Consolidated 311 boosts efficiency, savings
- By Stephanie Kanowitz
- Jun 03, 2015
Right now, when residents contact the Tulsa, Okla., Customer Care Center, using any of several dozen phone numbers, they get an automated response asking them to press a number corresponding to their need. That routes the call to the right agent for the job, and that agent uses five pieces of software to track down the answer or set up a work order. All work orders go to a single administrative agent who reviews them and creates official orders.
In July, however, residents will be able to use a new 311 system to get non-emergency help via phone, text message or web forms, even setting up service requests themselves. What’s more, 311 agents will use a single platform to answer questions and submit work orders. The result is a consolidation of customer services across some 15 different municipal departments.
“Once 311 goes live and we promote that to the community, we’re going to be getting phone calls into our contact center that were going to other department groups across the city,” said Michael Radoff, center director. “We don’t want to just be a transferring service. We want to be able to answer those calls and drive first-call resolution as high as we possibly can.”
Because this system is completely new, Radoff and his team had to start from scratch. For the 311 element, they spent almost a year on contracting with about 10 telephony providers -- including AT&T, Cox Communications and Windstream Communications -- that will participate in the 311 conversion. Next, they had to make a bidirectional map to set up phone switches, which took 12 to 15 months.
To consolidate the software, the city tapped LAGAN Enterprise from KANA, part of Verint. It will replace the Lockheed Martin Intranet Quorum service order tool, and eventually another system that handles only code violations. For questions related to the municipal courts, which gets the highest call volume, the city will continue to use JURIS, the Tulsa Municipal Court Information System. JURIS was developed and is maintained by the Tulsa Police Department’s Systems Development and Support team.
KANA LAGAN helps 311 call takers progressively ask questions to pinpoint the appropriate response. For example, for pothole complaints, they can ask which side of street it’s on and how big it is. That will also help prioritize the service orders based on rules set in the system.
Using the new system, city residents can take matters into their own hands -- to a degree. They can create profiles and enter their own service orders and then track them. The system sends automatic email alerts when orders are set up and as they are completed. “We’ll be able to do a 360-degree, close-the-loop process with citizens so they don’t have to call us back to see if what they requested got done,” Radoff said.
Tulsa’s 311 system will also have interactive voice response (IVR) with up to 38 self-service paths for callers to follow for smaller issues such as missed trash pickup and payments.
“That’s really going to drive down call volume that comes in to our agents, drive up efficiency for us,” Radoff said.
Additionally, when someone who’s set up a profile calls 311, that caller’s information will pop up on an agent’s screen via computer telephony integration (CTI). That means agents don’t have to spend time confirming the person and the request. “I’m expecting to save 20 to 30 seconds per call just by having a CTI screen pop in place,” he added.
The system also includes a mobile app through which users can submit photographs of problems such as graffiti. Those submissions will be linked to their profiles and tagged with geographic positioning system data so officials can locate the problem faster.
“The real unique challenge of modern 311 call centers is that even though they’re branded as 311, it’s so much more than a phone number,” said Steve Carter, senior director of public-sector accounts at KANA. To provide context aware knowledge, 311 systems need to be able to tap the right knowledge base, manage the agents’ desktops and combine scripting and search.
Additionally, Tulsa is launching reactive and proactive chat services. Reactive chat means users click on an icon to launch a chat session with an agent. Proactive chat lets agents engage citizens they suspect need help finding information or locating services, Radoff said. “For example, on our permits page, if we see a citizen that’s been hunting around to find the right permit form to fill out so that they can start a project, we would like to be able to pop in and say, ‘Hey, we see you’re looking for a permit. What kind of project are you trying to get done and we’ll tell you what we need to do.’”
The LAGAN Enterprise from KANA cost the city about $980,000, and the 311 phone exchange will likely cost $3,000 to $4,000 per month depending on call volume, Radoff said. But the savings will be significant, he added. For instance, the IVR system alone should reduce call volume by 30 percent.
“Take our call volume, which is in the 550,000 to 600,000 range per year, and if you can drop 30 percent of those calls off, that’s about 150,000 calls. That’s about three and a half to four minutes per call. That adds up to a lot of money very quickly,” he said.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.