Detroit Free Press
Monday, December 6, 2010
Macomb County clerk borrows high-tech ideas to improve customer service
By CHRISTINA HALL
Free Press Staff Writer
Walt Disney World meets Apple Retail Store ... in Macomb County.
Clerk/Register of Deeds Carmella Sabaugh wants to improve customer service through online scheduling and a prepay system that would spread customers throughout the day, reduce lines and allow customers with appointments to move to the front of the line.
Sabaugh wants to spend about $4,000 to develop the FastPass system, which combines concepts from Walt Disney World, which allows guests to minimize wait time for attractions by providing a ticket with a return time, and Apple, which provides an online reservation system for technical support.
"Time is money. When someone has documents to pick up, they schedule a time to do that," Sabaugh said. "And it helps us, too, to assign the duties for our employees in a more efficient way." That will be important as her staff shrinks along with the budget while customer requests for licenses and documents continue to rise.
Commissioners are to discuss the idea at a committee meeting Wednesday. If approved by the full board, the system could be in place by the end of February.
The concept is simple. Customers schedule an appointment on the clerk's Web site and fill out the appropriate form. They also can pay online. The staff receives the request before the customer arrives, allowing time to prepare items. The customer checks in at a terminal in the lobby or via an Internet-enabled phone. Counter clerks are notified that the customer is present, and the customer can skip the line when called.
The system would encourage customers who have some schedule flexibility to come in during nonpeak times.
"I think that's an incredible idea," Oakland County Deputy Clerk Mike Senyko said.
Senyko said Oakland County is participating in an e-filing project and has talked about a Web chat on obtaining vital records.
Tim Snow, president of the Michigan Association of County Clerks, is interested in Macomb's proposal, which "certainly seems to be a very interesting potential solution to people having to wait and people's schedules." Snow, the Kalamazoo County clerk/register of deeds, said most, if not all, county clerks in the state have to find ways to do more with less.
Ideas such as the FastPass system and another concept in Macomb to spend $142,780 initially and $107,805 annually for technology to improve jury service, such as through online juror questionnaires, could be tech advances that make that possible if counties have the money to invest, Snow said.