Since the arrival of the 2020 COVID pandemic in mid-March, private businesses and public services alike have struggled to confront the same challenge:
How do we serve our customers as efficiently as before the pandemic?
How do state agencies with significant customer-service mandates, for example, provide the same level of service when the majority of our staff is now disbursed, performing jobs remotely that once upon a time were done from a single, hive-like office?
The answer, of course, is that they innovate.
At the Arizona Department of Water Resources, one of the most valuable, recent innovations to come online has been a search engine that ADWR specialists use to extract and organize information regarding groundwater wells from the Department’s vast databases.
It is called the “Wells Hub.” For ADWR Wells Unit staff who take hundreds of requests for information from customers each month, it is a sleek and sporty vehicle that allows them to answer customer inquiries at a fraction of the time they would spend before the search engine came online.
The ADWR Wells Unit in September logged 875 phone calls from customers. With their previous process, the Wells Unit would typically spend an exorbitant amount of time on research before fulfilling the requests.
Like virtually all agencies that serve as data repositories, ADWR retained its storehouses of information largely in distinct silos that would require multiple search missions by staff to access. Now, with innovative search engines like that in ADWR’s Wells Unit, one search using a few handy key words can find all the relevant information to fulfill the customer’s request in a fraction of the time it took in previous years.
Responses to customers that once two hours of research time now take as few as 15 minutes.
The benefits of such improved customer service go beyond providing faster customer responses in the Wells Unit. Several other ADWR divisions that incorporate data regarding Arizona wells also use the Hub to speed up and enhance their productivity.
In administering the statewide wells program, the Wells Unit processes well driller licensing, well-registration requirements and groundwater-withdrawal permits. It manages the records of 219,569 wells statewide.
One of those duties involves processing Notices of Intent to “drill, deepen, replace, modify, and abandon” wells. By Arizona statute, the Department has 15 days to process a Notice of Intent.
With the help of time-saving tools like the Wells Information Search Engine and efficiency-enhancing Arizona Management System practices, the Unit has that average time down to fewer than five days – despite an explosion of Notice of Intent applications spurred in large part by the record 2020 summer heat.