At the risk of stating the obvious; we’re always looking for ways to use technology to improve City services. Granted that’s not exactly a news flash statement but as a cornerstone of how we do our business I figure it’s worth stating explicitly. Technology is pretty much a no brainer in everything we do from plowing snow to dispatching emergency personnel. The internet age has spawned a whole host of new technology applications with the customer in mind. Something as simple as this blog site was one small step and then we added the Citizen Action Center which we felt was a great leap for Kent-kind.
The on-line Citizen Action Center was set up to give our customers 24-7 access to their City government. We figured in today’s internet age residents should have the ability to interact with their City at their convenience, not ours. Face it, 9 to 5 office hours don’t always cut it anymore; people expect unlimited access so we’ve begun to restructure ourselves to be able to deliver it.
What I particularly like about the Citizen Action Center is the way it bundles together so many different customer applications. It provides a dynamic customer interface that lets the user define how much or how little they want. If they want to keep it basic it provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions. If they have something unique it allows for customized questions. If they want to report a problem it has service request forms. And if they just want to glance at the many different services offered in the City’s portfolio, it provides a clearinghouse of City service information.
As great as the customer input side is, it is equally valuable on the inside to the managers of our services on the output side. The technology tracks the data, it summarizes, analyzes and reports trends, averages and other meaningful customer request information so that we can see very quickly what our customers are seeing in the community and what’s important to them.
With that in mind, I really consider the Citizen Action Center to be one of our first serious efforts in customer relationship management. It’s an integrated approach to boost customer service by gathering customer data swiftly, aggregating it, evaluating it and incorporating it into our daily decision process. Much like customer relationship management in the private sector we hope to use this technology to build a more satisfied and loyal customer base, to reduce our costs in serving our customers, and to make it easier to acquire new customers.
The Citizen Action Center is fundamentally a management tool that we use to put citizens on-line not in-line. With computers penetrating nearly half of the US population we’ve got an opportunity to use electronic government to provide faster, move convenient and more accurate services that improve the lives of people.
We want the Citizen Action Center to be a single portal from which citizens can access multiple functions. It’s off to a good start. Here’s a snapshot of usage on the Citizen Action Center:
In the first year, the Citizen Action Center
– The Frequently Asked Questions were viewed by 7,409 people
– The most viewed questions were: 1. Can I have a fire in my backyard? (885 people); 2. Do I need a permit for a garage sale? (731 people); 3. What do I need a permit for? (616); 4. Do I need a permit to re-shingle my roof? (591 people); 5. Does the City provide garbage service? (568 people)
– Received 59 service related inquiries
– Received 16 service requests
– 56% of the service reports were for public works items such as potholes, street lights, broken sidewalk, drainage problem, snow and traffic signals
– 31% of the service reports were for building and property maintenance issues such as overgrown grass/weeds, abandoned vehicle.
– 13% of the service reports were for trash/debris
– For those requests that the City performs in-house, the request was resolved in an average of one week
– For those requests that the City contracts or refers to another service provider (e.g., power company for street lights) the request was resolved in an average of 2 weeks
– For specific customized questions and inquiries, the average time it took to provide an answer was 8.32 days
– Examples of customized questions include: What are the dates for spring cleaning? Is there any way to obtain a list of locations in Kent that are capable of hosting a wedding reception for 200 people? Where can I dump a dump truck full of asphalt shingles? My son is moving from Illinois to Kent, Ohio, is there a big financial institution nearby where I can deposit funds? What are the guidelines for developers keeping property maintained for commercial zoned areas? My family is considering moving to Kent, can you recommend a website that might list statistics for Kent and provide information on family friendly neighborhoods? When is our city going to catch up with others and have track picked up throughout the whole city? How can I register for a Civil Service test?
Like anything else with technology you only get out of it what you put into it so I encourage everyone to use this service. Some pothole been bugging you lately, send in a report. Not sure how to handle a tax filing, ask us. The service is designed in a way that the more use it gets the more useful it will become.