Presenting the Citizen-Engaged Communities for 2015–2017

PTI Staff Contact: Dale Bowen, 202-626-2456

Public Technology Institute (PTI) is pleased to announce the city and county governments designated as Citizen-Engaged Communities for 2015–2017.

Government contact centers have become the face of government to the public. Local governments are challenged today to provide centralized citizen contact centers that effectively utilize technology for fast, friendly and responsive service. This seamless service must engage citizens through multiple channels, empower citizens by enabling direct interaction, and then demonstrate accountability through performance reporting, not just for calls but also for service delivery.

Every year local governments are invited to apply for designation as a PTI Citizen Engaged Community. Now in its sixth year, this designation program recognizes excellence in multi-channel contact centers and leading practices for the use of CRM systems, 311 services, web portal technology, telephony systems and mobile communications infrastructure. PTI congratulates our 2015-2017 Designees!

PTI presents the 2015-2017 Citizen Engaged Communities:

  • Dublin, CA
  • Kingsburg, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Montgomery County, MD
  • Pinellas County, FL
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Sacramento County, CA
  • San Antonio, TX
  • San Francisco, CA

Highlights of Citizen Engagement Initiatives from Several of the 2015–2017 Designees

The City of San Antonio, Texas

With council elections earlier in 2015, the City's Call Center worked with the City's IT Department to implement an interactive program that helps locate a citizen's council member. Previously, there was a static map and the citizen had to try to pin point their location and then determine their respective council member.

The Call Center launched its 311 Twitter page that provides information about the City departments and services. The Call Center also implemented a classification system (within CRM) that allows the Customer Service Representatives to document the specific calls in order to understand the type of information that is being requested by the community.

Finally, the Department launched COSAGov Texts, a texting program that provides information about upcoming City programs and projects. Citizens sign up to receive information via mobile texts regarding general city information and programs.

Montgomery County, Maryland

The County web site's search capability is significantly enhanced. It is now run by Google and searches information from the MC311 knowledgebase, all County Department web sites and several local agencies including the state and county court systems, regional water authority, regional parks and planning commission and County public school system. Site visitors can now more easily find the County information they need and to request the services they want from the most likely sources – all from one search engine.

MC311 was created to provide easy access to County government information and services to customers. Yet, after more than 4 years of operation, many County residents are still unaware of MC311. To address this issue, the MC311 Community Engagement Team was created as part of a community outreach effort. MC311 Team members are friendly, highly trained, knowledgeable ambassadors who can help residents understand how to use MC311 to access County services and information about streetlight repair, missed trash, potholes, vacant lots/buildings, abandoned vehicles, parking options and more. MC311 Team members meet face-to-face with County residents at a variety of local community events. Team members also give away low-cost MC311 logo items to help them remember all of the great County services, program and information available through MC311.

The City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Early this year, the city had a full public rollout of a new robust CRM system that will leverage social media and cutting-edge communication technology to maximize government transparency, knowledge-sharing, and overall effectiveness. The new 311 platform will transcend across departments, into the homes and devices of citizens to create a social network around municipal services and information, ensuring that government is accessible and effective for all customers, internal and external. For example, with the new CRM solution, the city is able to launch a dashboard feature that allows City officials to see up to the minute reports from 311, and communicate with each other and the community about issues in real time.

During the 2015 World Meeting of Families and Papal Visit in September, Philly311 set up a remote contact center. The move was seamless; there was no temporary loss of service and no indicator that 311 was not operating out of the usual facility. The remote contact center operated 24 hours a day from Thursday September 24th ‐ Sunday September 27th. This center was extremely successful, with nearly 16,000 incoming calls during the five days we operated off site.

The Philadelphia Fire Department is committed to fighting fires, and prevention is one of the more direct was to do that. This year, Philly311 partnered with the Fire Department to distribute and install fire alarms in a program called "Freedom from Fire." Citizens can request smoke alarms and information about fire safety, including what to do if you cannot afford a detector, from Philly311. Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer noted, "A critical support component for the success of the smoke alarm installation program is Philadelphia's 311 call center."

Sacramento County, California

The County's 311 Connect encourages cross-department collaboration. Before 311 Connect, there was not an effective way to analyze how service requests could be mitigated with a multi-department approach. Individual departments were effectively silos of information, unable to identify trends across the County. With 311 Connect, Department Directors and County Executives meet regularly to assess a consolidated view of the County's service requests. Through these meetings, the County identifies opportunities to leverage multiple department services to address countywide problems from root causes. One recent example of this is the emerging program to provide services to Sacramento County's homeless and transient population and mitigate issues that stem from this part of our community.

311 Connect has proved to be a strong conduit for information to flow between citizens, the County, and elected leaders. Citizen-reported requests and issues can be the first indication of emerging issues and trends within the community. Through effective citizen engagement, County leaders and officials can efficiently manage the community's needs and in many cases proactively implement mitigating strategies that ensure safety and livability in Sacramento County.

The City of San Francisco, California

In September 2015, SF311 became the centralized location for "noise" reporting in San Francisco. Prior to that time, people called multiple departments to request information or file a complaint. With a centralized system, SF311 can provide end-to-end reporting by responding to requests for information and passing along complaints to the responsible agency. SF311 met with multiple agencies across the City who manage and monitor all types of sound from entertainment to construction noise. Based on department input, we were able to identify the best single agency to respond to issues, and what information may be available to inform the public with regard to allowable noises in the growing City.

Callers to SF311, or visitors to the web site, are provided with a wide range of information on noise (sources of noise, construction permit information, including seasonal or one-time events/concerts, what levels of noise are allowable, hours and location of special events, etc.). The user can then make an informed decision on whether or not to file a complaint or seek more information. Results to date show that around half of the calls have been resolved by providing information to the caller.

SF311 shares information on the volume and location of noise-related requests/complaints with appropriate City agencies, and the data are transmitted to the "OpenData" portal for public access and mapping. This visual aid can be pulled by the public and by City officials who are tracking and monitoring noise levels.

In keeping with the goal of enabling mobile services, the "Noise Complaint" reporting option will be added to the SF311 mobile app during this fiscal year. This will provide another opportunity for the public to access noise information and reporting easily and quickly.

Challenges and Opportunities

When asked to identify the top challenges, needs or opportunities for the future of their future contact center operations, almost all designees cited the need to highly trained Customer Service Representatives, tight budgets, and moving to enhanced web and mobile applications as the preferred method of contact for the public.

The City of San Francisco mentioned being challenged to improve the City's resilience to significant events or disasters by providing pre-event communication to the public (e.g., prior to severe storms or other predictable events) and continuity of operations through recovery and restoration.

The City of Dublin reported that they are challenged with telling the story of their success and keeping up with timely reporting metrics.

Several of the designated counties cited the desire for increased cross-jurisdiction collaboration with cities within their respective county.