A Winning Self-Service Portal
August 08, 2019 by
It’s an unusual headline when a public sector project comes in ahead of schedule and under budget. But that’s just what happened when New Hanover County, North Carolina, replaced its legacy permitting system that was retired by the vendor.
New Hanover had been struggling to align disjointed processes, and its outdated technology caused a lack of actionable insight for staff as well as the county’s residents. When a software update became a necessity, the county implemented a system that would not only solve its pain points but refocus its efforts to put customers first.
In the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Florence, New Hanover debuted its new software under budget due to the hours saved by reaching the go-live date ahead of schedule. For a community rebuilding, enhanced customer service made life easier.
A notable new feature for the county was the customer self-service portal, named Customer Online Access Services Tool (COAST). The portal connected the regulatory and business requirements of relevant departments in a single platform. That integration provided a new level of transparency for residents and created internal efficiencies so that staff could process plan reviews, permits, and inspections faster.
In its first six weeks of existence, more than 1,600 users created self-service accounts. Today, more than 75% of permit applications come in online through COAST. Staff is reviewing applications faster, and customers can receive permits without ever having to come into an office in person.
“For the first time ever, all the various agency reviews are being done in a single place, off a single set of plans, with a common set of comments and required corrections,” Elizabeth Schrader, chief strategy officer for New Hanover, explained. “No more calling around to various departments and agencies to find out where a review is stuck.”
The GIS-enabled software also provides streamlined apps for inspections staff to use in the field, and plan reviews are entirely paperless in the back office.
Although the software has been a success from the start, Schrader and her team are not standing still. The county is creating a dashboard that will allow leadership to view analytics from the system. Accessible data with easy-to-understand visualizations will lead to continued service improvement and smarter policy and resource-allocation decisions based.
New Hanover’s inclusive method of vendor selection and successful implementation in challenging circumstance led the county to prestigious recognition with a 2019 National Association of Counties Achievement Award. Learn more about the award, and how New Hanover leveraged diverse stakeholder input for software selection and buy-in here.