Time to get back to the blog.
At the annual Florida Sterling Conference they always tell us that it okay to use someone else’s best practice. It makes sense not to reinvent the wheel but from my experience it rarely happens.
Each year we do thousands of appointments for our customers so they don’t have to wait. It also helps us better manage the crowds. Out IT staff developed a very slick application developed in Fox Pro to manage it and we used it for years. The only problem was that our staff had to book the appointments and Fox Pro was discontinued in 2007. So recently we began to look a new more innovative approach.
After much due diligence and comparison of several systems we ended up going with a web based application that was already used by the Alachua (Gainseville) and Okaloosa (Crestview) County Tax Collector offices. The photos provided were matrices written up on a wall to look over all the options each system had available. It looked so impressive we hated to erase it.
The online appointment system went live Monday February 2nd but wanted to share what it took to make it happen:
- 508 cumulative hours spent (research, testing, meetings, set-up, training, etc.)
- 37 FAQs updated on website
- 33 Customer Information Publications updated
- 11 webpages on taxcollector.com updated (1 of which was created for appointment-related transactions)
- Media release announcing system rollout
- Brand new “Schedule Appointment” button on front page of taxcollector.com
- Revamp of our lobby PC interface (layout, added new section to schedule an appointment)
- 102 email templates and 19 recorded voice transaction boxes updated
- 90 staff members trained on using new system (front line staff, receptionists, and field service staff)
- Manual input of 652 appointments into the new appointment system that were scheduled in the old appointment system for February and March
In the first four days 573 appointments were scheduled
- 476 (83%) of which were scheduled by customers online
- 79 were scheduled while the office was closed
- Various times of the day; i.e. 7 PM, 9 PM, 1 AM, 5 AM
Assuming that it previously took our associates an average of 2 minutes to schedule an appointment in our old appointment system, those 476 online customer-scheduled appointments saved our associates 952 minutes of processing (almost 16 hours or 2 man days).
With the new online appointment system, we are averaging over 140 appointments scheduled/day.
In the old appointment system, only offering during our working hours (9 AM- 5 PM) during the last week prior to rollout (January 26 – January 30), we averaged 72 appointments scheduled/day.
“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”
― Vince Lombardi
In our line of work the hardest part of the job has to be when a manager needs to counsel an employee about an error they made which possibly inconvenienced a customer. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s life and it happens. We call them ECR’s which is short for Employee Counseling Records. A simple transposition of a VIN (vehicle id number), date, dollar amount, or an address can dramatically change the outcome of a transaction.
In an effort to reduce ECR’s, my Current Collections Director, Tony Conboy, recommended that we look into Evoke Development, a Florida based company. They offer unique training courses that “saves you money, increases productivity, and improves operational efficiency. Employees who complete accuracy training typically reduce their errors by 50% and increase their processing speed by 7%.” We also took advantage of the “train the trainer” program which enabled our staff to conduct the training after they were trained. Our Quality Assurance staff was the obvious choice to be the trainers.
To date we have had 51 employees participate in the seven hour course. We generally do an afternoon class with a morning class the following day. So far we have had a 59% reduction in errors (104 pre-course assessment errors, 43 post-course assessment errors). We have also had a 1% decrease in speed (6 minutes 30 seconds average on pre-course assessment, 6 minutes 35 seconds average on post course Assessment). Eight staff members made zero mistakes on the pre-course assessment compared to twenty-four on the post course assessment.
I had the opportunity to participate with seven employees in the February 12-13 classes. They were all wondering how I would do since I have an aptitude for quickly calculating numbers in my head. Turns out it has nothing to do with the course. On the pre-course I made five errors in 6 minutes 50 seconds. On the post-course I made one error in 7 minutes 28 seconds. This basically confirmed what I already knew; my staff can run circles around me. Of the 51, we had a handful achieve perfect scores in under 5 minutes; to me, that is mind boggling.
Time will tell if we see less ECR’s due to accurate data transfer. On ten random exit surveys the staff had high marks rating the trainer with a 99 out of 100 possible points and the actual training course 95 out of a possible 100 points. For me, I ranked them 100/100. I thoroughly enjoyed the training.
For more information on Evoke Development you can find them at http://evokedevelopment.com/.
Most people dread going to the “DMV” because of long lines and the horrible staff working there. The picture used for this article speaks volumes. In Florida at the local level, elected County Tax Collectors are the “DMV” which is just one of the many duties we provide each day.
We are no different than any other “‘DMV” starting our day with a long line at the door. On some occasions at our Desoto office the line goes all the way to 301 Blvd. The difference is how we handle it and the line goes away in a matter of minutes. Based on stats from our annual Voice of the Customer Survey the #1 choice is “Speed of Service” which does match up with a long line out the door.
Fast Tube by Casper
Here is how we do it:
- Prior to 9AM Officer Andrew Jacobus gets the customers in 3 different lines:
- 9AM Appointments (Always go first!)
- driver license customers
- all other transactions
- At 9AM we open the doors and a receptionist reads the following script:
“Good morning. (pause)
Customers with an appointment, please come to the front of the line. (pause)(repeat)
Anyone that is here to process a Driver License or ID transaction, this includes clearing suspensions, needs to have the Driver’s License/ID application completed. If you have not completed this form please step to your right and get the form and clipboard from the associate. You must complete this form before receiving a number.
Everyone else form two lines at the receptionist desk after entering the building.”
- A staff person with several clipboards and pens with our office DL application stands ready at the customers right ready to pass those out.
- In less than 5 minutes the line is gone!
This is a favorite part of my day.