Philadelphia partners with Unisys to upgrade 311 system

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The city of Philadelphia has selected Unisys to build an enhanced customer relationship management system for its “Philly 311” program that provides citizens with non-emergency information about city services.

In an interview with StateScoop, Rosetta Carrington Lue, the deputy managing director and chief customer service officer for Philadelphia, said the upgraded system — based on Salesforce.com’s Service Cloud CRM Platform — will greatly enhance the city government’s customer service abilities.

“Since taking office, our mayor, Michael Nutter, has made it a strategic goal to change the atmosphere in the city with a more customer-oriented approach that really connects the government with those that live in the city,” Lue said. “What this system will allow us to do is reach the next level of quality in customer service.”

At the end of 2008, Philadelphia launched Philly 311, based on similar systems in large cities across the country. The basis was to create a non-emergency line that provides a way for city residents to connect with the government on issues of importance or to get questions answered on navigating city government.

The service was an early success, getting about 1.5 million calls per year. That also gave the city 1.5 million points of data of how residents use city government.

A Philly 311 pilot project was deployed in June 2014 with an initial user base of city employees and citizens and will begin the transition from the current system and facilitate the change management process.

This pilot will be followed by a citywide rollout in late 2014 that will incorporate lessons learned from the pilot, enabling more than 70 types of service requests and innovative, real-time citizen engagement programs throughout the city.

“This implementation is designed to help the City of Philadelphia build on the success of its Philly 311 constituent engagement initiative, which has been fielding citizen requests for information and service for more than five years,” said Crystal Cooper, vice president of public sector solutions at Unisys, in a release. “Due to the success of the project in engaging and connecting citizens to the city government, the Philly 311 CRM app is viewed as an essential tool for helping the city reach its goals of becoming one of the safest cities in America and making the city government work more efficiently and effectively.”

One of the most interesting parts of the new system will be its integration with Philadelphia’s geographic information system.

When users of the system call-in a complaint, it is plotted on a city map. That information can be used by city officials to see where the most comments and complaints come from. It can also help citizens.

Say for example, a resident is driving near Philadelphia’s famous art museum and hit a pothole. They decide to call Philly 311 to report it, but forgot what road they were on at the time. They can search other comments and see if other residents complained about the same pothole by simply looking at the map, and then give city officials a clear view of the problem at hand.

Lue also pointed out the system is available through the city’s 311 mobile app. She said there is a digital divide in Philadelphia, which features some lower income areas where residents do not always have Internet service in their homes. To help combat that, the mobile app gives residents another way to connect. The system is also available in 17 languages to help accommodate the 21 percent of city residents that do not use English as their primary language.

“For us its all about connect with the customer – and I call them customers – because that is how we view them within government,” Lue said. “We want to give them a first-class experience and upgrading this service will surely do that.”

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