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 Chuck Schaeffer How 311 Systems Improve Citizen Services and Earn Citizen Trust

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3-1-1 telephone dialing provides citizens a community information service directed to non-emergency municipal call centers in select cities and counties throughout North America and beyond. The purpose of 3-1-1 access is to divert non-emergency inquiries away from the 9-1-1 emergency service and provide a valuable community service to residents. Common inquiries made to 3-1-1 call centers include questions about citizen services, the reporting of debris in a roadway, notifying city officials of broken street lights or asking questions about trash pick-up, bus schedules or other local services.

Most city web sites deliver little more than pretty pictures, static information and poor user experiences. They tend to focus far more on the elected officials than the citizens they serve. They provide very limited methods for citizens to search for relevant information, initiate or monitor incidents, and interact with their elected officials.

Within many municipalities, departments are not well integrated and use largely manual citizen service techniques (the phone pad and yellow sticky notes remain the most popular incident entry forms). Many departments have differing policies and procedures and few have any type of real inter-department automated work flow processes. Ill-equipped citizens and civil servants combine to frustrate both parties and accumulate significant taxpayer costs.

Fortunately, there's a better way. 311 systems integrate, automate and streamline citizen interactions in order to deliver efficient constituent facing e-government at a lesser taxpayer cost than manual processes.

3-1-1 systems can centralize citizen information on a single screen, facilitate rapid recording of a citizen’s request, route the request to the right destination, provide easy to use search and automation tools to quickly deliver responses, and enable civil servants to resolve citizen requests expeditiously. 311 systems support the N-1-1 telephone dialing as well as other multi-channel access methods such as walk-in, fax, postal mail, email, social media, mobile texting and Website chat. 3-1-1 applications should capture every contact and incident irrespective of where or when it originated and permit citizens to choose the time, place and method for response.

Top 311 System Capabilities

As 311 call centers frequently rely on volunteers and incur a high employee turnover, it's critical that these CRM systems be intuitive and extremely easy to use. Those CRM 311 applications that leverage consumer technologies will realize faster time to value, more rapid user adoption, higher utilization and greater user productivity. Additional features of a 3-1-1 CRM software system include the following:

  • Easy and accelerated incident entry
  • Quick categorization and segmentation of incidents
  • Knowledge base searching and information retrieval
  • Citizens self service using PC, tablets or mobile devices
  • Effective work flow mapping and incident routing
  • Escalation automation if cases or incidents are not resolved within designated limits
  • A FAQ (frequently asked questions and answers) database
  • A diagnostics utility
  • Call scripting utilities
  • Computer telephony integration (CTI)
  • Outbound or push technologies to e-mail or distribute relevant messages to designated citizen groups
  • Information reporting and citizen analytics

Top 311 System Benefits

When properly deployed, 311 systems achieve several benefits, including:

  • Freeing-up 911 emergency lines to provide true emergency services
  • Letting citizens use self service to make city hall available and accessible 24 by 7
  • Delivering consistent, timely and responsive constituent services
  • Providing a holistic view of each citizen relationship
  • Simplifying services for constituents
  • Integrating an array of local municipal services for efficient coordination and delivery
  • Improving quality of service while simultaneously decreasing the cost of service
  • Increasing civil servant human resources (HR) productivity and job satisfaction
  • Accelerating new or revised policy speed of implementation and consistent in delivery
  • Increasing first call resolution rate and achieving shorter delivery cycles
  • The ability to quickly route incidents to their responsible party and provide visibility to manage them through closure
  • Using citizen feedback mechanisms to identify areas for improvement

Being more accessible to citizens and delivering the services citizens most desire is the hallmark of good local government and goes a very long way toward earning the trust and praise of citizens for their elected officials. End

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Being more accessible to citizens and providing the local services citizens most desire is a hallmark of good local government and goes a very long way toward earning the trust and praise of citizens for their elected officials.


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