Need help with potholes, trash collection or dilapidated neighborhood properties? Help will be a few clicks away with a new customer service request system soon to be available on the Web and smartphones, Columbus city officials said.
City departments are in training for the next month, learning how to use the system, before it goes live to the public the first week of May, said Sean O’Leary, information technology manager for the city of Columbus.
Residents will be able to submit complaints through the city’s website or phone apps and track the status of requests until they are corrected, O’Leary said.
Soon after the initial launch, the system will allow for email updates as the request works its way through the city, he said.
For example, a complaint made through the system over a damaged traffic sign would automatically be forwarded to the supervisor at the city garage. The customer would receive a ticket number from the system, O’Leary said. As the complaint is assigned to a work crew and as the work is completed, the customer could receive either email updates or could check back on the site with the ticket number to see where the project stands.
Mayor Kristen Brown has been pushing for such a system because previously city departments had no standardized way to track such customer complaints and no centralized way to receive and process them. While the city utilities department used a computerized system specialized for water companies, the city garage used slips of paper.
“This is a big step forward in an overall goal of improving customer service,” Brown said. “It makes us more responsive, more efficient and accountable.”
The mayor said she believes the system also will help to streamline processes behind the scene. Before the system, there was no way to quantify how many complaints were received, how long they took to get resolved or even if anything had been done. Internally, the system will be used by supervisors to manage some tasks for city workers.
The city also will offer a centralized phone number, where people without computers or smartphones will be able to call in with complaints, Brown said. Those complaints will be entered into the customer service system by city staff during normal working hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Brown said the customer response system also will tie into two agencies outside city government: the county code enforcement office for zoning and other land-use complaints; and Duke Energy, which handles streetlight repairs.
When the system launches in May, the city will include a prominent link on its website to access the customer service request system, and the free smartphone apps will be available on the Apple app store and Android’s Google Play store. The phone number also will be publicized, once it is assigned and the system goes live.
The customer response system is based on open-source software used by Chicago, Bloomington, San Francisco and other communities, which meant it was available free to Columbus, Brown said. O’Leary has been working with the system for several months to tailor it to the city’s use.
The only cost to the city will be for a new server, which has yet to be purchased. The system runs fine now on a repurposed server, O’Leary said, but he would like to install it on a system with a warranty, so it could be repaired quickly and cheaply if there were a problem.
What: Columbus customer service request system.
When: Available the first week of May.
Where: www.columbus.in.gov or via smartphone apps at the Apple app store or Android’s Google Play store.
Categories: Users will have the option of choosing their request from several large categories including
- Cleanup and sanitation
- Parks and recreation
- Streets, parking and traffic
- Water and sewage utility
For those who aren’t sure which category their request falls under, there will be an “Other” option under a “Miscellaneous” category.