Introduction and methodology
The Scottish Government's Rural Payments and Inspections Division (RPID) commissioned Ipsos MORI Scotland to measure customer satisfaction with the services of the division and its partner organisations Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The research findings will be used to inform the Scottish Government's Futures Programme by identifying, with a view to retaining, those aspects of the service which work well, while also identifying areas for improvement. The findings will also create a baseline against which to measure customer satisfaction in the future.
The survey examined the following broad topics:
- the ways in which respondents currently make contact with RPID and its partners, and how they would prefer to do so in the future
- levels of satisfaction with information and services provided by RPID and its partners, and with specific aspects of those services
- respondents' views on the services RPID provides online at present, and the perceived usefulness of the offering of potential new online services
- aspects of respondents' online behaviours, in order to better understand potential barriers to the uptake of online services.
A total of 1,024 RPID customers were interviewed across two strands:
- 502 individuals were interviewed by telephone, with quotas set by region and business type, in order to provide a sample representative of the profile of the RPID customer database
- 522 individuals were interviewed online, using an almost identical questionnaire. This strand of the research was conducted to assess the feasibility of conducting future waves of the research online, in line with the Government's digital agenda. A total of 3,714 email invitations with unique links were sent to rural businesses for which RPID held an email address and which were not already sampled for the telephone survey. The response rate for the online survey was 14%.
- The profiles of both samples were compared in order to ensure that combined results could be reported, with both samples found to be similar. Results are reported on the entire sample of 1,024 respondents.
Contact with RPID and partner organisations
Three in ten respondents said that the Scottish Government is a source of news and information about rural and agricultural issues, with 28% of respondents citing RPID or the Scottish Government as their main source of such information. Farming and rural media is also an important source of news and information with over a fifth of respondents accessing information from the Scottish Farmer.
More than half of respondents said that they contact RPID and its partners for information or guidance to help them complete an application, or for advice relating to a specific application or payment.
Two thirds of respondents reported making contact with RPID and its partners through their local office in the last 12 months, with 57% using the Scottish Government website, 49% receiving information in the post, and around 25% using RPID head office and Rural Issues.
Thirty-four per cent of respondents cited their local office as their main source of information, with 28% mentioning the Scottish Government website. Of those respondents whose main source of information is their local office, just under half make this contact mainly by telephone, while 30% visit the office in person.
For future interaction with RPID and its partners, similar proportions of respondents were open to doing it through their local office (56%), by post (56%) and by text or email (55%).
Overall, 64% of respondents were satisfied (21% very satisfied, 43% fairly satisfied) with the information and services provided by RPID and its partners, with 12% either very or fairly dissatisfied.
Respondents were found to be more likely to be satisfied with their dealings with staff and generally positive in terms of their impression of RPID and its partners overall.
However, they were found to be less satisfied (and more likely to be dissatisfied) with the amount of available information, the clarity of the information itself, the ease of finding information, and with aspects of the applications process.
The main barriers to online submission of Single Application Forms ( SAFs) were force of habit or personal preference, and a dislike of computers or the internet. However, respondents were generally receptive towards various ways in which RPID could encourage customers to make use of the Rural Payments Online (RPO) system.
Those who already use the RPO system were generally positive about its look and feel, and ease of navigation, but felt that there was scope for improvement including in terms of the information provided on the site. Respondents were also generally positive towards the possibility of RPID and its partners offering new online services and online land mapping tools.
Respondents aged over 65 were least likely to feel that new online services would be useful. Indeed, one in three in this age group reported that they have no computer or internet access. However, a majority of respondents in this age group were receptive towards the possibility of new services and to ways of encouraging people to use the online offering, suggesting that this age group might still be open to using the RPO service.
A large majority of RPID customers are online and use the internet for work, and most access the internet at least on a weekly basis. One in five respondents to the telephone survey never use the internet, two thirds of whom are aged over 65 years.
Of those who use the internet for work or personal use, 97% have a broadband connection, with almost identical proportions of respondents to both the telephone and online strands of the research having such an internet connection. Around two in three respondents use a desktop PC to access the internet for work purposes, while 55% do so with a laptop and 21% use a smartphone.
When asked how useful it would be for RPID and its partners to use social media to provide news and information, opinion was evenly split overall, as well as in both modes of the survey, as to whether this would be useful or not.
A test of broadband download and upload speeds in the online survey found only limited regional differences in download speeds, with similar levels of upload speed. Although the highest proportions of download speeds tended to be the 1.0-2.99mb/s and 5.0-9.99mb/s ranges, Argyll and the Western Isles stands out as being much more likely to have low download speeds. The majority of upload speeds were within the 0-0.99mb/s range. However, slow internet speed was cited as a major barrier to the use of the RPO system by only 6% of those who did not make an online SAF submission in the last 12 months.
The main ways that customers interact with RPID are by telephone or personal contact with their local RPID office. As part of the Scottish Government's digital agenda, the Futures Programme seeks to encourage more use of online services. Overall, respondents found the RPID staff they came into contact with to be both knowledgeable and helpful. While this is positive endorsement of RPID's staff, it may also act as a barrier to using online services, especially where there are other barriers to moving online. Knowing that helpful members of staff are on hand at their local office means that customers might have little incentive to use the online service, particularly in light of customers' reported problems with the complicated nature of the applications process.
In terms of the overall service offered by RPID, the availability and quality of information emerges as a persistent issue. Large minorities of respondents reported encountering problems with the clarity and ease of finding information about schemes, also with the ease of filling in application forms, and the quantity and clarity of guidance for filling-in forms. Improving in these areas could also help to draw more customers in to using the RPO system. Most customers were happy with RPO itself, but only 57% of users said that they found the RPO site easy to navigate, therefore it may be necessary to improve the way the website works for customers to use the site with more confidence.
When it comes to the potential for RPID to offer a greater variety of online services, it was found that those who were least likely to think such new services would be useful were a significant minority of people in the 65-and-over age bracket and were more likely to be users of the paper SAF system. However, while it may be impossible to encourage all customers in this group, the proportion of people in this age group who are willing to use online services suggests there is potential to draw some of them online.
Email: Angela Morgan