City’s computers automate responses to residents
In 1998, Chicago was using an outdated computer system to track residents’ service requests. City officials were faced with the option of updating the system for Y2K or replacing it. To help make that decision, city officials investigated how residents requested city services, such as garbage collection, fallen tree removal and street clearing, and how well the city responded to those requests with its old computer system.
Officials concluded that the old system no longer met the city’s needs and decided to replace it with one that would improve communication between departments and reduce the response time to residents’ requests. City officials also wanted a computer system that could generate information to help departments improve service delivery.
In May 1999, the city created a 311 call center to handle all non-emergency phone calls from residents. It installed a server and about 75 PCs and began using enterprise-wide software developed by Schaumburg, Ill.-based Motorola to track departments’ responses to the calls. The software facilitates coordination among departments in situations that require a multi-agency response. It alerts the appropriate department when one phase of work ends and another is ready to begin, thus reducing costly delays.
Chicago’s goal with the software is to automate responses to residents’ requests for services. (Residents can call 311, call a city department or alderman, or visit the city Web site to request services.) No matter how residents contact the city, their requests are logged and tracked using the software.
The service request system has improved efficiency by:
Simplifying communication. Residents can call one phone number, visit the city Web site or visit one city agency to enter any request for service.
Reducing response time.
Producing real-time reports. Managers can access trends and response times for specific types of requests, which helps them highlight outstanding performance and target efficiency needs.
Broadening phone directory access. Chicago is taking advantage of the system to implement a citywide phone directory, which can be accessed on the Internet. Individual departments update the directory.
The service request system has helped the Department of Sewers reduce its response time in certain areas by 83 percent, and the Bureau of Electricity has saved hundreds of hours by using the system to identify duplicate requests for street light repairs. Additionally, the city has reduced its auto impound inventory from 120 percent of capacity to 80 percent of capacity. The system processes all activities related to abandoned and towed vehicles — from the time a tow request is made through the time the impounded vehicle is released. Automobiles no longer stay in the impound lot because of information processing snafus.