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Service New Brunswick centres must meet exceptional needs.

Imagine having to create a support operation that has to service not just your customers, but everyone who Lives in your province of operation, and has to handle the products and services of not one but 16 different organizations. Then you get an idea of the challenges that Service New Brunswick face.

A self-supporting Crown corporation, SNB is charged with delivering guidance and information on more than 120 government services on behalf of 16 government departments-- municipal and federal, as well as provincial -- to the citizens of the province.

The current "Single Window" system was inaugurated in 1991 to replace some 1,600-plus different departmental service outlets. It now comprises 400 staff working in 35 service centres, providing access through a variety of means.

"We were getting a lot of feedback from residents to the effect that government had become so fragmented that they never knew where to go for help," says Bob Gamble, CMA and president of SNB. "They were being bumped from one office to another, and even in small towns there might be several offices -- one for the land registry, another for motor vehicle licenses, another for social services and so on. Now everything is in one place."

"There was also a tot of replication of bricks and mortar, and it was very expensive to maintain," Gamble adds. "Obviously, we stood to gain efficiencies if we eliminated the duplication." In restructuring its service system, SNB focused on four channels of delivery -- over-the-counter, teleservice, the Internet and ABM-type kiosks. "We originally tried kiosks in 1993 but the technology wasn't ready and we got a tot of complaints," Gamble recalls. "Now the technology is much better, although these machines tend to work best in high-traffic areas."

In developing the current system, SNB has retied on extensive detailed feedback from its users, as well as comprehensive training for its personneL "Since we're providing information on 120 different services, it's quite a teaming curve for staff," says Gamble. "That's why we put such an emphasis on training."

The feedback is still used for quality control purposes and comes from a variety of sources including the following: community advisory committees made up of representatives of customer groups and communities served; quality assurance monitoring processes; business partner satisfaction surveys; service transaction guides for staff; and service quality instruments such as customer comment cards and exit surveys.

"We always say, 'Don't think from a government perspective, think in terms of what citizens expect from government'," Gamble says. "That's why we have the advisory groups -- to get their input on issues that are significant for them.

"So, for example, we have one service centre in an urban shopping mall that stays open late on Friday because that's when the traffic is heaviest. We have another in an agricultural centre that's open Saturday morning because that's when the farming community comes into town."

The transition hasn't been easy, though. "One of the biggest problems was overcoming the 'that's not the way we've done it before' mentality," says Gamble. "Individual agencies have a desire to maintain control over all aspects of their operations and we needed to deal with that."

Technology has been another hurdle. "We've been investing a fair bit of money in modernizing our information systems and linking them back to our legacy systems," says Gamble. "So now, for example, when somebody calls in for license information they're actually hitting the license database and the hit is registered.

"When we moved to the Internet in 1995, there was a great fear of losing jobs," Gamble adds. "But there has been enough replacement work generated by the Web access that there were no job losses and nobody's worried about that anymore."

The system continues to be monitored and adjusted based on customer needs and concerns, but the transition has been well worth it. "We conducted a poll in 1992 that indicated a satisfaction rating of 55%," says Gamble. "Now we're consistently pulling in 80% - 95% ratings. People are very pleased.

"The other nice part is that the when citizens react positively, staff are more positive too, and take more satisfaction from their jobs," says Gamble. "It's no longer like the '80s, when everybody in government was perceived as grumpy."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Society of Management Accountants of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Service New Brunswick Inc., automation
Author:Edur, Olev
Publication:CMA Management
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jun 1, 2001
Words:703
Previous Article:ON HOLD.
Next Article:Measuring Client Value.
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