Sudbury implements citizen-service system

When the city of Sudbury, Ont., decided it was time to implement Customer Relationship Management, it knew exactly where to go.

Bruno Mangiardi, director of Information Services for Sudbury, said the city originally started looking at CRM solutions a number of years ago. They settled on JPH International Inc. software designed for local governments, utilities and energy service companies.

“I was at a conference a number of years ago where JPH was demonstrating an older version of this software, so that when we did become serious about it…at the same time someone from JPH made a sales call, so it was perfect,” Mangiardi said.

He added the city looked at many other systems before deciding on Waterloo, Ont.-based JPH’s SuiteResponse CRM software.

Graeme Somerville, vice-president of marketing for JPH International, noted the SuiteResponse system was originally conceived based on a need expressed by one of the company’s vertical markets – government and utilities.

“Back about four years ago, there was a need expressed that was seemingly unfulfilled by other players in the marketplace, to record what were referred to as ‘citizen issues,'” Somerville explained. “These citizen complaints then needed to be moved throughout the organization, being city hall, in an effective, efficient, fast manner.”

He said citizens would often call and they wouldn’t necessarily get the information they needed, then they would get passed off to someone else or bounced around the system. “With the advent of voice mail that can easily happen.”

Somerville added there is a lot of tacit knowledge within an organization, which people carry in their heads. “It’s not documented and you have to get to that individual within city hall to get the appropriate answer.”

He said SuiteResponse acts as a mechanism for storing that information and that it employs a knowledge-based component. It is based on Lotus Domino, a messaging and application platform.

“As soon as an issue is recorded or captured…it will go to a default, a signee, by e-mail,” Somerville said. “When that person receives the e-mail, he or she will be able to link back to the original document.”

He added the system was built primarily for governments and utilities, which don’t need all the sales force automation components a big CRM application would offer.

“It’s also scalable. We have components of it running on Palm Pilots, we’ve had it qualified on all IBM platforms up to an S/390.”

Mangiardi noted that Sudbury upgrades its computer hardware on a three-year rotation, adding that the only upgrading its systems needed for this implementation was the purchase of a new server, which will only handle the customer tracking system.

“Now that the server has been installed, the next step is [JPH’s] people will come up to meet with my staff to start setting up the files,” Mangiardi said, noting the Sudbury staff is looking forward to having the software in place. “It’ll make their job easier.”

Clive Wood, director of maintenance operations for Sudbury, said the system will allow city employees to react more quickly to issues.

“We can use it to find out, in the long term, are we doing the right things, are we fixing it in the short term, can we fix it better in the long term, can we eliminate the problem all together? As an end user, that’s the way I see things shaping up for us,” Wood stated.

He added all citizen requests are currently administered manually. “You can imagine – we literally get thousands of complaints, especially in the winter with the weather conditions – that it would be a very onerous task for us to go through these files and try to determine where they were all coming through. Where now, electronically, that will be done for us.”

Another feature of the program Woods likes is that the system will red-flag an issue that has had a certain number of complaints.

“It just makes us look better. If we can analyze and react more quickly to deficiencies, then it makes the city look good and it should certainly make citizens feel better that services are more reactive.”