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Customer Touch Award: State office corrals data

A new Lotus Notes-based information system centralizes data for the New York State Comptroller's Office, making it easier to share information.

Imagine the challenges of dealing with the bureaucracies of one of the largest states in the country, trying to provide taxpayers, local and state government and federal agencies with the information they need. Now, imagine meeting those needs with all your information spread across multiple locations, siloed not only by office but by file cabinets within those offices. And finally, imagine trying to bring all that information together under one CRM application.

That is what the New York State Comptroller's Office faced just a year ago. The implementation of its MACROS (Multi-Purpose Access for Customer Relations and Operational Support) system is why it has received's Customer Touch Award.

About the awards
The Customer Touch Award recognizes companies that are blazing new trails in the deployment of CRM technology in order to maximize customer touch points. The panel of judges gave particular consideration to those companies who made CRM an integral part of their overall business strategy and established best CRM business practices before during and after implementation. Three winners were selected from more than 40 nominations.

"This all leads to our customers getting their information quicker," said Michele Hasso, project manager for the comptroller's office. "Through the new system, we have the capability to blast e-mail and blast fax. There are cost savings on our end, but the ability to reach out to local government and our customer base has been the biggest improvement."

The state comptroller's office provides services to a constituency base of more than 40,000 contacts, including elected officials, media outlets and every municipal official in New York state.

Before the implementation of MACROS, a Lotus Notes-based InterTrac system, sending out mailings was a painstaking process. For example, in the past a training session on accounting processes for municipal officials would actually involve the stuffing of envelopes for statewide distribution, requiring significant expense and labor. With MACROS, the office can simply blast out a fax or e-mail to the proper region or state office the program is directed at.

Essentially, MACROS takes the disparate data from the comptroller's office and centralizes it in a single location for all to access. What had once been 45 contact lists is now one. "That's hard to get people to understand," Hasso said. "It's in one spot, not in a file cabinet here or a computer there, but once people start using it, then they understand what it's about."

Hasso said her office has just begun looking at ROI, but some preliminary results are encouraging. The office has reduced mass mailing preparation time by more than 60%, resulting in a cost savings of 86%, she said.

Response time to customers in some instances has dramatically decreased, from information lookup times of more than an hour down to 20 minutes under the new system, resulting in savings of approximately 4,500 hours of staff time annually.

There were considerable challenges in migrating to the new system, not the least of which was training multiple offices that had not been Lotus Notes-based.

"It's a slow process," Hasso said. "Every user has a different learning capacity. We really had to determine which groups are using what. It's not a one-size-fits-all approach."

Next up for the comptroller's office is to improve technical understanding of the system. Additionally, it is going to need to continue looking at just what data is usable, who needs it, why and for how long. That was one of the first steps in developing the MACROS system.

"Now it's a matter of revisiting that," Hasso said. "I would encourage anyone to try that. You just really have to keep going. A lot of people would have just given up, especially in state government, where you don't have the same resources as big business."


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