E-services DUO
Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs

The Problem

In the nineteen nineties DUO was known as a typical government organisation, with lots of red tape, slow and very difficult to reach. In those days DUO’s image was in line with their service level. Customer’s experienced DUO as a highly bureaucratic organization with little regard for their needs. The introduction of new legislation in the field of studyloans led to an enormous chaos in service. Customers didn’t receive the money which they were entitled to and due to overload it was almost impossible to get in touch with DUO. The various channels (telephone, mail, forms, counter) got blocked ant the processing of paper flows (forms and letters) came to a complete stop. This led to questions in parliament and the organization was under severe political and societal pressure to perform much better in its service.

The decision in 1996 to improve the situation was followed by several proposals for improvement. It was clear that the issue of telephone accessibility could be addressed only as part of an overall approach. In 1999 the entire DUO organisation was turned around with the telephone services becoming part of a multi-channel approach. We had to solve the problem of accessibility by relieving the pressure on the labour-intensive channels (counter and telephone).

In addition, we were able to tie in with a social trend, namely the increased use of the Internet. Our customers, students in secondary and higher education in particular, were using this new channel more and more intensively.

Nowadays, not only students (our main target group) wish to communicatie online with DUO, but also the target groups parents and debtors prefer online communication above the traditional channels.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
In order to serve more than 1.500.000 customers (students and parents) satisfactorily, some years ago the organization decided to introduce multi channel management, in particular promoting the use of the Internet. In order to succeed, DUO spent a great deal of time and effort developing various Internet applications.

DUO started with a webform applications for on-line modifications. The modifications were processed by hand and did not require the customer’s signature. The important advantage was that customers no longer had to order and fill out a paper form. Furthermore, the organization developed a Q&A-application which allowed customers to find an answer to more than 500 questions.

In 2002, the most important application was completed and delivered: My DUO, a portal that allows customers to view their personal details. It gives customers answers to questions like
-how much will I get paid next month?
-what are my repayments?
-has my new bank account number been processed?

In addition to personal information, My DUO also offers customers the option to amend a large number of data. Changes such as a new bank account number, a new address or a different loan amount can be reported online every day. These changes are processed fully automatically by the DUO’s back office systems.

From then on DUO customers were in control of their own personal details and have become far less dependent on the organization’s employees.

One of the things that makes the portal unique is its security facility. In order to guarantee a sufficient level of security, yet maintain user-friendliness for its target groups (mostly students aged 18-24), DUO opted to use log-in access codes by text message (sms). This mobile phone application has proven to be a real hit with the target group. The method of authentication with text message is selected to become one of the national standards which Dutch governmental organizations wil use in their digital public service.

In 2007 a new important step was made. The main service that is delivered by DUO (providing scholarships to students) could be handled fully digital by using ‘My DUO’. So far 600,000 students have already made use of this facility.

The implementation of multi-channel management at DUO went even further. Since 2009 customers can choose to receive the mail (that was usually sent to them physically) only online. Customers can download all their notifications using ‘My DUO’. Not only this is better for the environment, but it also contributes to a further reduction in costs and greater convenience for customers. Last year nearly 1.8 million decisions on student grants were sent only digitally.

At the moment, november 2011, 80 percent of our target groups already use the application. Together, they have logged in over 4.600.000 times this year. Each month, the application is used about 400,000 times. In 2011, 1.4 million changes were processed fully automated by ‘My DUO’. In 2007, this was only 130,000.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
DUO has primarily used its own IT-infrastructure and its own expertise in the development of the secure transaction portal (My DUO) and dynamic FAQ-application. In order to support the governmen-wide online initiatives, DUO decided to incorparate the national authentication service DigiD (Digital Identity) in its self built facility.

Also collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior was brought about and DUO provided the Ministry with knowledge and technology for the nation-wide ‘Government Portal’. In this portal, citizens have all information from and transactions with the government at hand. The more organizations participate, the more complete the picture for citizens.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
In the Netherlands, as in other countries, there is a tendency amongst government services to promote the use of electronic channels in contacts with citizens. In order to cope with the economic situation the goal of the government is to create a compact government, a government that combines efficiency and high quality of service delivery.

In order to increase efficiency, to improve service delivery and to diminish administrative burdens e-government building blocks are developed and implemented in the government services, this is done within the i-NUP programme.

One of the main elements is a system of key registers being implemented, allowing reuse of essential data. Another important building block is the single method of digital authentication, DigiD. DigiD is widely used and comprises different security levels, at basic level a password and a username (with strict distribution conditions) and at medium level codes sent via text message, developed by DUO.

Many of the building blocks are developed by the ICTU*, and once realised managed by Logius, with which DUO works closely together.

* ICTU is the Dutch organization for information and communication technology in the public sector. ICTU contributes to the structural development of e-government in The Netherlands.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
However the project started in 1999, it’s goals are still valid and actual:

• Fall of 1999: start of project E-Services
• September 2000: Implementation of a professional inbound e-mail application (with the possibility to make a library filled with standard answers, and worklfow options)
• April 2001: webforms for modifications (by using the professional inbound e-mail application)
• July 2001: Q&A application
• June 2002: My DUO (inquiries only)
• March 2004: Implementation of a professional outbound e-mail facility
• June 2004: fully computerized online modifications as part of My DUO
• March 2005: Webwijzer award (awarded by an independent jury)
• 19-09-2005 : My DUO was used for the 1.000.000th time
• 23-10-2005 : registration of the 250.000th user
• Feb 2007 : Apply for student grants online with My DUO
• Jan 2009 : See correspondence/letters with My DUO
• 2010: substantial improvement of technical performance of My DUO substantially
• Jan 2011: setting up Twitter and webcare
• april 2011: reassesment of DUO’s online strategy
• juni 2011: Development of an app for the mobile phone for students, whith which they can see on what day of the month the next student grant will be transferred.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Vision and Mission statement: The Board of Directors must determine a vision on customer service and identify strategic goals that are recognizable to the organization and can be translated into tactics and operations. The Executive Board of DUO has set such a strategy.

Sponsorship: The Executive Board must support these new multi channel strategy and provide sufficient budget for innovation. Multi channel management must be part of the core-activities of an organisation. In every decision that has impact on customer service, multi channel management should be taken into consideration.

Attitude and behavior: the new way of working means an adjustment for most of the staff. Both the business and ICT are aware now that there is no way back and that electronic services through the Internet means that you ‘ll always have to be standby for incidents and emergencies. The awareness of ‘24 hour society’ enters the organization.

Legislative: The validity of the new way of applying electronically, viewing and modifying data must be reconsidered. The signature on a piece of paper has to be replaced by something else. This means that adjustments in IT- techniques (logging, Digital Identity) and adjustments in a few laws should be made.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Financial and technical: In recent years a relatively small proportion of IT-budgets was invested in electronic services. Most developments could be integrated into the technical infrastructure that already existed within the organization. As much as possible, facilities which were already present in the organisation were incorperated in the online and multi channel strategy (for example our digital archive). Only the digital front office was specifically invested in and developed.

HRM: The new multichannel approad to customer service led to various new postitions like Content Management, Multimedia Management and Development, a Multi-channel Management Department, etc.. All these new positions are designed to translate business objectives to an operational level.

DUO’s multichannel approach is increasingly paying off. The benefits of this approach are twofold. On the one hand, less human capacity has to be used for processing forms and helping customers at the various counters and on the phone, while on the other hand, the organisation has greatly cut down on costs for paper and postage. Between 2005 and now, staff could be reduced with over 250 FTEs and the reduction on costs for paper and postage now is more than 1 million per year (2011).

At present the ratio between electronic customer contact and traditional customer contact is 69 to 31%. This means that 31% of customer contacts are through counter, telephone and email, and that 69% of contacts is through electronic services.

To illustrate this even more, between 2009 and 2011 there was a decline of 15% -25% of customer contacts on the 'expensive' channels (telephone and counter). The multichannel approach has not only led to a cost reduction, but also to less bureaucracy and thereby greater convenience for our customers. In terms of efficiency, there is a sharp decline in traditional (expensive ) customer contacts.

2009/2010 2010/2011

traditional customer contact traditional customer contact
E-MAIL -16% E-MAIL -7%

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Because DUO is often the first government organisation that customers – students in secondary and higher education – deal with, it is vital that their first impression of these electronic services is good. The fact that they are in control of their own personal data and can consult and change these on-line, boosts the government’s image.

The increasing number of users has proven the endurance of My DUO. When the organization develops new processes (for example as a result of amendments of the law), it will immediately investigate the possibilites of the digital channel.

Since My DUO has proven to be a sustainable solution, new features are constantly added. For example, in the course of 2012 information about the diplomas and qualifications of all Dutch citizen will be offered through My DUO. With that My DUO proves that new features are relatively easy to install.

Because My DUO proved to be such a succes, several people have given presentations about the E-service project, in particular for other government organizations but for others as well. DUO is more than willing to share information about its portal, the development of the electronic channel and its positioning within the multi channel strategy. DUO answers queries by email, gives presentations, or contributes ideas or advices to project proposals. If a request is expected to take a lot of time, however, the organization may need extra time.

Last but not least counts the fact that My DUO has been mostly build with proven technology and did not surprise us too much at any stage of development. That is a very important choice in the strategy of development.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The impact on the organisation was enormous. The introduction of My DUO was not an isolated event. In order to improve the traditional service it was necessary to reorganize, to shift the focus from the product and the process to the customer. The idea was that if the customer could see online data from eight different legacy systems on one screen, the employee whom the customer had called with a question, should be able to supply the information required. During the time My DUO was being developed, the organization went through a change and adopted a working method that fitted the idea of complete customer care. Key point was that employees needed sufficient expertise in order to handle the majority of customer questions independently. A reorganization was essential to synchronize the service in traditional channels and electronic developments.

Today’s students to be have grown up with the Internet. They often had their first computer lessons in primary school. They know the Internet as the place to look for information or to arrange things. From the age of 17 onwards they must focus on their future. “Will I go to college, and if so, what study do I choose? How do I arrange this, where do I get the money?” Naturally, the first place they look is the Internet. For the government it is important that the first government organisation these customers see on the Internet does not offer merely general information, but also gives the opportunity to view and change personal details. This service is similar to the online banking service young people are familiar with.

That is why My DUO is very important for the Dutch government. It is the first of many moments to come in which customers deal with the government. If the first contact is satisfactory, the use of the electronic channel becomes easier for the other government departments, too.

Obviously, DUO encountered difficulties during the development of My DUO. Some were technical, some were legal or had yet other causes. But when an organization wants to develop a digital channel which works perfectly, it is good to bear the following in mind.

• Define concrete milestones that are relevant to the customer..

• Work from the outside inwards. Divide the process in smaller parts and earmark the aspects that are most relevant to the customer.

• Select a security facility that fits the target group. When possible, use facilities customers are already familiar with.

• Be honest. In the pilot phase for My DUO, DUO was forced to shut down the application temporarily because it was not stable. Inform the customers and then do what you promised when the system is back online. Remember that you only get one shot. You can abort something you offer as a trial only once.

• Involve employees with expertise and experience to contribute their ideas to the project during its implementation. They know the customer’s questions, they know what annoys customers. Their input is often highly relevant.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Dienst Uitvoering Onderwijs
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Jan Kouijzer
Title:   Multi Channel Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   +31 50 5998392
Institution's / Project's Website:   http://www.ib-groep.nl/particulieren/default.asp
E-mail:   jan.kouijzer@duo.nl  
Address:   Kempkensber 12
Postal Code:   9722 TB
City:   Groningen
State/Province:   Groningen
Country:   Netherlands

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