Disconnected data and service delivery

With unstructured data in silos around the council, managing customer enquiries about council resources and services, from roading to public places, street cleaning and repairs to noise complaints, is complex. It’s challenging to collate multiple customer concerns about a physical issue in their immediate neighbourhood or surroundings into a single incident so they can be responded to effectively.

separated groups of people

For example, when a customer rings to report a pothole, a broken bench in a nearby park, or an unpleasant smell from a local café, it can be difficult for your service team to determine whether eight other residents have also reported the same issue.

Even identifying precisely where the issue is can be problematic. Given the resident's viewpoint, the pothole could be:

  • Outside no. 8 Alpha Street
  • Diagonally opposite no. 11 Alpha Street
  • On the corner of Alpha and Beta Streets

The ubiquitous park bench may be on the north or east side of the park - or somewhere in between, and there may be three cafés near Woolworths on Delta Street.

So, when the required council service is logged and approved, the response to fixing it can be overkill.

Multiple support crews, each with vehicles and equipment, could potentially turn up to fill what turns out to be one pothole, repair one of thirteen benches in the park, or investigate that mysterious café odour, leaving concerned citizens critical and complaining (with some justification) about their rates paying for poorly managed services.

What compounds the issue is that the typical council service desk must work with several data sets (contacts, locations, buildings, organisations), each likely to be captured in an independently maintained and siloed council or government solution.

Is service delivery about people- or places?

For many councils, service delivery has traditionally focused on engaging with people. Given the commitment to customer charters over the last decade, being customer-centric is an understandable strategy.

But is it the only and best approach to service delivery, especially when your customer service requests always relate to locations?

Whether it’s resource consent, noise control, roadside spraying, fixing potholes, or removing graffiti on public buildings, council services are about places. So, although you need to provide a responsive customer-centric experience, the reported issues and their resolution are, by nature, location-centric.

If you accept this as a logical premise, it becomes evident that only by overlaying ‘people’ data with ‘location’ data can your service delivery become truly efficient and responsive.

Is it viable, though? The challenge for most councils is that while they have the information they need spread across the organisation, it generally requires manual processes to bring it to the fore and leverage it.

For many, retrieving data from different parts of the council and associated government offices can be a longwinded process that impacts customer service SLAs. While thanks to your contact centre software and wonderful agents, the initial customer interaction may be fine, delivering a fast and efficient resolution (and providing updates on the outcome) can be a less-than-satisfactory experience for all stakeholders.

Manningham City Council journey with D365

Find out how Manningham City Council delivered an exceptional customer service with Fusion5 and Microsoft

Microsoft D365 for local councils

Can new data modelling empower your old service delivery platform?

Rethinking your approach to service delivery requires a fresh look at how and what data is modelled in your service delivery platform.

To maximise impact: Your service delivery data must include people (residents, non-residents, and council workers), geographic locations, private and council-owned public properties and assets, and organisations (for example, dog control or the building permit department). And you need the freedom to approach it from any of these directions.

However, the data needs to be readily accessible to enable you to precisely pinpoint where the service is required and allocate the appropriate resources – from road repairs to park maintenance to building inspection services.

And therein lies a further challenge.

To be useful: It’s imperative that location and property data is accurate – so it must come from a verified source, like the Titles Office. While a great starting point, Titles Office information is one-dimensional by nature as it’s a legal record. It may provide you with a single street address for a shopping mall and who owns it, but it fails to capture the fact that the ‘property’ consists of hundreds of independent retail shops and has multiple vehicle/pedestrian points of entry from other streets. Likewise, a park may have a single legal physical address but span tens or even hundreds of acres and have many entry paths from surrounding neighbourhoods.

So, how can that dry legal information be structured, enriched and queried by the council in a meaningful and accurate way?

Imagine a new*-centric approach to data

Overcoming the challenges imposed by old technology requires change, flexibility, innovation and imagination.

new idea

Let’s start with imagination.

Imagine an approach to service delivery that allows you to take a *customer, location, property, or geographic-centric approach depending on the issue. Let’s talk about how that works.

Moving on to flexibility: What if when a customer contacts you – through the service desk, by email, by letter even – you can easily pull their information up (including their communications preferences)? Then, on the same screen, you can retrieve information about the property they wish to discuss – residential, commercial, or public space – and then bring in the geographic data needed to identify the precise location by its latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates.

Then, there’s innovation. Your service agent now has a visual representation of the geography in front of them that shows where the property in question is located and all similar issues in the proximity of the property. (Visualise this as a Google search where you ask for supermarkets near you – and can see an array of pins on a map). They also have a precise location for council employees or contractors to attend. Seeing on screen that there have been several similar complaints around the same location, your agent knows only to request one service team. They can notify customers by SMS, email, or phone that help is coming, and automatically notify the customer when the issue is fixed.

Lastly, we have change – and that’s how you can use your data. By simplifying how you can access, slice, dice, and enrich your customer and location data in real-time, you can have a complete view of what is going on. This allows you to approach and action issue resolution in a new way.

Which makes everyone happy 😊.

Transform your unstructured data into outstanding service delivery

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Evolving the value of your unstructured data

We were prompted to develop a new approach (and solution) by the enormous potential for local councils to use and query unstructured data to connect people to places and services. And we did it without the requirement for councils to abandon old systems.

With Dataverse tables, we can securely store and manage data from your range of business applications in one place. So, whichever way you approach an issue - from a customer, location, or service perspective - you can.

This same level of data categorisation and accessibility can power a wide range of council services, from self-service portals for council customers to make queries or raise requests, register pets, search for rate-payment details, and request council-delivered aged care services.

Once your data is freed from silos and correctly stored, you can automate service selection, improve service delivery, and raise customer satisfaction to align with and exceed the promises made in your customer charter. Data can be sliced and diced by a block of shops, a particular suburb, an electorate, a school zone, a type of property (for example, social housing), sporting clubs that use a council facility – and more. And every engagement concerning that piece of data can be linked together in one record – along with the status of the work order (open, scheduled, closed).

With the ability to choose your approach, you can proactively engage with the people and places in your area. For example, you can notify the entire population of a suburb that road work or infrastructure maintenance will impact them.

The same concept can empower your emergency management services by choosing an ‘incident-wide’ approach. So, when 50 or 100 requests come in about the same flooded roadway, they can be triaged automatically, with the appropriate team notified at once rather than relying on manual scheduling and booking of work.

By taking a highly visual approach to linking people to places and services, we’ve streamlined the ability of councils in Australia and New Zealand to uphold their commitment to resolve cases more quickly and better serve ratepayers, visitors, council staff, and stakeholders. Meeting council commitments, such as notifying concerned ratepayers when an issue is resolved, has jumped significantly.

Is it time to take a fresh look at your old data?

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