In response to the increasing pressure to increase standards of information provision, Fretwell-Downing Informatics (fdi) has designed a knowledge base and enquiry management system (EMS) in partnership with Essex County Council. The system will enable the council to speed up enquiry handling and offer the citizens of Essex a database of questions and answers.
Essex County Council handles thousands of enquiries every year, making it one of the key services offered by the libraries. The project to install FDI's EMS is still in the early stages but it is already allowing the county to achieve its objective to respond to each enquiry within two working days. Both staff and customers are also experiencing the benefits of the system as it is providing a clearer view of customer's information needs and evaluates the way libraries respond.
There is a range of information services currently available to citizens in Essex and the introduction of the EMS is an additional web based service that will broaden the knowledge and awareness of council services. Citizens are encouraged to find answers for themselves by searching the knowledge base using either the web or the Library's OPAC. To ensure this is effective, enquiries are given a subject area and a meaningful title that will be displayed to the public. Library staff who are building the knowledge base can also add useful resources to the answer text.
Where an answer is not available, the public can link straight into Essex Libraries ‘Answers Direct' service. FDI's EMS solution automatically logs the user's enquiry and enters it into the administrators ‘to do' list where it will stay there until the enquiry is either forwarded to another specialist, an answer is sent to the customer or the enquiry is deleted.
The electronic logging of enquiries in the EMS will help to manage common enquiries more quickly and offer a more consistent level of information provision from even the smallest library.
Commenting on the project Mark Elliott, Assistant Information Services Manager with Essex County Libraries says: “The key to the success of this project is our web presence. By creating this new service, available over the web, we are encouraging more enquiries from non-library users, many potential customers don't realise the scope of services available through their local library. Our web presence compliments the traditional physical library network and our call centre ‘Answers Direct', which has now been in operation for over a year.
Robin Murray, managing director at FDI adds: “Working with Essex County Council on the EMS project follows on from our successful collaboration on the Seamless Citizens Information project. The two solutions together have helped deliver a more integrated information service for the citizens of Essex. We believe that this system could potentially change the way libraries work across the UK. Essex is a forward thinking county that is a perfect example of how citizens information services are changing, the traditional library is now moving into a service which people want to be able to gain access to 24 hours a day seven days a week.