Wexford County Council has implemented an internet-based system that lets citizens in the region make payments for a range of public services or check their account details. Since its introduction, the system has already seen a doubling in payments made online.
It is believed that the new system will improve customer service and operational efficiency at the council. The online tool is integrated with the agency’s existing financial management system Integra.
The council’s financial software supplier, iB Solutions, has provided the new online system, which includes a secure facility for letting customers access account information or make payments. IB Solutions’ system supplies unique usernames and passwords for every customer. It can accept payment by credit or debit cards.
Initially the system covered Wexford County Council’s refuse service customers but it has now been extended to incorporate facilities for housing loan customers, non-domestic water services, rates and housing rents. The new solution sits alongside an existing system for the payment of fire charges and parking fines developed in 2004 in conjunction with the South Eastern Regional Authority.
“We wanted to provide our customers with a better service whereby they could not only pay us online but could look up their account at any time to establish if any balances were outstanding,” said Ger Mulvey, head of finance at Wexford County Council. “We wanted to do this in a way that would also bring about efficiencies for the council by reducing telephone or personal caller queries on accounts and by processing online receipts automatically with minimal manual intervention”.
According to the council, online payments doubled in the first weeks of operation, with more than 700 customers using the facility in the first six weeks of operation, paying almost €190,000 in the process. As the payment facility has been automated there has been a reduction in the need to issue manual receipts and the number of telephone queries is also lower as more people in the county use the service.
“The solution allows us to provide better customer service and a more efficient way of making payment which ultimately results in improved cash flow,” added Mulvey. “It is a win-win scenario with our customers receiving better service by way of up-to-date information and an easy method of payment. Wexford County Council gains by reducing the administration involved in the collection process.”
Further improvements to the system are already planned, including facilities to allow customers to change or personalise their passwords and to extend the range of information supplied on each account.
By Gordon Smith