One of my favorite jobs was working in the National Main Street Program. I love Main Streets and the program focused on making communities inviting and to help communities serve their residents and visitors better. The idea was that people get an impression about your community or your business, by the atmosphere that they experience when they walk in the door or drive down your Main Street. I often reflect on the lessons I learned there when I think about the long lines and grumpy people at the service counters and waiting rooms of government agencies.
When people need to do business with their local government, their first impression is formed by the “waiting room.” Waiting is one of our least favorite things in life. And, when this is combined with the fact that government offices are open when most people have to work, you have a situation that puts the constituent in a frustrated mood even before they begin their wait.
But, just like the businesses in the Main Street Program, more thought could go to how this experience feels for your constituents. Do people seem to be conducting this business quickly and efficiently? Are there ways to use self-service tools to help manage the number of people who need staff assistance? Is there a way to keep people from having to visit your waiting room?
The answers to these and other questions could change your constituents’ view of their local government – for the better, or maybe, worsen their impression.
The moments when constituents intersect with their government is such a moment for opportunity. Will the staff person be able to help? Will it be a smooth, efficient moment? Or, as is often the case, will the waiting constituent think it took too long and then be frustrated by having to return with more documents or speak to someone else? It’s hard to tell, but I do know how document management can help!
For example, one of the greatest trends in government is online services. It has changed the need for the waiting room. So, how can document management help?
The workflow and automation components of an ECM product is a key piece of taking an online form and getting it directly to a staff person to act on, without the slowdown from printing out a request and manually carrying it to a department for action. With online services supported by an ECM workflow backend, these services speed up and your constituents can access them 24/7 and may avoid coming to your waiting room altogether.
Automation helps your online presence, but not everyone uses a computer. Thankfully, document management can support self-service options for constituents visiting your offices. An ECM solution that can use a kiosk or self-scanning options can keep people moving quickly through their visit to their county or city offices. And, because people can serve themselves, we avoid a portion of the waiting game that makes our constituents so unhappy.
What if constituents could walk up to a kiosk, enter some information, perhaps swipe their debit or credit card and simply walk to your front desk to pickup documents ? How many more people could you help with the same or even reduced front office staff? And what if that kiosk could run document management software AND other web-based applications?
Finally, document management avoids that classic government moment, loss of documents. If you have ever submitted a document to an agency only to have it be lost, or, if you are the government staff person who has to tell a constituent to resubmit a document because you can’t find it, you know what I mean. It’s embarrassing and frustrating.
With document management software, paper doesn’t get lost and it is secure, so important, confidential and sensitive information can only be accessed by those who should see it.
So, what if you can remake your waiting room? What if your constituent’s view of your agency was one with a smoothly running office with only those people who must be there in attendance and their visit is short and pleasant? What if your staff had a reasonable workload, aided by self-service options like web services and kiosks? What if citizens said, “they never lose my documents in my town?”
Document management can help you create a welcoming and effective face for your constituents. And, in that scenario, there’s no waiting for your return on investment and your constituents aren’t waiting either.