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CRM for government, Salesforce improve D.C.'s 311 agency

The Office of Unified Communications in Washington, D.C., said it improved its constituent relationships with Salesforce Service Cloud and Einstein Analytics.

When the Office of Unified Communications in Washington, D.C., needed to interact with city residents faster and more efficiently, it turned to technology.

Specifically, the agency looked at what CRM software would be best for the department, while also helping to alert residents about emergency notices. The agency was relying on on-premises, legacy-based software, and maintenance affected its ability to interact with residents.

"Anytime there were updates or maintenance, we had to go offline. And that impacted call takers from submitting requests and impacted the web portal users," said Erick Hines, 311 operations manager at the Office of Unified Communications (OUC).

To upgrade its on-premises, legacy CRM system, OUC licensed Salesforce Service Cloud, ultimately reducing system downtime and call hold times, while offering more ways for residents to interact with the OUC. The department handles all 311 and 911 calls for the city. Residents use 311 for municipal information, such as parking bans and trash pickup; it is not to be confused with the largely outdated directory dial, 411.

Seeing benefits with Service Cloud

CRM for government takes on a slightly different meaning than CRM in other industries. While most businesses deal with customers, the "C" in CRM for government stands for constituents. Departments like the OUC aren't looking to turn a prospect into a customer or manage an ongoing sale. Rather, they're intended to inform and help citizens, and technology like Service Cloud can help make that happen.

Erick Hines, 311 operations manager, OUCErick Hines

The OUC supports 17 city agencies in the capital, including the departments of public works, transportation and motor vehicles, as well as emergency responders, such as the fire and police departments. With 76 full-time agents, the OUC receives roughly 5,000 calls or inquiries a day, averaging out to roughly 1.8 million a year.

The OUC licensed Salesforce Service Cloud in July 2015. Since then, reaction from constituents has been positive, while the department has seen improved efficiency, Hines said.

"We saw benefits with Salesforce by the end of the fiscal year," Hines said. "We were able to provide faster services and capture more information."

More time for reports, social media

Anytime there were updates or maintenance, we had to go offline. And that impacted call takers from submitting requests and impacted the web portal users.
Erick Hines311 operations manager, OUC

Another aspect the OUC's CRM for government helped with was managing those 17 city agencies and getting data to those agencies through quarterly, monthly or weekly reports using Salesforce Einstein Analytics.

"It allows us to know how many requests we've submitted to each agency, and we can see how quickly the agency is filling the request," Hines said.

Beyond making it easier to work with the 17 different city agencies, adding new CRM tools for government also made constituents who interact with the OUC happier, according to Hines. By moving to cloud-based software, the OUC was able to better customize its website and app to mirror each other.

"At the end of the day, your residents and your visitors are going to appreciate that you have more service channels," said Wanda Gattison, an OUC spokeswoman. "They want the best that their tax dollars can spend."

And now that call wait times went from roughly seven minutes to 31 seconds with Salesforce Service Cloud, Gattison and her team are using that extra time to build out an improved social media team to respond to tweets and direct messages and to send out social media alerts about major initiatives or weather-related changes to services like trash removal.

Push notifications would help

While improving social media helps get important notifications to residents, Hines and Gattison said they'd like it if Salesforce Service Cloud had its own push notification capability.

"We don't do the best job letting people know services are being changed or delayed," Gattison said. "Push notifications would help with that."

Meanwhile, the OUC is moving in a similar direction as other government agencies by trying to interact with and respond better to taxpayers.

"Today's tech-savvy citizens are used to fast and personalized experiences when connecting with private-sector companies," said Casey Coleman, senior vice president of public sector at Salesforce. "Governments today need to provide their constituents with an engaging and modern platform to interact."

This was last published in January 2019

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