Smart Speakers for 311 services

Smart Speakers for 311 services

Citizen expectations are on the rise, demanding faster, more efficient interactions with government entities along with instant access to information. In today’s digital world, citizens expect easy access to their city’s non-emergency services (311 services) and information about local news, events, and government resources. Their needs must be resolved by the city in a manner that is quick, collaborative, and innovative through multiple channels.

To respond to these expectations, state and local agencies are continuing their transformation journey as they explore new emerging technologies, and capabilities to implement flexible, efficient, and highly effective government solutions. Governments across the world are harnessing the power of voice technology to address the needs of citizens with greater efficiency, speed, and relevance.

Over the years, the mobile app has become a technological mainstay for any state or local organization. Voice technology provides similar benefits to agencies, both within an agency as well as to the public. Voice technology may to an extent ease customer access to government websites and applications.

Government & the digital innovation curve

Government agencies are often perceived as being behind the digital innovation curve, taking a significantly longer time to adopt new solutions than the private sector, with less enthusiasm and less skill. But in recent years, federal, state, and local agencies are challenging that perception. Creating and optimizing voice-enabled services has become a top priority for the government.
 
The pressures forcing this change are varied. From the public, they call for easy accessibility and user experience in government services. Internally, the government sees voice-enabled services as a way to cut costs and increase efficiency without diminishing customer service. 
 

What are the 311 services?

311 services are a non-emergency phone number for connecting people to city services and information, quickly and easily, via a communication channel of their choice. They provide general city and government-related information to citizens, local businesses, and visitors as well as perform various service requests intake on behalf of various city departments. These include bulky item collection, building construction inspection, graffiti removal, clean-up requests and to report property violations.
 

Cities embrace new & improved 311 services

The 311 call center provides various options to connect to a wide variety of non-emergency city services and general city information. Either by a live agent-assisted phone call or through the self-service web or mobile portal, it allows citizens to report a problem, request a service, check the status of a previously submitted service request, and obtain information regarding city programs or events. 
 
Smart cities are taking the lead to embrace the “next thing”: the voice-activated digital assistant. Cities like Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and so on are turning to voice assistants to field resident inquiries. 
 
Mississippi was the second state to launch an Alexa skill, with Utah being the first. Users can ask an Amazon or Google device regarding their common queries. The skill links to the MyMississippi platform, which contains user-specific data, such as driver’s licenses, hunting licenses, and weather alerts. With the help of a voice skill, smart speaker owners were able to vocalize their questions and in turn, expect an accurate and reliable answer. 
 
The Ask Mississippi Alexa skill has answers to more than 5,000 questions so far, and there are 1,500 unique utterances – or scenarios – built into the system. Additionally, the state agency phone directory was included in the functions of the skill. This follows a trend, where many local and state governments are going more digital, embracing the consumer tech in the form of mobile devices and virtual assistants.
 
Below are four ways where governments have implemented voice skills to improve the efficiency of service delivery.

 

  • Automate 311 & related services

Most 311 calls are simple information requests—questions about the hours of the public library, what roads will be closed during an event, or some other piece of information. These are all questions that could easily be answered by a voice assistant, either over the phone or via smart speakers. By having voice assistants handle simpler requests, cities can free up their call center workers to handle more complex citizen inquiries, providing better and faster service.
 
Sacramento County supports more than 1.5 million citizens. To provide the best possible service and support to internal agencies and citizens, Sacramento County created an Alexa voice skill to integrate data from different sources and optimize how residents interact with its 311 services across channels. With voice capability, Sacramento County has been able to automate previously manual processes to free up its communications center staff to focus more on customer service, collaboration, and public engagement.
  

  • Make Open Data accessible for non-technical users

Open Data has significant potential to provide benefit to the public. Data has been referred to as the new oil because both have latent value, in that they must be transformed to realize their full potential. 
 
When government data are made accessible and re-usable, they enable individuals, organizations, and even governments themselves to innovate and collaborate in new ways. This gives citizens new ways to engage with their governments and contribute to the improvement of public services. For instance, citizens can use Open Data to contribute to public planning or provide feedback to government agencies on service quality. In short, Alexa skills that incorporate Open Data can offer a new channel for residents to ask their municipality questions about city services or submit service requests via their Amazon Echo devices.
 
The Information Network of Kansas (INK) and the Kansas Information Consortium (KIC) partnered with the Commission to create the Kansas Real Estate Alexa skill. This voice-enabled tool uses an Amazon device to provide accurate real estate information that is easily accessible by licensees, members of the industry, educators, and the public. They use an open data site that offers an updated list of questions to the citizens.
 
Taking a normal scenario, a user may find the experience interesting the first and second time they use the skill but after that, they will keep running into the same information and might no longer see value in using the skill. Using an open data site can help the state agencies to pull information that is related and different every time, the citizen comes back to use the skill.
 
Enhancing communication with residents is an important pillar of a government’s full digital maturity. Pairing AI with open data streamlines the public’s access to information by mirroring private-world digital experiences while saving valuable staff time through reduced information requests, research, and follow-up. In the evolution of an agency’s AI use, it is proving to be a functionality worth considering.
 

  • One-stop solution for common civic needs

To improve efficiency and provide its citizens with the best possible service, the City of Albuquerque selected a voice skill to support its 311 services. With a voice capability, they were able to implement a new conversational interface that allows residents to ask the Alexa voice-activated system to help with a range of requests from finding a lost pet to scheduling a large package pickup, removing graffiti, getting rid of litter or reporting an abandoned car.
 

  • Skipping the lines and avoiding waiting times

Cities and citizens have benefited greatly from 311 services where implemented. The result was quicker and more efficient resolutions for citizens and more data for cities to use to improve local government service delivery. But as populations grow, it gets more and more difficult to handle the volume of phone calls to 311 and meet target service levels. 
 
311 services have evolved with technological advances into a multi-channel (Omni-Channel) service that connects citizens with government agencies. By leveraging smart speakers to deliver 311 services, agencies can efficiently and economically expand their service offerings to a platform that more and more of their citizens are relying upon.
How do voice skills benefit citizens?
Voice-enabled technology can offer a positive and more efficient shift in how agencies operate and function and how employees use technology, in addition to how the technology serves the public. 
 

Following are the few benefits from having a voice skill

  • Multiple channels to submit service requests.
  • Guaranteed follow-up and response.
  • Convenient channels to help improve neighborhoods and share opinions and suggestions.
  • Through the use of integrated voice applications, the ability to report issues when identified, and even include photos with geotagged locations for efficient documentation.
To conclude,
Digital innovation is no longer optional for government agencies and 311 remains the key point of contact between the city government and its residents. New data and technology capabilities offer great potential for the continued development where cities can improve the speed and effectiveness of their interactions with residents. Voice technology complements and expands existing 311 service methods for reporting issues and requesting service. 
 

How can we help you?

Through a voice skill that is customizable and scalable.
  • Customized- No matter what services are offered; we can create a voice skill to work with your data. We sit with your team to enable a customized offering for your citizens.
  • 24*7*365 one-on-one service to your citizens no matter what the time is.
  • Scalable- You can scale this offering to other parts of your organization and help offer much more to your citizens.