A division of the Department of Public Utilities in Lee County, Southern Florida, Lee County Utilities recognized the need to upgrade their aging customer service system. In 2016, Lee County decided to move to a fully hosted and managed Customer Self-Service (CSS) platform, using VertexOne’s expertise to host and maintain the software and infrastructure.
The implementation allows Lee County to better serve its current customer base, satisfying customers with more service and payment options. Additionally, Lee County’s agile, scalable platform helps it keep up with an ever-expanding influx of new customers. In Fiscal Year 2018 alone, Lee County averaged over one hundred new water and wastewater accounts per month, according to Customer Service Manager Paul Flores.
The Opportunity: Reduce Calls and Wait Times
However, this continuous growth in its customer base also increased workload pressures on the current Lee County staff. For example, when Lee County’s customers contacted the call center for Field Service operations such as move-ins and service changes, they sometimes experienced increased call wait times.
As this was not in line with its commitment to improving customer service, Lee County searched for a solution to this problem. By analyzing its customers’ use of the newly implemented fully hosted and managed platform for transactions and other service requests, Lee County developed a plan to address the challenge and reduce wait times.
The Solution: VertexOne's Digital Customer Engagement Platform
The trend in the utility industry is to provide more self-service options for busy customers. Many transactions that have been traditionally handled by in-house staff during business hours can now be done online by the customers themselves, 24/7.
Part of the VertexOne fully hosted and managed platform provided to Lee County was the Customer Advantage Self Service solution. This solution allowed customers to pay their utility bills through electronic funds transfer (ETF), the mobile app, or through the Lee County online payment portal.
Lee County’s Customer Service Department discovered an unanticipated, but welcome trend in customer activity. Due to the VertexOne self-service options, Lee County’s Customer Service Center lobby traffic decreased significantly.
Because customers can now initiate payments and service requests on their own whenever it is convenient for them, fewer needed to come into the utility offices to do so.
The adoption rate of the new electronic payment and service request methods was beyond Lee County’s expectations. Compared to September 2016, 18 months prior:
- The mobile app processed 4,314 transactions in April of 2018 (something not possible before the VertexOne upgrade).
- Electronic Funds Transfers (ETFs) increased 6,130 per month.
- Online web payments increased by 5,364 payments per month.
- Manual service transactions in the lobby decreased by 15,811 per month.
This reduction of in-person service request processing prompted Lee County management to propose reducing its lobby hours and reallocating that personnel to other tasks. More importantly, this gave them the perfect opportunity to provide personalized customer service for other vital customer exchanges when needed.
As a result, the Lee County human resources department was able to adjust employees’ work schedules, reallocating lobby staff to serve customers that needed human assistance in other situations.
This was particularly useful in handling field- service calls, since field service work often requires collaboration with the Customer Service team. Some of the lobby staff’s working hours were adjusted, therefore, to coincide with Lee County’s Field Operations schedule. With schedules that now mirror each other, the two teams are able to cooperate more quickly than before, reducing customer call wait times.
Lee County’s new staff scheduling change provided another money-saving benefit as well. Periodic employee training had historically been carried out between 7:30 and 8:00 AM as overtime. Since lobby staff now started earlier to assist in customer calls, periodic training can be scheduled without the overtime expense.
The VertexOne hosted and managed solution gives Lee County Utilities the opportunity to better serve its customers by providing the self-service options customers want while still providing the personalized care they need, when they need it.