It sounds simple enough: each month Washington State sends King County Metro Transit a list of people in vocational rehabilitation who needs bus passes, along with the necessary purchase orders to pay for them. Then King County replenishes the subsidized ORCA cards for the individuals with disabilities who depend on them to get to and from jobs.
However, Robert Nedrow, a lead customer service coordinator with Metro, says “it wasn’t a very streamlined process. It was kind of a Frankenstein.”
There were several sources of confusion, but the main problem was that the five different state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) offices were each sending King County Metro different information in different ways—”they were all kind of doing it their own way,” says Nedrow.
These problems were frustrating for DVR and Metro staffers alike, but the end-user customers who needed to get to work were suffering the most.
‘This Wasn’t Working’
The process for replenishing cards that DVR and Metro had been using was not clearly defined and a painful time-waster for all involved.
Working with Susan Whitmore, a Continuous Improvement Facilitator with Transit, Nedrow’s team did something about it.
One of the first countermeasures they tried was to pilot a spreadsheet that DVR staffers could fill out and email to Metro. However, the Kent DVR office at which the spreadsheet was piloted said that it was “cumbersome and confusing.”
Nedrow and his staff agreed that the spreadsheet didn’t work. So they tried again. And this time, they came up with something that has worked.
Nedrow and his customer service crew have been piloting an improved order form and process that will soon be rolled out to all state DVR offices.
They created a purchase order form—using one of DVR’s existing forms—that asks only for the information that Metro needs such as the ORCA Card number and the dollar amount.
“This form has the info we need to load the card and that accounts payable needs to process the payment,” explains Nedrow.
Standardizing the form has reduced the error rate in submissions as well, says Nedrow. In the past, Metro would sometimes receive orders that didn’t have the necessary information, causing rework and delays for clients.
In addition to reducing the headaches for Metro, the state DVR offices, and clients, Metro staff are also saving time and resources. In the past, lots of effort was wasted in coordinating requests as they came in to multiple people. Now all replenishment requests from DVR offices come to a general collection for pass sales representatives, who can process the orders and pass them to accounts payable.
Whitmore says that much of the improvement comes from creating standard work in the process that ensures the vocational rehabilitation participants get their ORCA passes. The old process lacked standard work because it was trying to provide every possible option for forms and form delivery. “In an attempt to provide good customer service, we were creating lots of waste,” she says.
Nedrow sums up with the improvement with a sense of humor, “It was nice to get everyone on the same page and say ‘This wasn’t working.'”