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Text of Document: A PROPOSAL FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CENTRAL CITIZENS CUSTOMER SERVICE CENTER
Submitted as a Municipal Management Academy Level III Practicum Idea
March 3, 2006
Joann Willhite, Police Department Carl Baughman, Engineering Department
Anna Shuford, Parks Department Jaime Groce, Planning Department
Lou Davis, Finance Department Paul Arnold, Police Department
Christy McCandless, Water Department Steve Grubb, Streets Department
Table of Contents Executive Summary
A primary function of government is to perform vital services for its citizens. For this reason government employees are often referred to as public servants. Currently in Franklin the process for citizens to request City action is loosely arranged. There is little guidance as to which is the appropriate department to contact for the issue at hand. With each department defining its own practices for citizen action and reporting, the City is unable to have a broad overview of its citizen response performance. This may cause duplication, frustrating referrals, and needless delays. The result is a government that is inefficient at best and unresponsive at worst.
The development of a central citizen’s Customer Service Center is the focus of this report. Such centers have been established in several government agencies for many years now. Each of these has been tailored to suit its particular pattern of organization. Each of these uses different methods and technologies to accomplish the purpose. There is an entire industry oriented toward developing and furnishing tools and programs for central Action Centers. We have even found that there are national conferences on the subject of government call centers. (It is recommended that the City Administration identify appropriate individuals to attend the 2006 Government Call Center Conference to be held in Louisville, Kentucky on April 26-28, 2006.)
The City of Franklin Administration has taken initial steps to centralize the Citizen Action Center. The website provides a Service Request/Comments form for citizens with internet capabilities to submit information. Various departments offer their own email address for citizen contact and generate their own service request form for documentation. Other departments do not have any type of form or a system for written documentation. In addition, the City has purchased but not yet implemented Hanson software, which includes the Customer Service System module.
The process for logging and responding to telephone calls, letters, emails, and personal visits is undefined and not tracked. A true Citizen Action Center would serve as a central clearinghouse for all citizen contacts. Research conducted by this group recognizes that the City could better serve its citizens and visitors with an integrated Customer Service Center.
Investigation and Formulation
The MTAS Team established the project by defining three primary activities:
1. Investigation. Identified key issues for research and prepared a questionnaire. Selected candidate agencies around the state and beyond its borders for inquiring about their customer service practices. Out of 42 agencies, the Team received a response rate of 61 %.
2. Analysis. The SWOT method (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) was applied to distill the responses into the most favorable practices. A key element we were seeking was efficiency of service in terms of both time and money.
3. Formulation. We applied the analysis into the development of a system for a City of Franklin Citizen Action Center.
The result of the project is to redesign the City’s website to accommodate the proposed implementation of the Hanson Customer Service module. It is also recommended a practice for integrating telephone calls, letters, emails, and personal visits into the tracking system.
Contact will be made when the question or concern has been resolved. The Citizen Action Center will be monitored during the weekdays from 8am – 5 pm.
The Citizen Action Center will give step-by-step instructions. The request page will consist of contact information, date and location the request occurred, question or concern, and detail description of their request. Once this information is submitted, an other screen will appear with a Tracking Identification number, Status section indicating “logged”, Status Detail section indicating “Request logged into system”, and a Status Check Link is given so the requester may do a follow-up at any time.
The City of Franklin’s website currently has all departments linked to one email address, the Community Relations Manager. This individual not only does their day-to-day operations but also has to make sure that the emails are read several times during the day. The requests for services or complaints are forwarded to the department it pertains to and then tracked by the Community Relations Manager until a response is given. The current process lacks standardization and can be time consuming. The Citizen Action Center will automatically route any entry to the appropriate department.
The City of Franklin currently has the Hansen Program that includes the Customer Service Module. This module will enable the City to provide the Citizen Action Center for the community and abroad. The implementation of the system will cost the City personnel, time, and labor of the Information Technology Department and the costs savings are unlimited.
City of Las Vegas’ testimony on utilizing Hansen
In the past if someone called using the city's custom-built legacy system to complain about a pothole and was not lucky enough to get a representative from the Streets and Sanitation Department on the phone, the citizen would have to leave a voicemail message. Without a tracking number there was no way to link the original request to the work order, especially if the message was forwarded to another employee. "By having the points where the communication can get broken, the accountability is lost," says Don Jacobson, enterprise project coordinator for Customer Relations Management for the City of Las Vegas.
After viewing a Hansen Information Technologies solution during a trade show, the City of Las Vegas tried its luck with Hansen 7.6, in November 2002. The first rollout began with the Streets and Sanitation Department and was followed by a phased rollout approach over the ensuing months to 14 departments. In addition to service requests the system enables constituents to apply for permits, pay for licenses, obtain building permits or a business license, report a complaint to the city, and use the Web to pay parking fines, traffic tickets, and sewer services bills.
The City of Las Vegas is now digitally processing roughly 30,000 service requests each year. "We can save up to 4.5 full-time equivalents a month through Web self-service," Jacobson says. Additionally, he says, the city had a database for nearly all of it’s 14 departments. And although the city is processing more information, it consolidated its data to just three databases.
The cost to implement Hansen was roughly $2 million, but according to Jacobson, the city's cost for IT per citizen has dropped from $35 per person to $20 per person, which he says falls below the national average of $28 per person.
Today, service requests across all agencies are recorded, tracked, and managed. Citizens are assigned a service request number when they file a complaint or request. If a citizen calls to complain about an unsightly and unkempt neighboring home, for example, the citizen can call back a month later for a status report. Once the agent enters the service request number, a screen pops up with details of what action has already taken place, which can be relayed to the citizen.
The next step to this is 311 System. The CitiTrack and call center start-up costs were $2.5 million for the City of Baltimore. The annual operating cost, which includes the use of CitiStat and Motorola's hosted services, totals $4.6 million. In its first year of operation (based on CitiStat management accountability, CitiTrack, and 311), the city saved $13.2 million in reduced overtime rates, increased productivity, and elimination of wasteful programs. After three years the aggregate savings will total more than $100 million, according to Baltimore CIO Elliot Schlanger. "We didn't have the tools for a strategic way to attack these problems," he said. "We would do first in, first out, or did work wherever crews happened to be." Now everything is address-based so the city can map out requests for services and figure out the most strategic ways to deploy workers, Schlanger said. "We have improved service intervals on nearly everything we do."
The improvements include the main webpage to reflect the true Historic Downtown Franklin. Currently the web page reflects a patriotic theme of red, white, and blue, which does not reflect the true nature of the City of Franklin. The History and Mission are important for our viewers to see and read. This should captivate the viewers’ interests. On the front web page, the areas of information should surround the main photo as shown the power point presentation.
The Team recommends a picture of an antique chest to capture “City Action Center” and the words Questions, Comments, Concerns below it in English and Spanish to be added with the two present boxes that contain Property Tax and Franklin Traffic. This will allow our website to cater to citizens within our community and outside. Click on this box and it will be linked to another page that will have this statement:
The City of Franklin provides a way for you to submit a request for City Services. This is the single point of contact for requesting all non-emergency City services and is available to residents, City businesses, and visitors.
Our mission is to provide access to City services and City information with the highest possible levels of customer service.
All of this will be repeated in Spanish with a telephone number to a Spanish speaking person assigned to the Action Center.
The customer will enter all their contact information and select the department the request, suggestion, or concerns it pertains to. If the customer is uncertain of the department, it is sent to Unknown. The unknown will be routed to the person assigned to the Action Center.
When a Department is selected, the next page is an information page about the department and a selection list of frequently asked questions or issues. The customer can select from this list. After the selection, the request page will consist of contact information, date and location the request occurred, question or concern, detail description of request. This information is submitted and an other screen will appear with the Tracking ID, Status will show “logged”, Status Detail will show “Request logged into system”, and Status Check Link which gives the link where the request can be followed up at any time.