• January 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Buffalo Builds Resident Trust with CRM

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With a population of around 260,000, Buffalo is New York's second largest city. Since 2012, the municipality has spent $4.4 billion on economic development, but its revitalization really began four years earlier when it launched the 311 Call and Resolution Center.

The center, which employs nine agents, fields 300,000 calls a year about potholes, broken streetlights, abandoned houses, missed garbage pickups, snow removal, and other city service requests.

The backbone of the multichannel call center is Kana Software's Lagan Enterprise CRM system, built specifically for the government sector. The system records and logs every call and categorizes each based on the caller, date and time of the call, location, and nature of the complaint. City officials can slice and dice the data using Kana's analytical and reporting tools.

Along with the call center, the city has seen an increase in self-service requests via its online self-service portal, which also feeds into the Lagan system.

Based on information collected, city officials can create density maps with all of the complaints. That information is merged with crime statistics and other data, which the city uses to organize "clean sweeps," in which city, county, state, and federal departments converge on a two- or three-square-block area to address all of the concerns at once. Activities include boarding up abandoned buildings, removing graffiti, trimming trees, repairing sidewalks and potholes, and going door-to-door offering employment and healthcare services.

The city conducted 27 clean sweeps in 2012, 28 in 2013, and 29 in 2014. Prior to installing the 311 system, it completed seven or eight a year.

"Before the 311 system, we had managers driving around the city to make decisions," recalls Oswaldo Mestre Jr., the city's director of citizen services. "Now we use data to shape our decision-making."

The city enters the information collected during clean sweeps into the Lagan system so that Mestre and others can monitor progress and follow up by phone, email, or letter. This has strengthened relations with the public and positioned city services in a whole new light.

"People get information a lot quicker and see how the government is working for them," Mestre says.

Buffalo also leverages its Kana Lagan system as the basis for its CitiStat accountability program, whereby department heads regularly review key performance metrics with senior administration officials to ensure compliance with accountability, productivity, and efficiency goals. Department heads use the same data to request additional resources during annual city budget negotiations.

"As a manager, I definitely appreciate all of the [service-level agreement (SLA)] reporting," Mestre says, pointing out that the system automatically logs each complaint and how long it takes for the appropriate government agency to respond and close the case.

"We have very structured SLAs for every complaint," he adds, further explaining that the system automatically alerts managers when they are close to an SLA deadline. "Without the Lagan system, we'd be flying by the seat of our pants."

The system was selected based on its scalability and recording and reporting features. Buffalo is one of 30 to 40 U.S. cities and about 200 worldwide to use the system. Verint Systems acquired Kana a year ago for about $514 million.

In October, Kana honored the city of Buffalo with its Best Citizen Experience Award. Previous awards for the city and its use of the Kana system include a 2012–2014 Citizen-Engaged Community designation from the Public Technology Institute.

"I am extremely proud of this recognition given to our 311 Call and Resolution Center," said the city's mayor, Byron Brown, in a statement. "Since the inception of our...call center, we have seen...a growing awareness of the city's success of receiving service requests, sending them to the appropriate department, and addressing them in a timely fashion."

The Payoff

In the past three years, the city of Buffalo has used its Kana Software Lagan Enterprise CRM system to do the following:

  • respond to 300,000 service requests per year;
  • conduct more than 80 clean sweeps, up from 7 or 8 per year; and
  • increase the number of requests submitted via its online self-service Web portal.

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