Government Technology

Why Do You Need a 311 Contact Center?



June 4, 2009 By

A 311 call-center model has emerged as a proven standard for municipal communications in numerous cities throughout the world. There are many reasons why a 311 contact center is a critical component in the efficient delivery of effective e-government. For example, opportunities exist to divert calls from the 911 emergency call center, improve citizen service, and better manage costs and budgets.

Consider the following questions to determine if you should consider creating a dedicated 311 contact center to serve your community:

  • Is your 911 contact center overwhelmed by nonemergency calls?
  • Do citizens constantly complain because they are dissatisfied with the way you provide information or respond to requests for services?
  • Are you always struggling to stay within contact center budgets amid ever-increasing citizen demands?
  • Do you feel like meaningful improvement cannot be made because you can't identify the true causes of operational inefficiencies?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then establishing a dedicated 311 contact center to serve as an "interaction hub" for citizens, businesses and other government customers is worthy of serious consideration. However, simply diverting calls from 911 contact centers will solve only a small percentage of the overall challenge. Far broader opportunities exist to dramatically transform the citizen interaction experience in a more cost-effective manner. Here are some of the benefits of a 311 center and basic guidelines to follow when implementing one.

 

Reduction of 911 Call-Center Congestion

In the absence of a 311 contact center, a large number of calls to a 911 call center concerning noncritical situations, inquiries and requests can negatively impact its overall efficiency and effectiveness. Thus, a 311 contact center represents a way to deflect nonemergency calls from an overburdened emergency police, medical and fire contact center.

Also, the 311 contact center can serve as a backup for emergency contact centers during major emergencies, either freeing up emergency contact centers to handle critical calls or serving as a backup for a 911 contact center that has gone down.

 

Improved Visibility and Management

Without a centralized 311 contact center, city managers have narrow views of what citizens most frequently need because departmental contact centers separately track citizen interactions.

A 311 contact center improves visibility and management of services because leaders can obtain a holistic understanding of the most common requests, where they occur and how quickly they are resolved. Management can also gain more relevant insight into the end-to-end citizen experience. This newly found knowledge lets managers better allocate existing resources and justify new staffing and technology resource requests to meet citizen demands for service.

 

The Keys to Success

Your new 311 contact center should not just relieve an overburdened 911 emergency contact center. It should also be a catalyst for significant transformation -- one that reinvents the way municipalities serve their citizens, improve constituent relationships and more efficiently use contact center resources. To succeed, the 311 contact center should be designed to focus on openness, interoperability, the citizen experience, agent and employee productivity, and business-process optimization.

 

Select an Open, Interoperable Platform

Regardless of who owns an issue, citizen-service representatives working in the 311 contact center must be able to deliver accurate status updates and provide timely service. This is why it's so important to have an open platform that ties into all the systems used by citywide departments, such as electronic records and management systems, work order management applications, appointment scheduling systems, and customer relationship management solutions.

Open platforms are also necessary because third-party applications are often required to enhance the capabilities of the 311 contact center software. For instance, an interface with GIS is useful to verify that information received about an address is correct so that a work order can be quickly executed.


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Comments

Rosetta Carrington Lue, City of Philadelphia 311 Conact Center Direc    |    Commented July 7, 2009

This is a well written article. City government operations should begin to focus on gaining improved efficiencies and effective of resources by centralizing multiple call centers under one roof. Advance technology and qualified personnel should also be not be taken for granted when building a 311 Contact Center.

Rosetta Carrington Lue, City of Philadelphia 311 Conact Center Direc    |    Commented July 7, 2009

This is a well written article. City government operations should begin to focus on gaining improved efficiencies and effective of resources by centralizing multiple call centers under one roof. Advance technology and qualified personnel should also be not be taken for granted when building a 311 Contact Center.

Rosetta Carrington Lue, City of Philadelphia 311 Conact Center Direc    |    Commented July 7, 2009

This is a well written article. City government operations should begin to focus on gaining improved efficiencies and effective of resources by centralizing multiple call centers under one roof. Advance technology and qualified personnel should also be not be taken for granted when building a 311 Contact Center.


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