When Auckland Council wanted to publish updated property values on its website, it knew it had to develop a system robust enough to handle very heavy online traffic. The project won the Best Customer-Centric Project Award at ALGIM’s recent conference.
Auckland Council revalues property rates at least once every three years. Rating property values are used to calculate rates and must, therefore, be accurate and accessible for the public. Property values are an important issue for the citizens of Auckland, and it is essential that the revaluation is clearly communicated to ratepayers, the media and the wider business community.
In 2014, when the rates and revaluations were published on council’s website, the site crashed as locals flocked online to find out their property’s new council valuation. This led to major dissatisfaction amongst users and was damaging to Auckland Council’s reputation, as property commentators and citizens expressed their negative opinions in the media and on social media forums.
This project aimed to provide users with an enhanced search experience. Most importantly, council wanted a solution that could withstand the peak load the website and its ICT supporting services expected to receive during this time.
July to November 2017.
Together with a number of ICT teams, the project team identified and started work on key objectives that must be delivered. It also worked closely with council’s business and digital service groups to ensure customer experience would be at the heart of the solution.
SharePoint was the main platform used, with a heavy reliance on other tools and methods. These included:
• Azure web app;
• Web API (application programming interface);
• Fuzzy logic algorithm;
• Traffic routing; and
• A proxy server.
Technology consultancy Theta.
The revaluations property search went live in November 2017 with approximately two million visits to Auckland Council’s website in just one day, and providing a smart, quick and easy experience for council’s customers. Although the media had predicted, and expected, council’s site would crash, it sustained the high-volume traffic without stress.
Overall, the project also delivered:
• An enhanced search experience (fuzzy logic) – 33 percent increase in satisfaction;
• Property search response down from 15 seconds to 0.2 seconds;
• A capable platform to meet customer demand;
• A seamless and easy way to object to valuations;
• A significant decrease in calls and escalations to council’s call and service centres;
• No disruption to any online services and transactions;
• Two million visits serviced in one day; and
• Increased trust in Auckland Council’s online services.
The project team learnt that it is important to build an environment for people to think outside the box and be innovative. To do this, team members needed to ensure people felt comfortable trying new things without consequences regardless of the outcome. The project team learnt not to stick solely to what it already knew and to be innovative in its use of technologies. Team members learnt to be smart around cost, and to use both new technologies with more traditional existing infrastructures and tools to get the best return on investment and minimise costs to ratepayers in the process.
Finally, the team recognises the importance of keeping the customer at the heart of everything and engaging customer advocates as part of the process and solution throughout the whole journey.
The last word? Don’t forget to celebrate your success.
This article was first published in the December 2018 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.