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Sacramento’s New CRM Platform for 311 Enhances Communication, Transparency

“IT officials in California’s capital city are already seeing positive results less than two weeks after launching a new customer resource management (CRM) platform for their 311 customer service center.

Sacramento temporarily postponed the launch of its new Salesforce CRM to enable a seamless transition to telework as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic took hold. But once employees were successfully working at home, CIO Maria MacGunigal – one of Government Technology magazine’s* Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers of 2020 – told Techwire the city was able to smoothly launch the CRM on April 15, in what is believed to be the first-ever such remote launch.

Initial results are encouraging, Ivan Castellanos, the city’s 311 manager, told Techwire recently: The number of 311 service requests coming in through the city’s portal and app has risen from an average of 20-25 percent to around 45 percent. Sacramento receives more than 1,000 311 calls per day. Among the takeaways:

• Sacramento’s 311 system dates to around 2008, and while employees were meeting the city standard of answering calls within 60 seconds at least 80 percent of the time, Mrudul Sadanandan, the city’s IT manager for enterprise applications, said officials wanted it to be “a true CRM for the whole city.” So they strategized how to deploy a solution that could aggregate all customer contact information into a central data repository. Other challenges were how to make it more responsive and adaptable to change on the front end.

“It was a little hard for the old system. So, we picked a solution which is what we consider the Cadillac in the market for CRMs,” Sadanandan said.

• Sacramento subscribed to Salesforce as a platform for developing its 311 CRM solution. Its primary contractor was Folsom-based Visionary Integration Professionals (VIP); subcontractor was New York-based StackNexus. The value of the 10-month contract is $479,000. The resulting 311 solution integrates with Redlands-based Esri’s Geographic Information System, with Microsoft Azure for identity management, and with Cisco Call Manager. It also integrates with the city’s Oracle customer care and billing system, and solutions such as Infor EAM, CityWorksCitizenServ and Chameleon.

“When I talk to other people who are running 311 systems,” MacGunigal said, “there’s still a lot of lack of integration deep into the back-end systems. A lot of the work also was related to integrations, so that we have deeply imbedded integrations with all of our major work order management systems now. And those are automated and available.” The new 311 offers residents the ability to track their issue with a ticket or reference number, then notifies them when it’s resolved. Residents can even “follow” a ticket or issue, or follow open tickets in their neighborhoods, to educate themselves on their communities. But it improves back-end communication as well, offering departments that use it a single-pane-of-glass view into a resident’s issues, or an issue’s history, to improve response. Currently, 311 officials use the system as do customer service staffers in parking, and animal care and control; and the Sacramento Police Department’s impact team that focuses on homelessness.

• Poised to deploy earlier this year, Sacramento decided instead to hold off while its staffers – including 311 employees – adjusted to telework.

“Call centers exist in remote configurations in private industry, but it’s pretty much unheard of in public sector to have call takers in their homes or distributed throughout a very diverse geography and answering calls and servicing our customers, and we made that transition this month out of necessity, MacGunigal said. “And I think we’re among the first to have done that. And in the midst of all that, we still were able to successfully transition” to the new CRM.”

• The pandemic has had and will have profound effects on the city and its services, MacGunigal said. So far, it has pushed Sacramento staffers to work remotely – perhaps more so than they would have otherwise. “Now that we’ve had this wide adoption of telecommuting, I don’t know that we could have done that without having had a crisis to help us move so quickly. It would have been harder for people,” the CIO said.

“Mass remote work” will likely continue in some way in the future, she added, which requires the city’s IT department to think strategically about how it delivers community services – and work to make them fully remote, easy to use and “accessible to the masses.” And as officials in Sacramento, like their counterparts around the world, work to understand the pandemic’s impact, the city and its IT department will likely have to re-evaluate what they do, MacGunigal said, to ensure initiatives are necessary and mission critical.

*Government Technology magazine is a publication of e.Republic, which also produces Techwire.