Customers needed an easy and convenient way to apply and pay for visas and associated services, as the existing application process was tedious and prolonged. The inefficient procedures meant that unnecessary paperwork was created for both customers and employees, and there was high risk of documents being lost. As an outsourced government role, the VAC needed to demonstrate compliance with strict security measures, information protection, stipulated equipment requirements, and stringent performance criteria when handling applications. This created additional challenges such as obtaining government security certification, and working on-site as no internet or remote access was permitted.
At our initial discussion with VAC, it became clear that they needed much more than a website for online visa applications. The government compliance requirements meant that an entire system would need to be developed, with additional hardware and strict security certifications. As well as working with VAC to understand and refine their existing procedures, we developed their logo and corporate identity.
A customer booking and tracking system was developed that allowed customers to apply online via a PC or mobile device, and book appointments at the centre at convenient times (which would also give them priority in the queue at the centre.) Application tracking was integrated into this system, which would send customers an SMS when the application status changed. An online payment feature was also set up, for visa applications and associated services.
We developed a three-stage process to help reduce paperwork and errors, that also worked with the specified equipment that they were required to use.
A key requirement was that human errors must be less than 0.1%, so automating the process wherever possible was a core method when designing the system. To do this, we ensured that the equipment (such as barcode printers and scanners) were an integral part of the process.
The sensitive nature of the information that was gathered by the VAC meant that an extremely secure system was required. No internet connection was permitted, meaning that work was difficult to do remotely. Computers on site were not allowed a hard drive in case of theft, so a very light application was needed. Data needed to be encrypted and protected between systems, so we developed a security token that would provide a one-time passcode that was required in addition to user login information.
We also had to ensure that the system was stable with zero downtime, and could be scaled quickly for use nationally across all VAC offices. We developed the needed software and data centre security, as VAC were not aware how best to manage this. We trained their administrators on emergency procedures, such as an emergency reboot, as well as what issues we could help them fix over the phone until RichBrains staff were present on site.
The tracking was a critical requirement of this project, as it was essential to know exactly where documents were at all times.
The tracking system needed to be transparent as well, so that any delays in the process could be identified and rectified by management. Using the barcode equipment, we devised a process that streamlined the work required by employees and automated the visa distribution system. This reduced the time needed to process and then issue the visa to customers.
In addition, a queue management system for the centre was developed, which prompted customers to indicate what the purpose of their visit was; for example, picking up a visa application. This then allowed managers to allocate staff to the busiest areas as needed.
The final step was to create a customer communications manual and onboarding document for new staff, to help them understand the process and the new system. New staff needed to complete the onboarding process in 1 week, so the system had to be easy to use.
After implementing the new system, the processing speed of applications increased by 4.6 times, significantly increasing customer satisfaction. The increased efficiency meant that 40% less staff were required to administrate the new process, freeing up staff to focus on other activities. In addition, the new onboarding procedure had all staff trained within a week. All the specified equipment was integrated into the process, creating an automated system that reduced human errors to 0.1% whilst complying with government requirements.