• Mike Hoffey

The 311 Project

How a 311 Center makes a difference in the lives on one million citizens.

Day 1

My boss said "guess what, you're going to build a 311 center to improve our level of customer service to our citizens." I asked "OK, I'm in, but what's a 311 center?"


Research

All problems requiring improvement must be grounded in good research. Accenture brought their team in and did a three-week immersion of our customer service. The output, findings and data points allowed us to see our care environments were struggling. We were comfortable with outdated processes. KPI's were accessible but not guiding and defining success. A "customer-first" culture a long ways away.


Findings


  • 5 million annual phone calls, 40% higher than other organizations our size

  • Significant call transferring

  • High abandoned rates, some departments exceeding 80%

  • Defined KPI's were not established. Agents didn't have a measuring stick.

  • Cross-Department Consistency - each department defined their own approach to customer care

  • Access To Information - clunky, difficult, a single-source website was it.

  • A CRM or enterprise-wide knowledge base didn't exist

  • Formal training was far from formal, truly old-school

  • Create a 311 Call Center

Research Validation


We conducted contextual inquiries, surveys, and human-centered participatory design workshops to define each solution step. The findings gave the team clarity on how to prioritize our process improvement initiatives.


311 Call Center

311 is a phone number, set aside by the FCC to be used exclusively for helping callers with a problem, issue concern or question. The 311 philosophy is begins with first contact resolution. 311 Agents have the tools and training to answer ANY call type and solve ANY problem. A call transfer only happens when the agent has exhausted all available options.

Technology

An enterprise-level Service Now platform was build to solve our knowledge base gap. 2,000 FAQ's later, we had a fully functioning environment to locate answers to the most common inbound questions. We created disposition and resolution protocols to track and measure the call types and call state. To simplify, what department did the question type fall under and was the call resolved.


Talent

We built a 311 Call Center and hired super subject matter experts to field inbound phone calls. The KPI goals were simple: achieve an 85% first-contact resolution state and validate success through post-call surveys.


Training

A two-week intensive, instructor-led program was deployed ensuring agents had the necessary skills to meet our newly defined KPIs.


Tools

Everything is measured. Call center KPI's are displayed on monitors and accessible to all agents. Performance coaching happens daily. Cross interaction dialogue is mandatory. When an agent learns something new, we established sharing strategies through IM's alerting everyone new information was added to KB. Each phone calls is recorded. Daily dashboards define progress and success.

100,000 phone calls later we saw that a 311 Call Center provided a consistent and higher level of care and support the organization hadn't seen before.


Conclusions



Callers frequently ask who we are and they heaped praise on our problem solving abilities. They noticed the difference. The level of appreciation for first contact resolution was noticeable.


KPI measurement ensured success. A 6% abandoned rate against a previous company average of 37%. A 94% answer rate. Wait times consistently less than 0:30 seconds. First contact resolution was 85%. Talk time varied but on average each interaction lasted approximately 2:00.


We saw a need to help other departments, so we did. When there are seasonality peak call periods, partnering with others shows a cohesiveness and willingness to improve everyone's KPI's.


The organization saved money by not having to hire new agents, or seasonal agents.


Survey results pointed to higher satisfaction levels, improving brand perception.


Senior leadership would tell disgruntled citizens to "call 311" when the need arose. This was the highest compliment received, knowing those leaders had placed their trust, faith and confidence in our new 311 Call Center.


Learn more at https://www.stlouisco.com/Gateway311