Conclusions and recommendations
Improvements to the online system for submitting SAFs can be made
The vast majority of customers submitted their most recent SAF online, either on their own or with some support. They did so even though they reported broadband quality had at least some impact on their ability to do so. Customers tended to agree that the information on the Rural Payments and Services online application system is accurate, but there is room for improvement: fewer than half of customers who submitted their application online reported the online system looks and feels well designed, and they were more likely to agree than disagree that they have difficulties finding their way around the system.
RPID could consider investing in improvements to the online application system, making it easier for customers to complete their SAF and find key information.
Customers want to obtain information from RPID by email and text
In the last 12 months, customers were most likely to obtain information from RPID via their local RPID office or the Rural Payments and Services website. In future, however, customers were most likely to report wanting to receive information via email and text.
Consideration should be given to alternative forms of communication to meet customer preferences, particularly for types of information that might be more easily conveyed via email and text such as notifications and alerts.
Customers find the application process and forms too complicated
Although customers were more likely to be satisfied than dissatisfied with the information and services on rural grants and schemes provided by RPID, a substantial minority felt that the application process as a whole was too complicated, or the application forms were too long or complicated.
RPID could consider consulting with customers (possibly in a qualitative follow-up study) about ways in which the application process and forms could be made less complicated.
Customers are generally satisfied with RPID staff
In response to a range of aspects of RPID's performance, customers reported high levels of satisfaction with RPID staff. They felt staff were knowledgeable about schemes; helped them resolve enquires quickly; and that inspection staff act professionally. Most customers also agreed that RPID staff are helpful to customers. However, it is worth noting that the balance of ratings was towards 'quite' rather than 'very' satisfied so there is scope to improve these ratings.
Consideration should be given to continuing investment in customer-facing staff through training and CPD – while customers feel this is a positive aspect of RPID, there is scope to improve satisfaction in this area.
RPID is a key source of information on rural and agricultural issues
RPID was the most common source from which customers received information about rural and agricultural issues. This is a key strength of the organisation, particularly as customers have a range of sources to refer to (including farming publications, rural colleges and social media).
RPID should continue to strengthen its position as a key source of information on rural and agricultural issues. This could be achieved by consulting with customers about what sorts of information they would like to receive about the latest developments in the sector.
COVID-19 has had an impact on the services RPID provides
One in three customers used their local area office for face-to-face support with applications, a service RPID hasn't been able to offer during the pandemic. One in four customers felt that COVID-19 had negatively affected RPID's services; highest among the ways in which it had affected services was communication. Customers felt response times to enquiries had increased and staff were less available during the pandemic.
Progressive would recommend consulting with customers (possibly in a qualitative follow-up study) about ways in which RPID might best provide its services after the pandemic, either by reverting to previous, or finding new ways, of working with and for customers.
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