Information

Social Security Experience Panels - appointments and local delivery: report

This report outlines the Social Security Experience Panels views expressed in a survey and focus groups on Social Security Scotland appointments and local delivery.

This document is part of a collection


Types of appointment

In the future, Social Security Scotland may offer different types of appointments to clients. This will enable people to contact and speak to Social Security Scotland in the way that is most convenient for them.

Four types of appointment were presented to survey respondents and focus group participants:

  • In person, face to face appointments;
  • Telephone appointments;
  • Skype appointments; and
  • Web chat appointments.

Face to face appointments

We asked survey respondents how interested they would be in a face to face appointment. A face to face appointment is where both the client and a Social Security Scotland staff member are physically present in the same location – it does not include face to face video appointments, such as through Skype.

Over eight in ten respondents said they would be ‘very interested’ or ‘interested’ in a face to face appointment (84 per cent), with just under two in ten saying they would not be interested (17 per cent).

Table 10: How interested would you be in having a face to face appointment? (n=545)

Response

%

Very interested 

43

Interested

41

Not that interested

12

Not interested at all

5

Total

101

Respondents were asked where they would like a face to face appointment to take place. In the future, Social Security Scotland will offer home visits as well as allowing clients to visit Social Security Scotland offices and venues.

A fifth of respondents said they would like a home visit (20 per cent) and just under three in ten said they would come to a Social Security Scotland office or venue (27 per cent). Just over half of respondents said they would sometimes visit a Social Security Scotland venue, and would sometimes want a home visit (54 per cent).

Overall, just over eight in ten respondents said they would – at one point – like to come to a Social Security Scotland office or venue (81 per cent).

Table 11: Where would you like a face to face appointment to take place? (n=547)

Response

%

In a Social Security Scotland venue or office

27

In my home

20

Sometimes I would visit a Social Security Scotland location, sometimes I want an appointment in my home

54

Total

101

No significant associations[13] were detected between gender[14] or age[15] and appointment preference. The data suggested that respondents with a long term health condition or disability tended to prefer home visits, with just over one in ten non-disabled respondents requesting a home visit (12.5 per cent) compared to almost one in five disabled respondents (18.5 per cent), however this association was not statistically significant and is based on relatively small numbers of non-disabled respondents[16].

Telephone appointments

Respondents were asked how interested they would be in a telephone appointment. Just over seven in ten respondents (71 per cent) said they would be very interested or interested, with just over one in ten saying they would not be interested at all (13 per cent).

Table 12: How interested would you be in a telephone appointment? (n=544)

Response

%

Very interested

27

Interested

44

Not that interested

17

Not interested at all

13

Total

101

Many felt phone appointments were a ‘quick’, ‘cheap’ and ‘easy’ way to communicate with Social Security Scotland. Some participants wanted robust security procedures before the call happened, such as using a security code to verify identities.

“But you need some sort of security code so that I can be confident I am speaking to Social Security Scotland and it’s not a spam phone call.”

Other participants cautioned that telephone appointments would not be suitable for them, highlighting the importance of having alternative options available.

“Telephone appointments are of no use to deaf people.”

At the time of a telephone appointment, the majority of respondents wanted Social Security Scotland to call them at the agreed time (88 per cent), with just over one in ten wanting to call Social Security Scotland (12 per cent).

Table 13: What should happen at the time of a telephone appointment? (n=519)

Response

%

You call Social Security Scotland at the agreed time

12

Social Security Scotland calls you at the agreed time

88

Total

100

Focus group participants also tended to believe Social Security Scotland should call them at the time of their appointment. Some suggested this would ensure even those who did not have credit on their phone would be able to receive the call.

“I like the idea of telephone appointments, and it’s better if Social Security Scotland calls me in case I don’t have credit on my phone.”

Skype appointments

In the future, Social Security Scotland may offer additional types of appointments to clients, such as through Skype. Skype is an online video chat service where a client would communicate with Social Security Scotland using their computers camera and microphone. 

Just under four in ten respondents said they would be ‘very interested’ or ‘interested’ in a Skype appointment (38 per cent), with the majority saying they were ‘not that interested’ or ‘not interested at all’ (62 per cent).

Table 14: How interested would you be in having a Skype appointment? (n=544)

Response

%

Very interested

13

Interested

25

Not that interested

26

Not interested at all 

36

Total

100

Many focus group participants expressed a favourable opinion of Skype appointments, seeing it as a ‘convenient’ and ‘easy’ way of speaking to Social Security Scotland. Some were already familiar with using Skype.

“Yes – I talk to my family on Skype – happy with that…”

Many said they liked the face to face aspect of Skype, and that it still felt as if you were connecting with a person. Participants said they felt Skype appointments would be ideal for general enquiries, and discussing their eligibility for benefits.

“I think it would be good for people with physical disabilities. I can get about but there are worse off than me. Skype is better than a phone call because of the human interaction.”

However some participants had concerns, particularly around the security of their personal information or the reliability of internet in rural areas.

“Hackers and confidentiality. And what if you don’t have the internet – or your signal drops?”

It was suggested that clients may need some reassurances about using Skype, such as a guarantee of confidentiality, information on how their information would be protected and easy instructions on how it worked.

A small number of participants felt they would never want a Skype appointment as they did not want to use computers. Despite this, focus group participants tended to be mostly positive about having Skype as an option even if some would not want to use it.

Web chat appointments

Survey respondents were split down the middle on whether they were interested in web chat appointments, with roughly half saying they were very interested or interested, and the rest saying they were not that interested or not interested at all.

Table 15: How interested would you be in having a Web chat appointment? (n=546)

Response

%

Very interested

23

Interested

28

Not that interested

20

Not interested at all 

30

Total

101

Focus group participants were also split. Those who did not like the idea of web chat said it was because it lacked the ‘face to face element’ that you might get with an in person or Skype appointment.

“Going towards web based services means losing personal service…”

Others expressed unease that you ‘couldn’t see who you are talking to’. Many said they would only want to use web chat as a last resort.

“I’m not keen. You don’t know who you’re chatting to. It’s fine for simple questions like correct postal address, but it’s not possible to do things like verify your identity.”

“Web chat feels like it’s just going out into the ether…”

However for those who did like the idea of web chat, they felt it was ideal for certain types of communication with Social Security Scotland – for example, short, simple queries or questions that would not necessarily require a full appointment. They liked the idea of not having to leave home, and being able to speak to Social Security Scotland outside of an agency office.

“You don’t need to leave home, much simpler [as] you’re not in their domain.”

Some participants suggested having a photo accompany the web chat would make the service feel more ‘human’.

“A photo would make it feel more real and more personal…”

Others liked that you could save a record of the conversation to refer to in the future.

General appointment preference

We asked respondents what type of appointment they would most prefer. Respondents were generally mixed, however the most popular options were a face to face appointment (40 per cent) and telephone (34 per cent).

The least popular option was Skype, with 6 per cent of respondents saying that would be their first choice of appointment.

Table 16: General appointment preference (n=541)

Type

%

Face to face

40

Telephone

34

Web chat

20

Skype

6

Total

100

A significant association was observed between respondent age and preference for Skype and web chat appointments [17]. For Skype appointments, almost seven in ten respondents aged 60 and over said they were not interested (68 per cent) compared to just over half of respondents aged under 60 (54 per cent).

For web chat appointments[18], just over six in ten respondents aged 60 and over said they were not interested (62 per cent) compared to just over four in ten respondents aged under 60 (42 per cent).

There was no suggestion that respondents in rural areas were more interested in using digital solutions to communicate with Social Security Scotland (i.e. Skype and web chat), and in some cases respondents in rural areas were less interested in using digital solutions.

For telephone and web chat appointments, rural respondents showed similar levels of interest as those who lived in urban areas. For Skype appointments, rural respondents were slightly less interested than those in urban areas, with interest levels of 42 and 37 per cent respectively. These associations were not statistically significant.

Recurring appointments

Some clients may need to arrange multiple appointments to resolve their issue. In these cases, we asked respondents to tell us what they would like their first appointment type to be. 

Most respondents said they would want a face to face appointment (61 per cent) the first time, however just under one in three would be happy with a telephone appointment (27 per cent). Digital options such as Skype and web chat were less popular with just over one in ten wanting a web chat appointment (11 per cent) and one in fifty wanting a Skype appointment (2 per cent).

Table 17: First appointment preference (n=541)

Type

%

Web chat

11

Telephone

27

Face to face

61

Skype

2

Total

101

When the results of Table 16 and Table 17 are compared, there was a 21 per cent difference in face to face appointments as a first appointment compared to general appointment preference. This may indicate a preference towards having a face to face appointment to start with, before transitioning to other types of appointment for future contact with Social Security Scotland.

Respondents were also slightly less likely to favour web chat appointments for a first appointment than they were overall, suggesting web chat could be preferable for use in follow-up appointments, however further research is needed to confirm this.

Respondents were generally unlikely to prefer Skype appointments irrespective of appointment type, with just four per cent difference between first appointment preference and general appointment preference.

Table 18: First appointment preference compared to general appointment preference (n=541)

Type

First Appointment Preference

General Appointment Preference 

Difference

Web chat

11

20

- 9

Telephone

27

34

- 7

Face to face

61

40

+ 21

Skype

2

6

- 4

Figure 2 shows that for most respondents, their general appointment preference tended to match that of their first appointment preference. The greatest difference between first appointment preference and general appointment preference was with face to face. Whilst the majority of those who said their first appointment preference was face to face said that was also their general appointment preference, 21 per cent transitioned to other appointment types. This was most commonly phone, however web chat was also popular. 

In general, respondents who wanted their first appointment to be face to face tended to be more willing to have an alternate general appointment preference. Conversely, very few respondents who had a first appointment preference for a digital channel such as Skype or web chat wanted to then switch to a non-digital channel later. 

Figure 2: Flow from first appointment to general appointment preference

Figure 2: Flow from first appointment to general appointment preference

Contact

Email: aimee.mccullough@gov.scot

Back to top