Raising service quality at Housing Board the IT way

Raising service quality at Housing Board the IT way

 

is responsible for providing homes for more than 80 per cent of the population in Singapore, needs to be able to store a huge amount of data and have constant access to this data. To address this challenge, HDB decided to look for an information management solution that would meet its needs when it decided to upgrade its IT infrastructure a few years ago.

 

‘Not only did the new system have to satisfy our needs then, it also had to be able to grow together with us,’ HDB’s director of information services, Leong Chin Yew, told BizIT. The paperwork associated with some 2.6 million customers and 880,000 dwelling units, as well as rising customer expectations, is a constant strain on HDB’s limited budget and resources, he said.

 

‘HDB is continuously seeking new solutions to cope with these demands and bring the level of customer service across all branch offices to greater heights.’

 

Among the many products that HDB evaluated, IBM’s content management solutions were able to meet its criteria. ‘It also integrated well with our existing investment which translated to a lower cost of adoption,’ he said.

 

A new business model to address these challenges was piloted at the Jurong West Branch Office with the launch of Pioneer Service Centre in November 2004. ‘The new model maximised HDB’s resources and provided a cost effective way to deliver better customer services.’

 

The HDB official noted that IT, coupled with business process re-engineering, has played a critical role in enabling this new business model. ‘This model has been rolled out progressively to other branch offices.’

 

Mr Leong noted that file-less operations is just one of the four key elements of the new branch office business model. The others are business process management, customer relationship management strategy and branch office IT consolidation.

 

Talking about the file-less operations, the HDB official said that the implementation of content management solutions to convert hardcopy records into electronic format eliminated the need to store hardcopies of lessees and tenants files in the branch office.

 

Before this solution was implemented, the filing room in each branch office took up, on average, about one-sixth of the office space. With all files becoming electronic, paperwork is also reduced and this allows HDB to provide a better service. ‘Customers enjoy a higher quality of service with a faster turnaround time.’

 

Giving an example, Mr Leong pointed out that it takes seconds instead of minutes for staff to retrieve the required documents while responding to a customer’s query.

 

‘Branch office processes are no longer dependant on the availability of physical files. Furthermore, it allows multiple accesses to the documents, for example, headquarters sections and branch office staff can access the same document at the same time.’

 

He added that security and access control are also in place. This has resulted in service improvements where customers can approach any branch office with their queries instead of being restricted to their managing branch office. With the conversion to the file-less operations, the paper-based workflow processes were also re-engineered and automated.

 

New application systems were developed and existing systems enhanced to support the electronic workflow, Mr Leong said. ‘The electronic workflow enables the branch offices to bridge the geographical distance between different HDB offices to work virtually as one. It also enables the tracking of business transactions, thereby ensuring that they are completed in a timely manner, enhancing customer service.’

 

The new business model is also enabled by extending and speeding up the implementation of the CRM (customer relationship management) initiatives, Mr Leong noted. ‘One of the key initiatives is the consolidation of various customer hotlines into a single toll-free branch office service number and the setting up of the virtual call centre.’

 

He added that the implementation of a customer service portal that rides on VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology presents HDB customer service officers with a holistic view of the customer to enhance customer service. ‘Another key initiative is the implementation of Web services that integrate HDB services across multiple government agencies and private sectors.’

 

Apart from this, HDB has also implemented additional and enhanced services via existing service channels ranging from service counters, the Internet, automated telephone enquiry to self-service kiosks.

 

The HDB official added that the IT consolidation exercise in which servers were relocated from branch offices to the HDB’s Data Centre has also resulted in a more reliable and secure IT infrastructure.

 

With its success, the system has been implemented at all HDB branch offices. With all these improvements, there is better customer satisfaction from faster turnaround time, for example, approval for some online applications can be obtained instantly, Mr Leong said.

 

He added that customers need only call a single hotline for branch office services since customer service officers from any branch office will be able to serve them. Also, access to branch office transactions is available through the Internet via HDB’s e-Services sub-portal 24 hours, seven days a week.

 

Finally, it has resulted in higher staff productivity by removing manual and paper-based processes and this has resulted in higher staff morale due to improved processes and job worth.

 

This project was the winner of 2005 MIS Asia IT Excellence – Best Business Enabler (Government) Category.

 

The award was conferred in recognition of HDB’s excellence in planning, management and the deployment of technology with the emphasis on Strategic IT management to enable this new business model for branch office operations.

 

Source: Business Times

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