As a foreign country’s diplomatic office in the US, embassies and consulates represent the home country and preserve the rights of its citizens while they are in the host nation. On a weekly basis, embassies and consulates are engaged in a wide range of political, commercial, security, travel and economic transactions. The undertaking is demanding and the needs of the visitors are numerous and varied. Examples of such services include assistance with passports and visas, informing citizens about security concerns, legalisation of documents and aiding those who are detained or arrested.
The challenge most cited by embassies and consulates is serving a substantial number of citizens in an orderly and efficient manner. In one example, Mr Ednei Conceicao of the Brazilian Consulate located in Hartford, Connecticut explains, “when you serve the public, some of the first thoughts of an organisation should be how to keep clients satisfied, how to control the noise in the work space and how to organise the customer flow better.”
Like many other consulates, Mr Conceicao recognised that his environment was characterised by loud noise and a lack of organisation. Upon entering the Brazilian Consulate, customers were required to maneuver their way through a crowded lobby to obtain a numbered ticket from a plastic tray and then wait. People had no indication of the anticipated wait time or where their place was in the line to receive service. As more and more customers entered the building, the noise level increased making it an exhausting task for staff to continually announce ticket numbers and manage the chaos.
In this type of environment, citizens expressed numerous complaints, staff stress levels increased and customer satisfaction was low. The desired goal of an efficient operation fell significantly short with losses in staff productivity and morale.
The solution for embassies and consulates requires more than simply installing rope lines to direct traffic. The key to optimum efficiency is managing the flow of customers and their experiences.
The Qmatic solo system is the key.
The Qmatic solo system creates a relaxed lobby atmosphere with a controlled and fair waiting process. The customer flow management results in a much more pleasant office setting – quieter lobby and work area, happier and more satisfied customers and a less stressful work environment for staff. Mr Conceicao comments on the notable improvement after the Qmatic system was installed at his location, “Customer flow became smoother and the noise was decreased almost 90%. Customers leave the consulate very satisfied and no complaints are made about our operation.”
How it works:
- Arriving customers: Upon entering the Brazilian Consulate, citizens are directed to the Qmatic solution, known as Qmatic solo, where their need is quickly determined. They press a button on the solo unit to choose from one of five service categories: appointment, no appointment, disabled / handicapped, drop off or registration consultation. The customer then takes an alphanumeric ticket that is printed from the unit. The system automatically adds the person to the queue for that service and notifies staff of their presence. Customers then pass through security and continue to the main lobby
- Waiting experience: Digital signage is placed in the lobby area to inform and update customers while they wait. Voice announcements in the Portuguese language call the next ticket number and the counter to which the customer is to proceed. The digital display also provides information such as the number currently being called and the corresponding counter location. An option available with the solo system allows for display of the queuing information on a television as well
- Serving customers: When a counter becomes available, staff calls the next customer forward by pressing a button on a small digital keypad at the counter location. The customer’s ticket number appears on the display screen in the lobby and on a display strategically located above the counter to indicate that it is now available. At that point, the voice announcement is triggered
- Management information & reporting: An easy to read, web-based management screen displays the number of customers waiting, number of counters open, estimated wait time and real wait time for each category. Supervisors are able to view detailed category information and can verify the number of open counters with current transaction times. This information can then be used to prevent critical situations. Management can also review statistics using web-based reports, which can be automatically generated
With the Qmatic solo system, a more streamlined customer flow management process is now in place at the Brazilian Consulate to better serve the large number of arriving customers in an orderly and efficient manner. The work environment is significantly quieter. Customer flow management takes place more effectively so the visitors and staff are under less stress. This translates into greater productivity and much improved service to the customers.
Mr Conceicao says it best: “Clients leave the Consulate very satisfied and have no complaints about our operating system. They tell us it is the best Consulate they have ever visited.”