Summary of Services
The Customer Services department provides multiple services to other city departments and directly to citizens and businesses. By design, the department is the first line of communication with citizens during natural disasters, providing 24/7 support.
The Utility Services Administration division provides administrative support for the department, including but not limited to management, administration, and procurement. It also provides policy/process review and audit responses.
The Utility Customer Field Operation division's major function is to provide outstanding customer service while completing over 450,000 field orders annually, including field meter reads, service disconnects/reconnects, and service investigations. This section provides technical support to the City's AMI investments that the smart grid utilizes to provide meter data. This area is also responsible for revenue protection from theft, under-billed, and non-billed services. They work 24/7 as needed.
The Customer Services department processes and monitors the daily billing activities for electric, water, sewer, gas, solid waste, stormwater, and fire services across 21 billing cycles every month. This billing staff works in concert with the call center’s staff, who provide citizen support for all billed services and StarMetro.
The department is an internal service and is fully allocated to the operating funds.
As part of the FY2022 Operating Budget, 29 part-time positions were converted to full-time to support the transition of the previously outsourced Parking Operations program to a total in-house service delivery model. This resulted in all of the City's parking lots, garages, and on-street parking resources, including the Airport, moving to a single service delivery model which brings economies of scale for cost savings, increased revenue projections, and a higher level of service delivery to all parking areas. This new innovative approach provides more comprehensive ambassadorship in lieu of policing/enforcement alone, allowing for more citizen engagement.
3-B-2: Implement online customer service and inquiry portal by 2022
The City provides utility services to over 122,000 homes and businesses daily. Customer Operations has continued to evolve into engaging customers through a variety of options. These include the traditional phone contact, or through the web, chat, fax, email, Front Counter, or social media. We also support a mobile app called Digitally. The continual demands for real-time responses place more pressure on enhancing services. In FY22, Customer Operations will expand its services to use Voice Biometrics to authenticate customers who would prefer to interact with our Interactive Voice Response Unit (IVR) 24/7 without using an account number or remembering a password. This new technology will be called “VoiceID”. This will allow for expanded services while controlling the cost of service.
The database management of all customer accounts lies in the current Customer Information System (CIS), which has not been upgraded in over 18 years. By the end of 2022, the City will implement new technology solutions that will collectively increase citizen engagement, provide near real-time data analyses; and automate processes to deliver faster, more efficient, and more convenient services to customers. This upgrade will allow the City to continue to provide exceptional customer service by leveraging emerging technologies and improving existing business processes to meet growing citizen demands.
In 2018, staff conducted several site visits to municipalities that offered similar services and had successfully implemented new citizen engagement systems. These visits provided insight into the vendor selection process, project management methodologies, business process improvement approaches, and organizational change management. Effective change management requires a continuous cycle of evaluating industry best practices, planning strategic business process improvements, eliminating redundant processes, and implementing a communication plan that enhances the delivery of services to citizens.
The City also hired a project management firm to facilitate meetings with stakeholders, evaluate requirements based on industry best practices, and create the required documentation to procure a new solution. The City released the Request for Proposal in March 2020, and vendor responses were received in May 2020. The RFP Evaluation team selected vendors for the project and presented the results to City Commission in September 2020 for approval.
The resulting Customer Information System (CIS) and Meter Data Management (MDM) projects are now fully underway. Various staff within the Customer Operations Department are fully dedicated to these projects, with many other staff working part-time in support in addition to their daily responsibilities. Both projects are working through data migration, design, testing, development, and integration tasks and issues. Additionally, the project engages with Operational Change Management (OCM) experts to ensure the significant operational and business practice changes can and will be implemented to support both new systems.
Both projects utilize significant cross-departmental support and teamwork from the City’s Technology & Innovation (T&I) Department and the full support of the Electric, Water, Sewer, Gas, and Solid Waste Departments. The CIS/MDM systems represent the single largest enterprise system in the City and will provide a platform of technical integration for many years to come.