Category Archives: Customer Service

Transport Infrastructure Ireland

Driving efficiency improvements in national road surveys

Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has deployed a mobile ArcGIS solution to help it automate, standardise and accelerate its annual survey to assess the skid resistance of national roads throughout Ireland. It can now plan and undertake road surface inspections with 20% fewer people, while collecting better data to inform highway improvement programmes.

Mobile inspectors find inspection sites more quickly and collect data more efficiently in the field

Office-based teams don’t waste time printing maps, creating forms, uploading data and filing information

Senior managers monitor and manage progress with real-time insight into the status of surveys

The Challenge

The national road network in Ireland is around 5,300 km long, incorporating multilane motorways and rural single carriageways. Every year, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) is required to undertake detailed inspections of around 1,000 locations nationwide that have been identified as potentially posing an increased risk of skidding in the future. While none of the inspection sites present an immediate threat to safety for the general public, TII has to complete its survey within four months, so that recommendations can be acted upon as part of proactive road maintenance activities.

Known as the HD28 survey, the skidding risk assessment used to be a very manual process, demanding a large amount of staff time. Inspectors would be given print-outs showing maps of the locations of inspection sites and would collect road observations and data on paper forms. Typically, they had a bundle of around 40-50 sheets of paper for a week’s work and wasted lots of time in the field trying to find inspection sites, as well as grappling with paper in wet and windy weather. Many days of effort were also required in the office to plan inspections, print maps, report on the survey’s progress, enter the collected data into central systems and file away the paper forms.

“ The mobile survey app and reporting dashboard were created and deployed in just one day by the TII in-house team, with no need for consultancy support

Brendan Kennedy – GIS Manager, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

The Solution

TII completely transformed its paper-driven HD28 survey process using solutions from Esri’s ArcGIS platform. Using Collector for ArcGIS, the organisation created a mobile app enabling inspectors to see the precise locations of inspection sites on digital maps, collect data in the field using drop-down boxes and upload it directly to Esri’s ArcGIS Online. Critically, the solution works in online and offline modes, so it can be used in rural areas where there is no mobile coverage. TII also used Esri’s Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS to create a live reporting interface for management at TII to monitor the progress of surveys.

Remarkably, TII was able to create this entire solution incredibly quickly, due to the “ease-of-use and flexibility of ArcGIS,” according to Brendan Kennedy, GIS Manager at TII. “The mobile survey app and reporting dashboard were created and deployed in just one day by the TII in-house team, with no need for consultancy support,” he says.

A key advantage of the ArcGIS-based solution is that the app can be used by employees on their own devices, including mobile phones not owned by TII. Users simply download the app and log in with a secure user name and password. “We didn’t have to purchase and deploy tablets or make any other hardware investments, which kept the cost down,” says Kennedy. “We can also flexibly introduce more people to the survey team from our regional offices, when necessary, to help us meet targets.”

 

 

“ Due to staff changes, we have around 20% fewer personnel and yet can still complete the HD28 survey programme within the required timeframe

Tom Casey – Head of Pavements, Construction Materials & Innovation, Transport Infrastructure Ireland

The Benefits

Efficiencies improved by 20%
As employees no longer have to manually plan their surveys and transfer their survey findings from paper to electronic systems, individual efficiencies have increased by around 10-20%. Indeed, TII estimates that six employees each save one month per year as they do not have to print, file, upload and manage hard copy forms and maps. “Due to staff changes, we have around 20% fewer personnel and yet can still complete the HD28 survey programme within the required timeframe,” says Tom Casey, Head of Pavements, Construction Materials & Innovation at TII.

Greater speed and flexibility in the field
Using the ArcGIS mobile app, inspectors waste less time trying to find sites and can complete nearly twice as many inspections in a typical day. “When the process was paper based, I would get through around 7 to 8 inspections per day; with the app I usually do around 15 inspections per day,” estimates Stephen Smyth, Senior Manager for the Pavement Asset Programme. As all the data inspectors need is always with them, on their phones, they can carry out surveys on a more flexible, impromptu basis, at short notice, when they are already in the area, without having to return to the office to collect the necessary paperwork, which significantly improves their efficiency.

Real-time oversight of survey programme
Previously, TII employees had to develop weekly reports on the status of the survey for senior managers. Now, however, real-time information is available on demand, online, allowing managers to monitor and manage the survey process more effectively. “We can identify regions where perhaps an additional inspector is needed to complete a job list and better allocate resources around the country to ensure that the survey is completed as quickly as possible,” Kennedy explains.

Better decisions about road maintenance
The GIS-driven process improves the accuracy and consistency of the survey data collected, which in turn helps TII to make better informed decisions about interventions and restorative roadworks. The organisation can incorporate skid resistance improvement works into other planned road improvement programmes in the same area, reducing the cost of interventions, minimising disruption for road users and maintaining the safety of roads for years to come.

 

 

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Aylesbury Vale District Council

Transforming citizen engagement by shifting to digital channels

After reviewing its current reporting system, used by residents to report issues and concerns, Aylesbury Vale District Council utilised Esri UK’s professional services expertise to create a new and improved online reporting model. Not only delivering a better service to its citizens but also making vital resource and cost savings.

More efficient reporting of problems – fewer queries, errors and wasted trips

Improved service to residents – easier online reporting and faster resolution of problems

Reduced contact volumes – by avoiding duplicate reporting and minimising clarifications

The Challenge

Engagement with residents to maintain and improve their quality of life is a critical aspect of Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC)’s work. ReportIT is a mechanism by which issues or problems can be reported by residents, for action by the council. The system covers a broad range of concerns, from abandoned vehicles and antisocial behaviour to fly tipping and the safety of young people.

This important activity was found to be labour-intensive and potentially error-prone. The review of ReportIT identified several factors contributing to inefficiencies:
Reported problems often lie outside the council’s jurisdiction. Residents can be unaware of council structures and responsibilities, so would raise concerns to AVDC that were actually the responsibility of a different council.
Problems were being reported multiple times. Residents had no indication whether a problem has already been reported, so it would be reported again, causing duplication of effort.
Contractors resolving problems often attended the wrong location or needed to visit the site repeatedly, leading to wasted time and cost. This was because the reporting form did not capture all the information, including precise location, needed for first time resolution.
Residents like to be kept informed, but provision of regular updates was time consuming.

As part of its transformation journey, AVDC is adopting a ‘New Business Model’ which will remove such inefficiencies. The council identified that by shifting the primary contact channel to a new online reporting system it could:
1. Reduce the number of inbound contacts.
2. Reduce the cost of processing each report.
3. Improve feedback to residents.

AVDC had a suitable technology platform – ArcGIS Online from Esri, but cuts had meant that it did not have the resources to create the new solution. Furthermore, cost savings were needed quickly, so time was of the essence.

“ The new ReportIT solution has significantly improved the quality of information we are able to obtain on the initial contact enabling us to make improvements in our handling time for each individual report

Debbie White – Interim Customer Relationship Team Manager, Aylesbury Vale District Council

The Solution

The council contracted an Embedded Product Specialist (EPS) from Esri UK, chosen for their deep knowledge of the capabilities of ArcGIS Online. The EPS used standard templates to quickly create two vital applications:

1. Reporting tool. Esri UK’s QuestionWhere Builder enables a questionnaire or survey to be built around location-based questions. The EPS used QuestionWhere Builder to create a suite of forms, one for each type of problem being reported. A built-in map ensures that the location of the problem is correctly identified and that the problem falls within the regional boundaries of AVDC. Each report includes all the information a contractor needs to resolve the problem.

2. Analysis dashboard. AVDC’s communities and customer services teams needed a simple, visual way to monitor activity and identify any problems needing action. The EPS created a map-based visualisation that enabled the teams to query by boundary area, class of report and thus identify patterns and resolve issues.

Rather than write an exhaustive specification, the EPS used rapid prototyping techniques to create demonstration versions that gave AVDC a quick view of what was possible. The council provided immediate feedback to the EPS who, based in the council’s offices, implemented any changes there and then. This iterative approach kept the project on track and shortened development timescales.
The EPS also trained key IT staff from AVDC to use the tools, create new reports, edit existing reports, and maintain and develop the solution going forward. The whole project was completed in just five days.

“ Having the Esri UK EPS on site meant that we could try out different approaches and rapidly iterate the solution. The new ReportIT tool is already having an impact on our operations and thanks to the training from the EPS, we now have the capability to adapt our solution as needs change in the future

Debbie White – Interim Customer Relationship Team Manager, Aylesbury Vale District Council

The Benefits

Speed
The EPS helped AVDC rapidly assimilate the latest technology. Reporting and resolution processes are now smoother and faster as there are fewer queries, errors and wasted trips.

Flexibility
The council’s requirements are sure to evolve over time and it is well equipped to change the functionality of the solution as needed in the future. Yet AVDC is not dependent on permanent IT resources for ongoing development and support.

Improved service to residents
Residents can now report problems and track progress at a time of their own choosing. Their concerns and problems are now resolved by AVDC more quickly and with minimum need for discussion.

Reduction in contact volumes
The map-based tool helps residents report correctly – so that AVDC does not have to process reports that are outside its jurisdiction. Costly duplicate reporting is avoided and further questions and clarifications are minimised.

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Digital Transformation eBook

Digital Transformation

Working smarter WHERE it matters

eBook

ArcGIS empowers decision makers to focus on the most effective customer centric strategies. This disruptive technology enables analysts to work with layers of data to uncover hidden insights and trends. The ability to share these insights with all employees on any device, and at any time, creates a highly efficient and agile workforce. Paired with innovative minds, the capabilities are endless and extremely exciting.

Satisfy customers by exceeding the expectations of your customers by knowing them better than anyone else. Work smart, and build an agile workforce with access to accurate insights, wherever they are, all of the time. Drive innovation and nurture uncompromised thinking and challenge the status quo to gain and retain competitive edge.

Read our ‘Digital Transformation’ ebook to discover how location technology is helping transform businesses and industries.

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Making the Connection eBook

Making the Connection

Electricity: How location information is improving stakeholder engagement

eBook

Electricity Distribution Network Operators face challenges brought by radical industry transformation and are therefore beginning of a journey from a relatively static asset management operation, to a more dynamic and flexible business. To deliver the change needed, electricity networks will rely heavily on their large scale information systems. But enterprise information systems across all sectors are also being transformed, by the wave of digital disruption spreading across the economy. Enterprise IT has historically been a ‘System of Record’, designed to provide a single source of the truth so that managers and staff have the information they need to run and operate their organisations. But current trends are leading businesses to deploy a different breed of tools based on communications and collaboration capabilities. In short, Enterprise IT is becoming a System of Engagement. This new breed of systems enable organisations to become more effective, more flexible and more customer-focused.

As the Network Operator is a geographic business with a widespread asset base serving customers and stakeholders over a distributed area, spatial information has a critical role to play. Read our “Making the Connection” eBook to find more and to discover real examples of how geospatial technology is enabling the transformation of electricity distribution and transmission, through better stakeholder engagement, complementing its more traditional role of records management.

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Quocirca Geospatial Intelligence eBook

Quocirca Geospatial Intelligence

On The Move

eBook

Mobile GIS enables improved customer service by getting the right field worker to the right place as quickly as possible. However the capability extends further, to enable field worker activity and status tracking, which protects their safety and provides insight which allows operations managers to adapt priorities and make the right decisions in response to events on the ground.
Using out of the box GIS mobile Apps has allowed organisations to increase field worker productivity by up to 20%, by enabling them to stay organised, report progress, call for assistance, remain productive and minimise travel. At the same time data quality is significantly improved – if you get the data right first time and at the point of capture then costly errors further down the line are avoided.
In essence, field workers collect data through common or rugged mobile devices and that status information and the data collected is available immediately back at the office, viewable on a real time dashboard. Organisations like Thames Water, Westminster City Council, Colas, Willis Group and many more have seen significant benefits from this approach.
Independent analysts Quocirca investigated this technology and the benefits to organisations adopting it. Their conclusions are set out in this eBook. Download the eBook free now to find out more…

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Fera Science

Conveying scientific evidence from drones to decision makers

The agri-food research company Fera Science has developed a GIS-based web app to share high resolution imagery from an Unmanned Aerial System with a range of government and commercial clients. The solution gives decision makers a deeper understanding of complex environmental and agricultural challenges, so they can plan more effectively to protect our natural resources and food security.

A root vegetable grower can identify inconsistencies in crop sowing to increase future food production

A government agency can survey and protect endangered trees more cost effectively

A large landowner can plan a more sustainable business expansion, while improving safety

The Challenge

In a world challenged by population growth, pollution and climate change, Fera Science provides accurate, scientific evidence to support critical decisions in the agriculture and environment industries. It delivers research data and advice for 7,500 government and commercial organisations, helping them to increase food production, ensure water quality, maintain food nutrition and sustain our natural resources.

Every year Fera undertakes over 600 research assignments and, in the Land Use and Sustainability Team specifically, nearly half of all projects involve the collection and analysis of remotely sensed imagery. To supplement the use of imagery from satellites and manned aircraft, Fera acquired an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), capable of taking higher resolution spatial images at a significantly lower cost than a piloted aircraft. However, to optimise the value of its new UAS services, Fera needed a way to make the high quality imagery and analysis available to clients, in a format that they could interrogate, interpret and ultimately use to make better-informed decisions.

“ Esri’s Web AppBuilder enables us to produce web apps easily in-house, without the need for support and bespoke code from specialist app developers

Lee Butler – GIS Specialist, Land Use and Sustainability Team, Fera

The Solution

Fera has been using solutions from Esri’s ArcGIS platform for many years and has an Enterprise Licence Agreement with Esri UK that gives it unlimited access to Esri’s full software portfolio. Taking advantage of Esri’s Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS, the company designed a web app that allows clients to view data from the UAS, zoom in to the full resolution of the imagery, turn on map layers and view attributes specifically relating to their projects. A typical 25-minute UAS flight generates over 6GB of data, comprising up to 3,000 individual photographs that are mosaicked together to create a single, seamless image.

The simplicity of the ArcGIS Web AppBuilder means that Fera can quickly build a bespoke web app for each client to include ‘widgets’ that allow decision makers to perform analysis tasks, such as counting trees or crops in a custom-defined area. “Esri’s Web AppBuilder enables us to produce web apps easily in-house, without the need for support and bespoke code from specialist app developers,” says Lee Butler, a GIS Specialist within Fera’s Land Use and Sustainability Team.

“ The ArcGIS web apps allow our clients to interact with, interrogate and analyse the imagery collected by the drone, which they couldn’t do previously

Lee Butler – GIS Specialist, Land Use and Sustainability Team, Fera

The Benefits

An efficient and high quality service for clients
The use of ArcGIS web apps enables Fera to deliver a UAS imaging service for its clients that is as cutting-edge and professional as its scientific research methods. Furthermore, as Fera no longer has to manually produce paper and pdf maps, it saves up to 10 hours every month and can deliver its UAS imagery to clients more promptly. “The ArcGIS web apps allow our clients to interact with, interrogate and analyse the imagery collected by the UAS, which they couldn’t do previously,” Butler says. “It allows them to acquire a far deeper understanding from the aerial imagery and gain added value from our services.”

Increased agricultural crop yields
One of the first companies to benefit from Fera’s web app is an agricultural company that grows potatoes and root vegetables. After the UAS flew over two large potato crop fields, the client used the web app to assess planting efficiency and automatically count plants, so that it could estimate yield more accurately and provide better forecasts to its customers. Using the ArcGIS web app, the client identified unexpected gaps in fields, where the planting machinery had not planted in a uniform manner throughout the crop and at the start of planting rows. Enlightened, it is now using this new information to review its planting techniques to increase crop yields for next year.

More cost efficient environmental surveys
Another of Fera’s clients, a government agency, is using the web app to help it monitor the outbreak of pests and disease in trees more cost efficiently and protect British woodlands. The UAS flies over areas where there are confirmed or suspected incidents of tree disease. The imagery is then processed and classified to tree species using imagery classification techniques. Tree inspectors can then view the imagery using the ArcGIS web app to identify the precise locations of tree species that are susceptible to that particular disease. Using this newly-gained insight, inspectors can plan their surveys more effectively to save time and money. They can even access the web app in the field using web-connected tablets, to help them find potentially infected trees more quickly.

Safe and sustainable land use
The ArcGIS web app can in fact be invaluable in supporting the use of UAS imagery in all kinds of land use projects. For instance, it is currently being used by a quarrying company in County Durham, where the UAS captured images over a 174 hectare site. Senior executives at the quarry use the ArcGIS web app to better interpret imagery in 2D and 3D and make decisions relating to the ongoing, sustainable use and future expansion of the site. They also use the app to brief visitors and members of staff about the locations of potential hazards, which helps to improve health and safety.

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Education Authority Northern Ireland

Driving changes in school transportation

Parents in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, can now use an ingenious little web app to check if their children are eligible for school bus travel and apply online. The solution, developed by Esri Ireland, has received enthusiastic feedback from families following a highly successful pilot.

Greater convenience and better information for parents

Potential time savings of over 58 days a year, when the app is rolled out nationally

More accurate address information to assist decision making

The Challenge

Among its numerous responsibilities, the Education Authority is required to facilitate transportation for pupils who live more than a stipulated distance away from their allocated grant-aided school. Northern Ireland is a predominantly rural country and, as a consequence, over 90,000 children are eligible for free travel on school buses. Every summer the Education Authority must consider in excess of 25,000 new applications in time for the start of the academic year. It is a very complicated process, which involves measuring the walking distance to school for each individual applicant and ensuring that

all decisions about whether or not to fund transportation are made both quickly and fairly. Until recently, this entire process was driven by information collected and communicated in paper-based forms.

“The time had come to change this,” says Dale Hanna, transport manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region. “We want to make it really easy for parents to find out if their children are eligible for free travel and then submit accurate information for the application process online.”

“ When the GIS web app is rolled out nationally, we expect to save over 58 says a year, which will free up staff to focus on delivering other important educational services

Dale Hanna – transport manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region

The Solution

To help it achieve its goal, the Education Authority approached Esri Ireland and asked it to use Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) technology to create a web-based app that would be mobile friendly and accessible 24/7. Developed using Esri’s ArcGIS Platform, the solution integrates live Ordnance Survey map services and address data from Land and Property Services (LPS).

This ingenious app is now up-and-running as a pilot and available to parents of pupils moving from primary to post-primary education in the Dungannon area. When parents log in, a screen is presented that is already prepopulated with all of the pupil’s details. A map view shows the street where the pupil lives and an arrow marks the assumed location of the house or flat. If the arrow is in the wrong place, parents can simply slide the map using their touch screen or curser to indicate the precise location of the property.

When parents tap the ‘submit’ button, the GIS-based app automatically calculates walking distances. If the pupil is clearly eligible, parents will receive an instant ‘yes’ response, and their application is automatically forwarded to the transportation team.  Equally, if the pupil is evidently not eligible, parents are immediately notified.  In other cases, such as if pupils live in areas marginally outside the eligible distance, the applications are forwarded for more detailed consideration. “It’s beautifully simple, yet a terrific demonstration of the power of digital geography,” says Eamonn Doyle, chief technical officer at Esri Ireland.

“ This app moves our engagement with citizens to the next level and, in doing so, improves the quality of service to our customers

Colm Daly – information manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region

The Benefits

A convenient service for parents
The school transport app has transformed the quality and availability of information for parents. In the majority of cases, parents can get an instant answer to the question ‘is my child eligible for school transport?’  Parents also have the convenience of being able to apply for transportation online, and don’t have to fill in lengthy forms. “The feedback from parents has been very positive,” says Colm Daly, information manager at the Education Authority, Southern Region. “This app moves our engagement with citizens to the next level and, in doing so, improves the quality of service to our customers.”

Greater public confidence
The new online app also helps to give parents a better understanding of the eligibility criteria for school transport and instils greater confidence in the application process. Whereas previously, the Education Authority only received a postal address for applicants in its paper forms, it now receives emails with a precise map and the coordinates of pupils’ homes. “This helps us to make better, faster decisions,” Daly states, adding that, “the app may over time reduce costly appeals.”

Improved operational efficiency
The Education Authority can now operate more efficiently in the pilot area, as it no longer has to waste time processing applications from parents who have used the app and discovered that they are not eligible. “In our Dungannon pilot, 15% of the people who used our app received a ‘no’ response,” explains Hanna.  “We estimate that it takes 10 minutes to manually process a ‘no’ application, so in the pilot phase alone we saved over one working day. Across the whole of Northern Ireland there are around 2500 ‘no’ applications every year. When the GIS web app is rolled out nationally, we expect to save over 58 days a year, which will free up staff to focus on delivering other important educational services. Additional efficiencies are achievable by future advancements in integration with our back office systems.”

Enhanced data quality
One additional, unexpected, benefit has emerged, as Daly explains. “Because parents can correct the locations of their homes on the online map, they are effectively doing quality control on the address data and that’s pretty interesting from a GIS perspective. It means that we can actually go back to LPS and other data providers in the future and supply them with updates. I don’t think that anybody else in the UK or indeed in Europe is doing that right now.”

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South Dublin County Council

Helping the people of Dublin through the use of ArcGIS

Responding directly to the needs and wishes of citizens, South Dublin County Council has used web and mobile solutions from Esri’s ArcGIS platform to create and enrich a new Community Facilities web app.  This online service is expected to help improve the quality of life for people living, working and doing business in the area.

Accessible information about facilities that citizens can access to improve their lives

A service designed and created specifically to meet the needs of citizens

The ability to enrich and update the web app very efficiently with a small team

The Challenge

In its Corporate Plan 2015-19, South Dublin County Council set out its mission to make the county of South Dublin the “best possible place in which to live, work and do business.”

This strategic document clearly articulated the council’s focus on citizens, stating that “the health and well-being of the people of South Dublin County” would be a key measure of success.  To help it achieve its mission, the council decided to create a new online, map-based information service to give citizens better information about nearby community facilities that they could use to help them lead healthier, more fulfilled lives.

The Solution

As a long-standing user of Esri technology, South Dublin County Council already had the ArcGIS Platform and GIS skills it needed to create its new web app, with no additional investment in software. It was also able to develop the solution very quickly and easily in-house, without the need for outside consultancy, using Esri’s ArcGIS Online and the available templates.

At the outset of the project, the council held a series of focus groups with members of the public, to find out what information citizens would find useful, and then designed the app to cover precisely these themes. Through this citizen engagement, the council received requests for data that it didn’t hold, such as information on allotments and accessible parking spaces around the county. Rather than leave this information out, and fail to meet citizens’ expectations, South Dublin County Council allowed employees to access ArcGIS Online from a wide range of tablets and smart phones, empowering them to collect the specific information citizens wanted to see.

In addition, South Dublin County Council sourced information for citizens by streaming data directly into its Community Facilities web app from third party organisations using web services. For instance, the council pulled in census information from AIRO, which saved time and avoided reinventing the wheel. Moving forwards, the council plans to use Esri’s Collector for ArcGIS app to allow staff members to collect supplementary data using mobile devices, to enrich the app while travelling around the county. As new information is col lected, it can be uploaded directly into the ArcGIS Online app and made visible to citizens immediately.

The Benefits

The new GIS-based Community Facilities web service is now helping South Dublin County Council to achieve its corporate mission by:

Engaging with citizens to encourage healthier lives
The web service makes it very easy for citizens to discover local facilities that might help enrich their lives and enhance their sense of well-being. Whether they are looking for their nearest library or checking local sports facilities, all the information they need is easy to find in one simple web app.

Delivering just what the citizen wants and values
South Dublin County Council now has the impressive ability to collect and publish additional information for citizens very quickly – at a low cost for the council but with a high value for the general public. For example, it can now easily gather and share information about not only where social clubs and sports centres are located, but if these facilities offer yoga, boxing or chess clubs.

Empowering members of staff to work  efficiently
Over recent years, the headcount within some council departments has reduced, so teams have to be able to work more efficiently to deliver a good service. The use of ArcGIS Online and the Collector for ArcGIS app enables the council to capture, update and publish information for citizens with smaller teams. The information can also be updated more often, making it more accurate, and updates are instantly visible online.

Improving decision making and strategic  planning
While the app was first and foremost developed to deliver an enhanced service for citizens, it has also proven exceptionally useful as a decision support tool for senior executives. It is very easy to see, for example, whether play parks and youth facilities are located in the regions that have the highest densities of families with young children. Senior managers have an instant view of the facilities – or lack of facilities – in a given area, allowing them to focus on deploying new services where they are most needed and continually improve community facilities for citizens.

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Wessex Water

Achieving excellence in customer communications

With 2.7 million customers across the south west of England, Wessex Water is constantly striving to enhance the effectiveness and value of its external communications. The organisation has recently leveraged Esri’s ArcGIS technology not only to diversify its communications channels, but also to significantly improve the quality and timeliness of the information it shares.

An ArcGIS web service gives customers easier access to information about maintenance works

The integration of GIS and SMS messaging facilitates timely notifications of water supply issues

Esri’s Operations Dashboard improves customer communications in the call centre

The Challenge

Wessex Water was the top scoring water and sewerage company for customer service in 2015, according to Ofwat’s service incentive mechanism (SIM) – and this coveted position is one that the company is keen to maintain. “We have been ranked in the top three UK utilities for customer service ever since privatisation, and you don’t achieve this incredible track record by sitting still and not evolving,” says Andy Nicholson, Asset Data Manager at Wessex Water. “As a business, we are constantly looking for new, creative ways to improve our customer communication, and GIS gives us an ideal platform for innovation.”

“ The ArcGIS-based interactive map supports our customer service vision by making it as easy as possible for customers to interact with us via the communication channel of their choice

Ryan Davies – Customer Experience Manager, Wessex Water

The Solution

With over 16 years’ experience of using Esri’s geographic information system (GIS) solutions and an Enterprise Licence Agreement for Esri’s ArcGIS platform, Wessex Water had all the technology and skills it needed to drive four recent initiatives that, in a range of different ways, help to improve customer communications.

The first of these developments is an interactive online map that allows Wessex Water to share accurate, up-to-date information about planned and emergency works currently taking place throughout the region. Created using Esri’s ArcGIS Online solution, this web map includes added features such as live chat buttons, which enable customers to connect easily with customer service agents from within the map.

The second initiative is a new SMS-based communication tool that leverages Wessex Water’s existing operational GIS platform. Where there are temporary water service interruptions, engineers in the field use their mobile devices to draw polygons around the relevant streets. A list of customers’ mobile numbers is then automatically extracted by Esri derived client software, enabling the customer service team to quickly send out a timely text-based message to all households affected by the works.

In the customer call centre, Wessex Water has used Esri’s Operations Dashboard to improve communications by providing an up-to-the-minute graphical overview of incidents on huge wall-mounted, smart screens. The dashboard is also available via the organisation’s intranet, so in the event of an emergency, it is possible to make this real-time operational information available to managers on any internet-connected device.

Finally, Wessex Water has used ArcGIS Online and Story Map templates to more effectively convey information to the general public in a format that is simple to understand and easy for them to engage with. Published on the utility’s web site, they include an interactive, fully illustrated Story Map about a multi-agency scheme to improve habitats in the Stour region and protect native species.

Wessex Water was able to quickly introduce these four GIS-based initiatives, at low cost, as they were all developed using either the organisation’s existing Esri GIS services or new out-of-the-box Esri apps. “We developed the web map from concept to first proof in just three days,” recalls Nicholson. “All the projects were developed as part of ‘business as usual’ for the GIS team, removing the need for specific funding and project management overheads.”

“ Together with the ArcGIS web map, our GIS-enabled messaging service has led to a 20% fall in calls to our Customer Service Unit reporting problems with ‘no water’

Ryan Davies – Customer Experience Manager, Wessex Water

Benefits

Easier access to up-to-date information
The new web map allows Wessex Water to keep customers far better informed about current maintenance activities. It receives over 800 hits a month and is popular with customers, who can use it to quickly find the information they need without having to make a phone call. “The ArcGIS-based interactive map supports our customer service vision by making it as easy as possible for customers to interact with us via the communication channel of their choice,” says Ryan Davies, Customer Experience Manager at Wessex Water.

More timely notification about water supply issues
The SMS messaging service has proven highly effective in enabling Wessex Water to let customers know about emergency, unplanned maintenance works, so they do not become distressed or alarmed by an unexpected loss of water. “Customers are now far better informed,” Davies says. “Together with the ArcGIS web map, our GIS-enabled messaging service has led to a 20% fall in calls to our Customer Service Unit reporting problems with ‘no water’.”

More helpful dialogues with the call centre
Thanks to the introduction of the huge, visual dashboards in the Customer Service Unit, Wessex Water’s call handlers can provide more informative responses to customer queries. “The dashboard gives call centre agents greater awareness of issues occurring in the Wessex region,” comments Nicholson. “The outcome of the call is more likely to be helpful for the caller and more questions can be resolved first time.”

Greater awareness of the work done by Wessex Water
By viewing the ArcGIS Story Maps, members of the public can now better appreciate the full spectrum of activities that Wessex Water is involved in. As Nicholson says, “The Story Maps bring information together in a more understandable way and this, in turn, helps Wessex Water build a positive public perception of the company.”

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