Questions will always come up, no matter how well you set up the program. Remember that questions don’t always have to be linked to a negative experience. It could simply be a desire to learn more.
When questions and concerns come up it is important that the answers and support are easy to find. The slower the response or greater the inaccessibility, the more potential for a pain point and more likely participants are to give up.
There are common points in a journey where someone is most likely to have questions or require assistance. Similar to the critical communication moments, these points are when someone is at a decision making point or in transition between phases.
Different target groups will require different levels of support. Some may require more ‘hand holding’ through the process than others. Usually it depends on how actively involved in the program they are.
Remember that support can take many shapes and forms. For example, it can be informative content which preempts the types of questions people may have and addresses them before they become a concern. Proactively offering this information at the right time will reduce the need for someone to reach out for help.
This will help to streamline the experience and reduce the pressure on the program owner to resolve every issue and answer every question. It will also make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
It is impossible to predict every point when someone requires support. As new moments pop up, make note of them so you can prepare to react next time.
How to get started
1. Identify when someone will most likely require support
You’ve done a lot of work in establishing an overview of what your target group needs and the type of experience they will be flowing through. Use all of this information to preempt when someone will most likely experience doubt, concern or frustration.
Don’t make any assumptions on how much someone knows about the program. Keep in mind that a participant may not have the background context that you have.
As you are identifying each moment in the journey, we recommend to also think about why this is a critical moment. This will ensure you are selective in the amount of moments you identify, as well as how you can best address them.
Similar to the previous exercises, you will need to complete this step for each target group. Different people will have different questions and varying preferences in how they’d like to receive support.
It can also be helpful to work together with members of your target group to validate critical support moments, why they occur and how they can be best supported.
Remember that critical support moments can also surface at the last moment. Be prepared to act quickly and make note of this step for the future.
Through our research, we identified two critical moments in the program service journey for someone seeking to initiate a program:
- When a laneway member needs to get other decision makers on board to join the program
- Whilst someone is completing the the laneway application form
I need to involve others
Once someone has decided to participate in the program, the next step is to engage other members in the laneway and/or receive approval from key decision makers, such as the owner(s) of the building and members of the Owners Corporation Committee. We found that two common uncertainties are; the type of information that is required to build a ‘good case’ and where to access this content.
Gaining access to the right people can also be tricky. For example, we uncovered that many tenants have never met their landlord, only interact with them on an annual basis (e.g. during routine inspections) or only communicate with a real estate agent.
This can be one of the most difficult steps for someone in the journey. The risk is that it feels too difficult and that adequate support is not available. As a result they drop out of the program before they’ve even had the chance to get fully involved.
I’m preparing the nomination
This where rubber hits the road. Everyone is on board and a lot of hard work has been done to get to this point.
Completing an application process can often feel very daunting and can easily negatively impact the experience before the individual has even started. It is, therefore, critical to communicate how the application process works, what information is required and why, and how to access support.
Keep the application itself as simple and user friendly as possible, asking only for information that is required and avoiding duplication in the process. There may be information they (e.g. the program owner) already have access to that doesn’t need to be repeated in the application. For example, details about the property that the Council already has available in internal databases (e.g. building age and dimensions).
2. Decide how you can best help someone
Now that you have a clear understanding of when someone will most likely require support, the next step is to design how you can best deliver that support.
This exercise is similar to the work you have completed in 4. Create an engagement strategy. You’ll need to keep in mind that individuals will have preferences and will naturally already use certain communication channels. Make use of these to provide support more effectively.
At this point it is also worth investigating different ways individuals can ‘self serve’ and find answers to their questions themselves. Remember that support doesn’t always have to be a face-to-face interaction. Depending on the situation, people will be happy to conduct their own research to find the answer (as long as the information is readily available and accessible).
We received a lot of positive feedback on the first ‘Green your Laneway’ program. Participants greatly appreciated the ability to contact the program owner directly at the Council. This instilled trust and confidence in the program and that the Council was “serious” about the initiative.
Future programs should continue to offer direct access to the Council program team. This could be in the form of a direct help line and an email address for a program advisor. It is important that support is offered by someone who has a detailed understanding of the program. Otherwise you run the risk of referring individuals to other 'departments' and potentially causing frustrations.
We also recommended the Council to provide individuals with formal documentation on the program (City of Melbourne branded). This can significantly support laneway members in engaging decision makers. Official documentation instills confidence and legitimacy in the program. The content can be provided in a printed format and/or online.
In this documentation, it is also important to highlight how the Council is contributing to the program (financially and non-financially). Knowing that the Council is financially invested will help reduce any doubt and concerns that is a ‘risky’ investment.
Overall, there are a number of ways the Council can offer support:
- Ensure up-to-date information is available in one central location, such as a website
- Offer peer-to-peer support by offering a space where members from past successful initiatives can offer advice and suggestions. This could be through an online forum. In this case, it is important for the program owner to keep an eye on the forum and step in when required, ensuring that advice is accurate and up-to-date.
- Workshop and information sessions on topics such as ‘how to complete the application and what type of information that is required’
- Templates and examples of past successful applications that demonstrate the level and type of content required