Smarter Government: Buffalo’s 311 Call Center Assists Citizens Virtually

In March 2020, cities throughout the United States shut down authorities operations as a result of risk of the novel coronavirus. In Buffalo, N.Y., Mayor Byron Brown introduced that City Hall and different municipal buildings would near keep away from spreading the life-threatening illness.

Still, the town had to supply residents with very important companies. Oswaldo Mestre Jr., director of Buffalo’s Division of Citizen Services, was accountable for conserving the town’s 311 call center up and working.

“We still had to respond,” Mestre tells StateTech. “Police and our first responders still had to respond. But when it came to having a call center, our municipal call center is located within City Hall.” And so, it closed.

How Buffalo, N.Y., established a digital 311 call center shortly.

To work across the lack of a bodily area, Mestre labored with the University at Buffalo to undertake a Cisco Webex contact center answer. Within 48 hours, the municipal call center was able to work remotely, with operators seamlessly taking calls from their houses. Mestre estimates that standing up the digital call center would have taken about 30 days if not for the emergency state of affairs.

“We can do this all remotely, and it creates better operations. It took a little bit for us to get used to, and I can’t say enough good things about our staff and support,” Mestre says. “To be quite honest, I think this is the new normal.”

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Digital Transformation Aids Working from Home for Call Center

The Buffalo 311 call center continues to function nearly at this time, and Mestre believes that its observe file of success will pave the way in which for it to proceed working nearly sooner or later.

“We were very responsive to residents in the community,” he says. “There was an expectation that the call center would be there all the time. They must always be available to provide information and to process service requests and also to push information back out to residents in the community.”

MORE FROM STATETECH: Explore how U.S. cities have upgraded their call facilities for extra flexibilty.

Mestre advises different cities to comply with Buffalo’s lead in adopting digital call facilities.

“I would definitely endorse the municipalities doing this. A lot of things happen within cities, and it’s more efficient and effective if you can help streamline the pathway for residents to access city services,” Mestre says. “How we catalog all of those responses is also important. It’s incumbent upon cities to do that better. And I think doing it remotely and also making sure that we’re supporting those operations helps the city, and it helps us govern in the way that we’re supposed to.”

Reimaging the 311 call center as a digital operation was an act of smarter authorities, Mestre says. Instead of asking customers to step by a bodily entrance door, 311 is now a click on by a digital portal. 

“It’s always about the residents and keeping them first,” he provides.

Photography by Luke Copping

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