Originally published in GovLoop. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a massive shift to online versions of previously in-person interactions, with virtual appointments and ubiquitous delivery options appearing in nearly every industry. Some essential government services, like license renewals, were part of this mass shift to online technology, while other operations simply couldn’t happen online — the DMV and various permit offices, for example — and instead had to limit in-person traffic and enforce social distancing measures.

But whether your office has been operating fully online or in a limited in-person capacity, it’s time to prepare for things to pick back up. As restrictions lift, government offices will see more people in person than they have in quite some time. But just because people will be back, doesn’t mean they’ll be ready to sacrifice any of the speed or convenience to which they’ve grown accustomed over the past year. People now expect a certain level of service — and there’s plenty of technology available to make it happen.

Solutions that were adopted to help keep things working smoothly during the pandemic will still have value in a post-pandemic world. Technology like queue management software can help government offices address problems that existed long before COVID-19, increasing operational efficiencies, collecting more and better data and reducing costs.

Improving efficiency

Improving the in-person experience relies heavily on improving operational efficiencies. How do you keep the lines moving, especially since it’s going to take a while before people truly feel safe and comfortable waiting in lines again? The answer lies in queue management software, which will allow you to create virtual queues and keep people updated about schedule changes as they happen. Not only that, but the data you collect with your new scheduling software will allow you to see when wait times are at their worst, informing staffing decisions that could help eliminate bottlenecks.

Smart scheduling software will also help you avoid no-shows, which are a significant problem and a major source of operational inefficiency. No-shows have been on the rise during the past year, and some industries report nearly one-third of appointments are canceled without notice. While it’s still too soon to have a definitive cause for all these missed appointments, it’s not too soon to have a solution. Automated reminders from your scheduling software can show a meaningful decrease in the amount of missed appointments, and decreasing the number of skipped appointments can make a huge impact on your overall throughput of customers.

Collecting better data

The customer data collected by a queue management platform won’t just help you identify and eliminate the bottlenecks in your service offering; it will allow you to survey customers to get a better idea of their overall level of satisfaction. This data can help you find other places to improve and can be a useful tool for evaluating employee performances. As the saying goes, “if you can measure it, you can manage it,” so this wealth of custom data can play a significant role in your overall operations. If the goal is to end each day with more satisfied customers, these metrics will help you get there.

Reducing costs

Running more efficiently and using metrics to inform your decision-making are surefire ways to save on operational costs. Reducing missed appointments will reduce employee downtime while increasing the number of transactions each day — and that’s just one facet of what scheduling software can do for your office.

Smart scheduling also helps make sure there aren’t still people waiting in line when your offices are ready to close for the day — something your staff and customers will equally appreciate. It does this by automatically cutting off new appointments at a certain point in the day, or when it detects that you’ve fallen behind on your schedule. Nobody wants to be stuck in an office after it closes, and when employees are earning overtime it can be disastrous for your budget. Cutting down on budget overages while simultaneously improving work-life balance for your staff. Now that’s a win-win.