Move to digital cuts customer pain twice over

The Dispute Resolution Service of ACC and Environment Waikato are finalists in the Computerworld Excellence Awards

In the private sector, excellence in customer service is increasingly the only way many companies can differentiate themselves, especially in mature and competitive markets. In government, while customers may have less choice about their service providers, customer service excellence is driven by a wide range of factors such as the need to ensure quality and consistency and reduce error, as well as the related need to control service costs and the ongoing drive towards service automation.

Both finalists in the Excellence in the use of ICT for Customer Service category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards this year come from the government sector: one is a state corporation and the other a local authority.

The Dispute Resolution Service of the ACC manages the formal review of ACC disputes, a process that involves extensive communication and consultation with government agencies and individual citizens. All of these communications, consultations and meetings were managed manually until the service implemented its new e-Work business process management system.

Excel spreadsheets and paper files were the order of the day.

“For our staff and the agencies we deal with, this created delays, frustrations and errors in reporting and billing that could take days to resolve,” says Paul King, the service’s manager of client and business development. For individuals, such delays added to their burden.

The e-Work application has changed all that. The system is a combination of Metastorm’s e-Work and the Hummingbird document management tied together with integration software developed by TechTonics. Now staff are better able to focus on their core resolution activities, with access to documentation now online. Individuals can also get prompt access to the status of their case and to related documentation, King says.

The system also allows more detailed reporting to agencies, helping them to identify ways to improve their own business processes. The processing of billing information has also been improved and errors reduced.

The project also delivers real benefits in support of the Dispute Resolution Services business strategy. The service wants to move from being a single client and service organisation, serving the ACC, to serving multiple health and social service clients. The technology provides a platform to expand the business into providing new services.

TechTonics is now at work developing a further extension to the system to allow integration between e-Work and Microsoft Outlook.

“Ultimately, our vision is to make things even easier for our clients and applicants by making much of the process and information accessible over the web, empowering them to take a more active role in managing their own case,” King says.

For the other finalist in this category, Environment Waikato, linking customer queries with the people who could answer them was the key to its Blue Book project. As with Disputes Resolution Service, the answer to the customer’s pain was provided by the computerisation and automisation of a previously manual process.

When a customer rang Environment Waikato, the person taking the call would consult the Blue Book, a hard copy book listing relevant contact people for various types of issues. However, not all staff updated their copies of the book and many calls would not be transferred correctly. The book also contains a 26-page FAQ which, similarly, was not always updated.

The solution, a digital Blue Book accessible over the corporate

intranet, provided staff with instant access to up-to-date information.

Information is stored in a contacts database using links created by tags so any information accessed is the most up-to-date available. Interlinking is also provided by subject area. The contacts database is also searchable.

The result is less frustration among both customers and staff and improved speed and consistency of service, says Gill Lawrence, programme manager of information support services. It also allows staff who do not work full-time in customer service to be effective in that role. Now temporary and overflow staff are equally able to direct customers to the right people to handle their queries, she says.

In addition, the system has become a resource that is used by a range of internal staff. Usage statistics show that while 46% of use is from the support crew, 35% comes from staff in the rates area and the rest from a smattering of other internal users seeking the right expertise either internally or for a customer.

All development for the digital Blue Book was undertaken in-house after much consultation. A data quality exercise was undertaken at the same time. After that, there followed an initial period of usability testing, which produced some small changes before a more general release to front-line staff. The benefits have been clear, with improved customer service as tested by internal benchmarking and front-line staff making heavy use of the new system.

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Tags customer serviceautomationACC

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