• December 20, 2018
  • By Leonard KlieEditor, CRM magazine and SmarCustomerService.com

Washington’s 311 System Answers the Call with Salesforce

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The Washington, D.C., Office of Unified Communications (OUC) handles both emergency and non-emergency communications for the district’s 911 and 311 systems. It answers more than 3 million calls (nearly 1.3 million 911 calls and 1.8 million 311 calls) per year. Its 311 system, which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, supports 17 city agencies, including the Department of Public Works, for which it fulfilled 184,513 service requests in 2017, and the Department of Motor Vehicles, for which it answered 202,676 phone calls in 2017. In total, the OUC can handle more than 120 types of service requests, ranging from graffiti removal and bulk sanitation pickups to pothole repairs.

With that much volume, it didn’t take long for the agency to realize that it needed to re-platform its server-based 311 system. It recently upgraded to Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud backed by Einstein Analytics.

“Outside these walls, the world is evolving, and I don’t want to ever put us in a box where we’re not evolving or keeping up,” says Karima Holmes, director of the OUC.

Since making the change, the OUC is now providing faster, more professional, and more cost-effective response to calls from the district’s 700,000 residents and 200,000 daily visitors.

“We are making sure that we’re innovative, that we’re able to change when the agencies need change,” Holmes says.

Built on Service Cloud, the OUC’s cloud-based 311 system is giving the agency a 360-degree view of service requests. Features such as automated email and text notifications result in faster response times, and residents are kept better informed about the status of their inquiries.

The system’s ability to integrate with third-party platforms, like Twitter, is further extending the OUC’s outreach and engagement efforts. In fact, the OUC currently has more than 9,000 followers on Twitter alone.

The system also supports other modern communication channels, including mobile, web, text, social media, and live chat, empowering citizens to engage with the agency from anywhere, on any device.

In 2017, the OUC processed 692,475 service requests to 311. Of those, 11,123 were received via social media.

“We’re not afraid of embracing new technology. We’re not afraid of social media. At the end of the day, your residents and your visitors are going to appreciate that you have more service channels. They’re going to appreciate that you’re up on technology. They want the best that their tax dollars can get, and I think that that’s what we’re doing here in D.C.,” Wanda Gattison, public information officer at the OUC, says happily.

The system includes Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics, which applies artificial intelligence to contact records, automatically analyzing data, discovering patterns, and surfacing insights that the OUC can then use to make data-driven decisions and improve citizen experiences.

As a result of its migration to Salesforce, the OUC has eliminated the infrastructure costs and downtime associated with maintaining its previous server-based system. It can also pull reports in a matter of minutes—an exercise that previously took hours. And its operators are getting to calls faster: The agency has reduced average call wait time from seven minutes to 31 seconds.

Customer satisfaction is also very high. In 2017, 100 percent of the people who rated the OUC on the www.grade.dc.gov website gave it a B rating or better.

The migration has also strengthened the OUC’s alignment with Learn, Earn, Advance, Prosper (LEAP), a Washington workforce development program. The OUC has already taken in more than 40 LEAP program graduates as full-time employees. Erick Hines, the OUC’s 311 operations manager, appreciates the speed with which the new employees can be on-boarded. The new system, he says, has “made it easier for us to actually train individuals, because the system is not as cumbersome. Therefore, the process is a lot shorter and more concise.”

The Payoff

Since upgrading to Salesforce.com's Service Cloud platform in its 311 contact center, the Washington Office of Unified Communications has seen the following results:

  • the elimination of infrastructure costs and downtime associated with its previous server-based system;
  • the ability to pull reports in a matter of minutes instead of hours;
  • a reduction in the average call wait time from seven minutes to 31 seconds; and
  • 100 percent of the people who rated the OUC on the www.grade.dc.gov website gave it a B rating or better.

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