In Mississippi, Residents Skip the Line
June 30, 2021 by
Government departments at all levels essentially experienced two waves of the coronavirus pandemic as it affected operations. First came the rapid switch to digital government services due to office closures. This came with challenges for business continuity and citizen experience. Next came the safe, organized reopening of offices for staff and the public.
This two-wave context was certainly true for the State of Mississippi’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). Particularly in the more recent reopening efforts, the department was tapped with newly servicing more than two million driving-age residents in person with COVID-19 precautions still in place.
Faced with the many challenges related to providing service in a new and evolving landscape, DPS implemented an online scheduling tool designed to help government departments reopen safely. This implementation was part of a larger “Skip the Line” program in the state and was launched in less than 90 days from conception.
Prior to the program’s launch, walk-ins to the DPS were handled with the familiar, in-person queuing system that often resulted in crowded waiting rooms and long wait times. Neither of those conditions would suffice in a pandemic or post-pandemic environment.
“It just didn’t work right for the people of Mississippi. It was frustrating, confusing, and slow,” said Gov. Tate Reeves. Our new efforts “help Mississippians to skip the line and get in and out quickly. It treats the people of Mississippi the way they deserve to be treated – with respect for your time and wise use of your tax dollars.”
Online scheduling allows residents to schedule in-person, phone, or virtual appointments. The system also provides agencies with a way to notify constituents through automated text and email reminders. Notably, it can electronically collect required information, forms, and payments ahead of in-person visits, saving additional in-office time and hassle.
Mississippi’s award-winning chatbot, Missi, facilitates more than 30 iterations supporting the DPS’ Skip the Line program, providing residents with direct access to appointments, live camera feeds, and address change services. Citizens can tell Missi, “I need to make an appointment” or simply mention “appointment” or “cameras,” and they will be directed to the respective Skip the Line service. Further, Missi supports feedback on responses, learns from citizen feedback, and edits responses to enhance customer service.
“COVID-19 has shed light on the growing expectation by the public that a visit to a government office shouldn’t be necessary,” said Dana Wilson, NIC Mississippi general manager. Since the solution’s launch, residents have scheduled more than 185,000 appointments across 35 locations and 16 unique appointment types. The appointment scheduling service has received more than three million page views to date, with more than 76% of people using a mobile device and 70% opting for text notifications.
The same appointment scheduling tool is used across a variety of agencies in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, New Jersey, Nevada, and Wisconsin. Currently, agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Revenue, Labor Cabinet, and Department of Public Safety are using the tool for motor vehicle, property tax rebates, county clerk, and COVID-19 vaccine appointments.
Enhanced Citizen Experience
All told, Mississippi’s Skip the Line program provides a singular voice across multiple citizen channels, while maintaining the consistent message of reducing customer wait times and delivering enhanced citizen to government experiences. “This program has really revolutionized the citizen experience in Mississippi, a state already consistently at the forefront of digital government innovation and citizen satisfaction,” Wilson said.