• June 24, 2011
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Market Focus: Government--Better Outreach with Outbound

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Government has embraced CRM principles to address the opportunities and challenges of delivering improved public services cost-effectively. CRM methods, processes, and lessons learned in the private sector are being adapted for the public sector.

Public-sector CRM comes in many forms, but one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways for governments to interact with their citizens is through outreach programs using an outbound interactive voice response or mass-messaging system. Those systems let local, state, and federal governments deliver life-saving information before, during, and after emergencies to keep citizens safe, secure, and prepared. They  can easily send 20,000 or 200,000 messages, engaging with citizens however they prefer—via voice, text, email, and even social media.

One of the leaders is Blackboard Connect. A recent customer survey that the company conducted with Gomez Research found that as school and government officials embrace mass-notification technology for proactive messages to students, parents, and community members, they report higher ratings of satisfaction and value.

According to the survey, 90 percent of local governments that use notification services for community outreach report greater public participation in community events. In addition, cities and counties are increasingly using the service to conduct targeted revenue campaigns for unpaid traffic tickets, utility payment collections, and even dog licensing fees.

“Our community is highly connected, and they’ve come to expect relevant and immediate information from our leadership,” says Kristi Wyatt, public information officer for League City, Texas, one of the localities using the Blackboard Connect service. “Whether by phone, email, text message, or social media, Blackboard Connect helps League City keep our residents connected to community news and events, all in the channel they prefer.”

The Blackboard system was tested this winter when severe storms gripped much of the nation. Education and local government leaders used mass-notification capabilities from Blackboard to send more than 13 million messages on January 11, marking an unprecedented level of outreach in a 24-hour period and highlighting the speed and reliability of such systems.

Officials nationwide leveraged the Blackboard Connect and AlertNow services to keep their communities aware of the latest weather conditions, school and road closures, and other snow emergency procedures. Using Blackboard Connect and AlertNow, officials recorded, sent, and tracked personalized voice messages to landlines and mobile phones, as well as email, text messages, and messages to TTY/TDD devices for the hearing-impaired. The 13.7 million messages delivered during the 24-hour period were composed of 10.4 million voice calls, 3 million emails, and 300,000 text alerts. For voice messages alone, January 11 surpassed Blackboard’s previous highest level of outreach by about 3 million calls.

“Times like these remind us that, when it comes to the safety of our schools and communities, speed and reliability matter most, and today we have millions of informed recipients to prove it,” Ed Miller, president of Blackboard Connect, said in a statement.

Another test came a few months earlier when a whooping cough epidemic spread across California. The state’s Department of Public Health used Blackboard to inform students, parents, and residents about the potentially deadly disease.

Blackboard and California’s Public Health Department first partnered a year ago to help manage the spread of the swine flu epidemic. Schools and colleges used the Blackboard Connect platform to send important tips on flu prevention and vaccine information.

Blackboard’s research also found that a majority of the K–12 clients that use a mass-notification system report improved and increased parental involvement. In fact, 95 percent of respondents that use mass notification to communicate with parents find that it improves student attendance.

“We’re encouraged to see an increasing number of Blackboard clients engaged in regular, proactive contact with their communities using the technologies constituents prefer and respond to,” Miller says.

News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@destinationcrm.com.

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