Check, Cancel and Reissue Vouchers with Ease – Bundaberg Regional Council Case Study
Bringing Community Housing into the Community
Kerry Dalton, Coordinator for Landfill Operations and Compliance at Bundaberg Regional Council, shared councils’ waste voucher program journey at the 2021 Coffs Harbour Waste Conference. Kerry presented the challenges that council had faced with their waste voucher program and the steps they have taken to overcome them by implementing a new voucher system from Mandalay.
Most well-known for rum and turtles, Bundaberg is located four hours north of Brisbane and has a population of 100,000. Within their community there are 38,000 residential properties with houses or dwellings, and an additional 3,000 community and retirement housing properties. Community and retirement housing is typically made up of retirement villages, council-owned retirement properties and department of housing properties.
Bundaberg Regional Council has been a long-term customer of Mandalay since 2009. The region has two facilities with weighbridges, eight rural transfer stations that are open part-time and two tip shops. Mandalay’s Facility Product Suite software is currently running across all facilities on a total of 20 machines.
The waste services currently offered to the Bundaberg community include a general waste and recycling collection service.
A bulky waste collection service was available prior to the 2008 council amalgamation; however, this was cost-prohibitive moving forward. Council then offered a free tip weekend which extended to free tip week and then month, which soon became difficult and expensive to manage.
2017 saw the introduction of free tip vouchers which was championed by the region’s mayor and councillors. Vouchers were paper based with a foil logo to minimise fraudulent use and distributed annually to property owners with rates notices. Two vouchers were provided with each rates notice.
The assumption was made that property owners would distribute vouchers to tenants, however council suspected that this rarely took place.
Tip vouchers for tenants of public/community housing and retirement villages
To account for residents living within public/community housing, tip vouchers were delivered in bulk to head office in Brisbane with an expectation that vouchers would be distributed to public housing tenants within the Bundaberg region.
Similarly, tip vouchers for retirement properties were issued in bulk to retirement village head offices with an expectation they would be distributed to tenants.
Council identified a number of challenges with the existing tip voucher program that they wanted to overcome:
- High cost – The voucher program was expensive to administer.
- Poor voucher distribution – Some residents could obtain as many vouchers as they liked while others didn’t receive any vouchers. The assumption was made that property owners would distribute vouchers to tenants, however council suspected that this rarely took place.
- Lack of data – Council had little to no knowledge of how many vouchers had been redeemed and who had redeemed them.
- Vouchers could not be tracked – There was no way for council to confirm whether vouchers had been received or used.
“If anyone rang up and said they lost their voucher, we had to take their word for it.” – Kerry Dalton
- Vouchers could not be matched to a household – Council could not tell if a voucher distributed to a specific household was actually used by that household.
- Wasteful voucher production – Additional vouchers were printed each year to account for additional requirements along with lost vouchers throughout the year. At the end of the year, unused vouchers were destroyed.
“We had to print extra vouchers every year to cover all of those lost and misplaced vouchers so that in itself was very costly and at the end of every season they got destroyed.” – Kerry Dalton
- No paperless voucher option – While some property owners chose to receive their rates notices electronically, their tip vouchers still needed to be posted.
- High administration burden – The administration burden on council across multiple departments was large. This included identifying properties, along with printing and responding to enquiries about missing and misplaced vouchers.
The Challenge – Community and Retirement Housing
Waste vouchers distributed to public/community housing and retirement village managers were not always passed onto the tenants. Instead, it was found that some property managers used these vouchers towards the general management and upkeep of properties rather than for the residents themselves, which was the intended purpose.
The Solution – New Voucher Program Features and Benefits
A new voucher system was required to overcome these challenges. As a result of an internal audit through council, electronic waste vouchers were introduced in 2020.
“It’s not even a year old and we’re already seeing a lot of benefits from the waste voucher program” – Kerry Dalton
The new voucher program implemented by Mandalay includes the following features and benefits:
- The inclusion of a unique QR code printed on vouchers that links each voucher to a specific address. Codes are pre-generated and converted to QR codes which can be read when the voucher is presented at the weighbridge.
- Vouchers can now be emailed along with being distributed with rates notices, avoiding complaints from customers who prefer paperless communication.
- Lost vouchers can be cancelled, and replacement vouchers can be issued. If a customer calls with a voucher related issue, customer service agents no longer need to worry about taking their word for it. They can now go into the system to check, cancel, and reissue vouchers with ease.
- Vouchers can be printed on-demand, therefore there is no need to print extra vouchers. They only need to print what is required and they can be printed outside the normal rates notice process.
- Real insight into who has used the vouchers has resulted in a significant drop in calls about lost or not received vouchers.
The Solution – Community and Retirement Housing
To ensure residents receive their vouchers as intended, the waste team now manages the voucher program for community and retirement housing. The new system allows for vouchers to be sent directly to residents living in community and retirement housing rather than the property owners. This ensures vouchers are delivered directly to the intended recipient and removes the need for property owners to manage and distribute vouchers.
The new voucher system from Mandalay has resulted in an incredibly positive outcome for Bundaberg Regional Council and their waste team, delivering the following outcomes:
- Council now has complete transparency over the cost of the voucher program broken down by day, week, and month.
- The issuance, redemption and cancellation of vouchers is now fully auditable.
“We know exactly what it’s costing us, and we can at any time take that to our councillors and show them that this is actually how much vouchers are costing the council.” – Kerry Dalton
- An image associated with a transaction can be captured when a voucher is redeemed. This is achieved through the use of Mandalay’s Image Capture extension product. The Image Capture product has been installed at three facilities to capture images of vehicles and loads at the time a transaction is recorded.
- Customer service around vouchers has improved significantly. Council customer service agents are now able to access the voucher interface and provide specific details on voucher usage.
“It reduced the impact on our team in waste. We’re not having to sit there making those phone calls and sending out vouchers all the time which has been really great. The first few months of voucher season was really busy but that’s something we don’t have to deal with any more” – Kerry Dalton
- Products are recorded against each voucher. This is also linked to vehicle registration to add further insight into what vouchers are being used for.
- A reduction in false claims of lost vouchers. Now that vouchers are tracked and the system is auditable, customers can no longer falsely claim they lost their vouchers and attempt to obtain more.
“In the first few weeks after we launched this, we had a heap of cancelled vouchers presented at the weighbridge, and thanks to having an audit trail on those, the gatehouse attendant was able to look up the ticket and say that voucher has already been redeemed on this day and time for this product, so I’m sorry you can’t use that. So that was a really good outcome” – Kerry Dalton
- The ability to gather data that can inform wider decisions and strategies.
The Information Captured Through Mandalay’s Voucher Management Product
By using Mandalay’s Voucher Management Product, Kerry and the Bundaberg team now have the ability to capture an extensive amount of information, including:
- Waste source – Each voucher is associated with a unique address, allowing them to see where a voucher comes from.
- The facilities residents took their waste to – See which site a voucher is redeemed at and how far people are traveling to dispose of their waste.
- Suburbs Insight – See which suburbs have the highest voucher redemption.
- Product Analysis – The specific products redeemed against each voucher is recorded to see who is using vouchers for what.
- Percentage and value of vouchers redeemed – See how many vouchers are received and if a single voucher is redeemed by a registration more than three times, the waste team are alerted.
- Registration and address – Both the vehicle registration and address associated with redeemed vouchers are recorded along with registrations associated with multiple addresses.
“We have a lot of commercial customers that claim to be residential customers and they accept vouchers as currency when they are operating. So, we can track this usage and see how often a certain vehicle registration has redeemed a voucher.” – Kerry Dalton
The Future of Waste With Bundaberg Regional Council
A new waste voucher program is just the start of Bundaberg Regional Council’s ambitious plans to improve the waste services for their community. With multiple small, manned waste facilities that cost a lot of money to run every year, with Mandalay’s help they are looking at options to use technology to automate the sites to help save on these costs. They are also looking for better ways to use analytics to educate their community about waste.
“We’re looking at product analytics and population against suburbs data and how council can use that information to better inform their communities and help deliver that waste education message around doing the right thing.” – Kerry Dalton