Over 14,000 Phone Calls and 900 Internet Service Requests In First 4 Months of Operation Illustrate Residents are Using and Benefitting From HamStat
(Hamilton) – When Hamilton’s HamStat Call Center opened to the public on March 1, 2010, Township officials were confident that many residents would begin to use the one-call service for information and assistance. The results were even more impressive than first imagined. Through its first 4 months, over 15,839 service requests were received (14,100 by phone and 935 via the internet), the HamStat Call Center is proving to be a widely used and successful government service tool stemming from Hamilton Township Mayor John Bencivengo’s vision for better service and greater accountability to the taxpayer.
“We are pleased to see that thousands of residents are using the HamStat Call Center to contact the Township government for information or service and are encouraged from the overwhelmingly positive feedback that we are receiving,” says Mayor Bencivengo.
While few towns across the State of New Jersey utilize a variation of the CitiStat philosophy (of which HamStat is), Hamilton Township has achieved something that few towns or cities across the entire country have – a system that accepts citizen service requests by both phone and the internet.
The HamStat team, consisting of just 4 full-time and 2 part-time Call Center representatives, are a group of highly-trained customer service professionals who provide information and answers to residents. When phone calls from residents involve requests for Township government services, the Call Center representatives work to gather the information needed to best direct the requests and help ensure their completion. Additionally, there are often times when the Call Center representatives even follow-up on outstanding requests.
And their work has reaped great dividends as Hamilton Township has received numerous compliments on the new HamStat Call Center and its level of service [see below examples]. Yet, despite the overwhelmingly positive feedback, the Township continues to work on ways that it can improve its service and enhance customer service to residents.
Every 2 weeks, Township Directors meet with Mayor Bencivengo, Call Center Supervisor Terri Jany and Township Business Administrator John Ricci to analyze a compilation of reports and data of the types of service requests that the Township Call Center has received over the past 14 days and looks at trends in the most frequently requested service areas. And additionally, the Township has implemented policy changes as a result to improve upon service efficiencies.
For instance, in the late spring, one of the most frequently reported service request types was for the scheduling of brush pick-up. Yet, because of several wind storms that increased the normal amount of brush, Township officials witnessed a back-log of scheduled pick-up appointments. Mayor Bencivengo reviewed the spike in requests and instituted some new policies. First, rather than having Township trucks spread across multiple service zones, each service zone would have a specific day for brush collection. Secondly, residents calling the Call Center would be informed of their exact day for collection. And finally, additional brush drop-off locations were established for the benefit of residents who preferred not to wait until their collection day to dispose of their brush. The policy changes not only increased operational efficiency, but provided residents with better information, greater flexibility and more service options, as well as resulted in a reduction of calls from residents who might mistakenly believe that their collection was missed on days in which they received garbage or recycling collection.
Another frequently reported service request type this summer has been high grass complaints for residential properties. The summer months are a peak time for high grass complaints and foreclosure rates have only increased this problem. With the growing number of properties, Hamilton officials developed an action plan in which the Township’s Health Division and Public Works Department would more quickly issue violation notices and cut the grass of foreclosed properties, subsequently placing liens on the properties to reimburse the Township for its costs. The process has allowed the Township to manage these complaints much more efficiently.
Operational efficiency is even more of a priority for the Township today than ever before, as this year, Hamilton will have 50 less full-time employees than from just 3 years ago. And less employees has allowed taxpayers to enjoy no increase in the Township portion of their property tax bills over the past 2 budget years, and with no township tax increase projected for a 3rd consecutive budget.
“Better service and greater efficiencies through the HamStat Call Center has proven to be a benefit to the taxpayers of our community,” explains Mayor Bencivengo. “And we are looking to expand the HamStat program as we move forward.”
One area in which the Township hopes to expand its HamStat operations is its Inspections Office, which currently handles phone requests in order to schedule inspection appointments. By the summer’s end, new software will allow the HamStat Call Center to schedule inspection appointments, and thereby increase efficiencies in inspections, the completion and issuance of permits, and the filing of necessary inspection documents.
Hamilton also plans to review ways in which similar processes can extend to and benefit the Township’s Health Division, who must inspect properties and establishments for health-related matters.
“We are very happy with the results that HamStat and the Call Center have produced so far,” concludes Mayor Bencivengo. “And we are eager to build upon these early successes for the benefit of all Hamilton residents.”