benchmark Report in the next few weeks. You’ll then be able to compare your performance with other organisations across the UK and US. Check out the 2016 report here.
Subscriber feedback helps to improve the email service
Gathering feedback from customers is an important part of service improvement. Bournemouth Borough Council recently surveyed its subscribers to find out what people thought of the email bulletins service. Here’s one of the messages they sent out to prompt people to participate – note the big bold call-to-action button and urgency in the headline to encourage responses.
The council received over 2,000 responses which equates to around 10% of its total subscriber base – an excellent conversion rate and solid sample audience. Here’s what they learned from participants…
Key survey results:
- 81% are satisfied with the overall service (only 2% ‘Dissatisfied’)
- 91% are satisfied with the email frequency
- 88% feel more informed about what the council is doing
- 51% read most/all of the messages (41% said they browse the emails)
- 92% find the information very/fairly relevant
- 31% have attended an event because they saw it advertised via email
- 76% are satisfied with the layout/design, quality of writing and overall content
- 63% are more satisfied with the council as a whole thanks to the email service
- 54% have avoided the need to contact the council (by phone, email or in person) thanks to the email service
What do subscribers think?
As part of the customer satisfaction survey, Bournemouth asked respondents to tell them what they thought of the email bulletins service. Common themes included:
One of the key findings from the survey was that many subscribers didn’t realise how many subscription topics are on offer. With this feedback, Bournemouth can improve its cross-promotion of different email topics in other bulletins, where appropriate. It won’t be long before they deepen subscribers’ engagement with more programmes by increasing the number of subscriptions per subscriber (which currently sits at an average of 2.7 topics). For quick wins, check you’ve got these bases covered: 10 easy ways to increase your subscribers.
If you’d like to have a chat about how your organisation could use the GovDelivery Communications Cloud to engage more residents, tourists, businesses and other groups via targeted email and SMS campaigns, please contact us.