Verint Portal Connects San Francisco Citizens to Services
As is the case in most major U.S. cities, San Francisco residents can report basic quality-of-life concerns and obtain information about city services via a dedicated 311 line.
The city launched 311 service in 2007, and since then it has seen requests grow in number. At the same time, residents have been demanding more channels to communicate with the city. Early on, nearly all contacts to city agencies were via landline telephone. Phones are still the most common, but the city has seen a sharp increase in the number of contacts via web and Twitter.
San Francisco 311 operators field about 1 million calls and 750,000 service requests each year. In December alone, it handled a total of 76,140 calls. Of those, 89.1 percent of calls were answered within 60 seconds, and the average answer time was 18 seconds.
In hopes of deflecting many of those calls through self-service, the city sought a simple, centralized online portal, according to Carson Chin, SF 311’s IT project manager.
The portal had to be accessible while still preserving existing links and content. It also had to have the same look and feel as other city websites and enable the city’s nearly 900,000 residents to use the same login whether accessing the portal directly from the web or indirectly via Google or Facebook, Chin says.
Further complicating the project was the wide variety of resident needs and city services and agencies the portal would have to support, Chin knew he was in for a long undertaking, given that the SF311 web page that was in use from 2010 through 2016 offered little more than static content and self-service e-forms.
“A portal is better than a simple website because the former offers secure communication, unique content for different users, and dynamic content,” Chin explains.
In 2016, the city shifted to Verint's Customer Portal, which provided user accounts/logins, case tracking, a third-party calendar, and custom integration.
Then in May of 2019, the city further updated the portal, adding other Verint platform features like full search, online forms, pull-down menus, request tracking, a calendar, a content management system, and more.
The benefits have included a better user experience, native support for online forms, and a good value for the investment, according to Chin.
As a result of the implementation, SF311 limited transfers to 8.1 percent of calls.
The search feature includes an autocomplete capability that can start producing results while the person is still typing, speeding the amount of time it takes for residents to find the information they need. The feature also allows for alternate searches and sub-filtering; improved analytics were also included with the recent upgrade.
Choosing the right platform was critical in the successful migration, according to Chin. “We took advantage of the platform’s out-of-the-box functionality, including the integration, migration tools, and calendar,” he says.
Despite the success of the project, Chin admits that there are some ways the project could have gone more smoothly. He advises others looking at similar migrations to have more public/user feedback sessions, a longer “soft launch” period, and a way to account for “bookmarked” pages.
“Do not underestimate the time for the migration of existing user accounts,” Chin says. “Don’t come up with a solution until three weeks before going live.”
Chin plans other site improvements going forward. Chief among them will be to make content even more dynamic with interactive maps, updated user roles, improved communication with social media integration, simplified calendar creation, and the addition of online forms and surveys. The surveys will be the basis for determining what other features to add to the portal in the future.
In December along, SF311 saw the following results with Verint's Customer Portal:
- handled 76,140 calls;
- answered 89.1 percent of calls within 60 seconds;
- achieved an average answer time of 18 seconds; and
- limited transfers to 8.1 percent of calls.
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