Developing New Models for SeeClickFix Use on the State Level
In 2013, the Utah Department of Transportation wanted to overhaul their work order management system to make it more user friendly for citizens and more labor efficient for staff. They sought a mobile-accessible tool that could introduce automation, geographic precision, and categorical specificity to requests reported along the more than 3,658 miles of state and federal roadway across Utah.
- UDOT wanted to overhaul current work order management system
- Current tool not user friendly or labor efficient for staff
- Lacked automation, geographic precision, and categorical specificity to requests reported
- Adapted SeeClickFix to selectively identify requests that users were repotting on UDOT-managed roadway
- The ability to display the department’s preferred set of questions — rather than general or town-specific ones — during requests generation and forward the resulting service request to the department for review, feedback, and resolution or re-routing
- Report generation tool
- Automated recurring data reports
- Mobile-first design
- Cross-platform compatibility
The existing method of citizen request reporting at UDOT was an evolution of one that had been in place for decades. It was labor intensive, required manual operation at every step, and relied on the specific organizational knowledge of a few critical individuals without whom it could not function. These weaknesses put the system increasingly at odds with the department’s commitment to customer service given the rapid shift in consumer expectations in the mobile, on-demand age.
UDOT is made up of a central, state-wide office and four regional offices that are each responsible for an area of the state. Within each regional office are maintenance, traffic operations, and construction divisions. Specific road and infrastructure requests such as potholes and problems with street signs were the charge of the regional offices. Larger policy questions were handled by the central, sate-wide office. There is also a parallel system of independently staffed and supervised maintenance stations, each of which is responsible for individual stretches of UDOT’s road system. The key task in citizen request management was and remains the proper routing of requests to supervisors within this framework.
Under the previous system, citizens who wanted to report an request could call UDOT’s main number, email their public relations account, or fill out an online form. All three types of report were handled by the same administrative assistant, who would forward calls, emails, and form results to the appropriate person. UDOT worked hard to respond to every citizen request, but, on several levels, this was not a plug-and-play solution.
For one, the assistant was critical to the process. She needed to know the names and contact information for every supervisor across the department and had a detailed understanding of each supervisor’s responsibilities; vacation and sick days would significantly impact the department’s ability to respond efficiently to citizen concerns. Moreover, having to contend with such varied inputs and outputs, the assistant did her best to stop requests from falling through the cracks, but occasional failure was an inevitable cost of this multifarious and work-intensive system.
Second, there was no universal back-end for tracking work orders, so the assistant routed all three types of reports through the system in their original medium. It was up to the dozens of potential recipients to identify citizen reports among their several daily emails, phone calls, and voice messages, respond to the citizens directly in one medium or another, and create and prioritize corresponding work orders. This distributed decision-making and organizational structure was not only labor intensive, but also led to a diversity of tickets and ticketing systems that leaned heavily on their creator’s interpretation for their meaning. Likewise, adding new staff members into the equation was trivial from a training standpoint, but resulted in the creation of yet another obscure, personal system for handling incoming requests.
UDOT is still in the initial stages of implementing SeeClickFix; it has tasked staff members to use the new system internally for both testing and training purposes. In the UDOT implementation, SeeClickFix has established a universal, system-wide backend for service request management where none existed before. It has improved organizational and individual efficiency while simultaneously introducing much more operator independence. The department is already seeing early benefits.
“Just like everyone, our personnel are getting stretched thinner and thinner. Being able to combine duplicate requests is very helpful. We don’t have to respond fifty times to fifty different people about the same request anymore,” says Becky Parker, Interactive Communications Manager at UDOT. Parker also stressed the educational value of the platform. As a communications tool, it allows UDOT to have true conversations with concerned citizens about the challenges that cause specific service delays or the rationale behind its actions.
As before, incoming requests are currently being cleared manually by an administrative assistant. The form on the UDOT website has been replaced with a SeeClickFix widget that feeds requests directly into the database. The administrative assistant manually creates new entries for incoming phone calls and emails. She then routes all requests regardless of their initial source through the SeeClickFix application, forwarding them to the user accounts of the various central, region, and station supervisors. The days of having as many management systems as there were supervisors have given way to one that is characterized by a simple, uniform, and open service request management and work order generation platform. SeeClickFix has allowed UDOT to double its commitment to providing the best possible customer service and greatly reduced the labor intensity of doing so.
UDOT plans to begin a marketing campaign via traditional and social media as early as January 2015 in an effort to roll SeeClickFix out to all Utahans. To date, all region supervisors as well as division supervisors in Region 2—Utah’s population center—have SeeClickFix user accounts. In the months to come, UDOT will also give user accounts to division supervisors in other regions and select maintenance station supervisors so they can begin to receive new service requests in time for the public launch. There are also medium term plans to reduce the system’s reliance on a centralized manual clearinghouse for all incoming service requests by introducing more automation into request routing at UDOT’s discretion.
SeeClickFix promises to be a new model for managing geographically precise service requests over a large area with complex and irregular internal boundaries. “I haven’t seen anyone else doing anything like this on the state level,” attests Parker. The UDOT SeeClickFix implementation is unique among the amorphous phone, e-mail, and web-form service request systems used in most all other jurisdictions, an iteration of which UDOT itself relied on only one year ago.