The City of Clearwater’s (City) Customer Service department supports the City’s seven utilities (water, wastewater, gas, stormwater, reclaimed water, solid waste, and recycling) by: issuing utility bills; reading water and gas meters; answering and addressing calls from utility customers; and collecting payments on utility bills.
In late 2012, the Customer Service Department implemented new management. Because of a desire to provide exceptional and efficient service to its customers, the City selected Raftelis to initiate a utility customer service efficiency review which would include an assessment of the following items within the Customer Service Department:
The Raftelis team began the project by conducting initial interviews with the customer service management team, utility directors and their management team, City Council members, the City Manager, and Assistant City Managers to understand the perception of the Customer Service Department and the interaction between the Customer Service Department and each utility that it supports. We conducted workshops with customer service staff and utility staff that perform customer service functions to gather initial insight into their responsibilities. We then met with individuals in all areas of the Customer Service Department and those customer service representatives that perform customer service functions in the utilities to understand the procedures, technology, workload, and communication between each utility and the Customer Service Department.
Raftelis then met with Lean champion teams (employees identified by management from the utilities as well as from the Customer Service Department) who would assist the project team in process mapping several key processes. Since the processes crossed over several departments, it was important to have Lean champions that represented a cross-sectional group. We also conducted a best practices survey with municipalities that provide similar utility service to that of the City of Clearwater.
The study enabled us to identify recommendations to increase the efficiency of the Customer Service Department which included changes to the organizational structure, policies, technology used by various areas, workloads among groups, and cross-training opportunities to improve communications and increase knowledge.