Congratulations to the City of Dallas for winning the Technology Solutions Award for Innovation from the Public Technology Institute (PTI)! Last year, the City of Dallas showed how government IT can lead with innovation through their enhanced Dallas311 service line, coined Easy Speak, and that effort was recognized last week with an award in the Innovation category. PTI holds the Technology Solutions Awards annually to recognize local governments for their use of technology to enhance government services and operations.
With this recent award win, Dallas has now been recognized twice for the Dallas311 Easy Speak system, as earlier this year they took home a Silver for Innovation in Customer Service at The Stevie Awards – a leading customer service award. These awards combined are a tremendous endorsement for the innovation and systems the City is implementing to use technology to improve service for Dallas citizens.
Recognizing the challenge
The Dallas311 city information phone system is the heart of how Dallas residents engage the city on non-emergency matters including utilities, licensing, building codes, and more. Last November, the City rolled out a significant update to Dallas311 named “Easy Speak” by implementing Nuance’s Conversational IVR (interactive voice response) with natural language understanding (NLU) to enable residents to get to information quicker and easier than ever before – all through natural, conversational dialogue.
Prior to the rollout, the existing IVR presented challenges for the caller experience. To offer better functionality and an improved experience, Dallas311 IT and customer service teams collaborated with Nuance to develop an innovative solution, and in November 2016 “Easy Speak” was launched.
From pushing buttons to “How can I help you?”
With the new Nuance NLU system, “Easy Speak” is improving the caller experience by allowing people to simply say what they want in their own words to get the information they need. Citizens no longer need to listen to phone mazes and press a number based on the option that seems most relevant to their reason for calling. Instead, this next-generation IVR allows for a more human interaction with technology by engaging callers in natural dialogue and intelligent conversation, starting the call off with “How can I help you today?”
Getting information from Dallas311 is now as simple as having a conversation. Callers now hear a prompt asking them: “How can I help you today?” and they can respond naturally, in their own words such as:
- “How can I get a new roll cart for trash pickup?”
- “Can someone help me with animal services?”
- “I have a question regarding code compliance.”
A specific area where the IVR is proving to be especially beneficial is for citizens calling about power and gas related issues. Dallas311 handles customer service pertaining to water, but not power or gas. During the implementation, it was discovered that many calls into the IVR were related to power outages and gas leaks, two areas that need to be handled with the providers directly. As a result, now when a citizen asks about power or gas, the NLU IVR system automatically routes them to the correct provider, saving time and energy for both citizens and agents.
Innovation yields positive benefits
By engaging callers in a conversational dialogue and directing them to the right information from the start, Dallas311 is reducing the overall time that people spend on the phone, as well as avoiding misrouted calls and unnecessary call transfers, both of which can be key areas of frustration for callers – and an added expense for the City.
The new system is also helping to improve Dallas311 agents’ experience by limiting the time that they spend routing and transferring calls, and allowing them to focus on those calls that require personal attention or action. It’s ultimately a win for both citizens and for Dallas311 in terms of increased convenience and more effective and efficient city services.
Early results from the system are positive and show a strong deflection of calls from Dallas311 agents, showing that citizens are resolving their questions and needs using the self-service options.
With the Innovation award, and industry recognition from PTI, it’s clear the City of Dallas and Easy Speak are making a difference to their citizens, showcasing how government IT leaders are driving positive change.