The City of Buffalo’s successful use of a virtual 311 call center has once again received national attention.
The current issue of StateTech magazine features the innovation of the city’s Division of Citizen Services, which rapidly established a remote 311 call center in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of Buffalo City Hall.
The publication also reported the city’s decision to continue using a virtual model to respond to the non-emergency needs of Buffalo residents.
Mayor Byron Brown tasked Oswaldo Mestre Jr., director of Buffalo’s Division of Citizen Services, to find an immediate solution to keep the city’s 311 call center up and running when COVID-19 abruptly forced the center’s staff to work from home.
Mestre explained how he worked with the University at Buffalo to adopt a Cisco Webex contact center solution to set up the remote center within 48 hours.
The Buffalo 311 call center continues to operate virtually today, and Mestre said its track record of success will pave the way for it to continue operating virtually in the future.
“To be quite honest, I think this is the new normal,” Mestre said. “There is an expectation that the call center would be there all the time. We must always be available to provide information and to process service requests, and also to push information back out to residents, and our virtual model is doing that seamlessly.”
In Brown’s recommended 2022-23 budget, he proposes investing $1.5 million for a new customer management system (CRM) to further improve 311 call center operations.
StateTech magazine explores technology issues that state and local government IT leaders and workers face when they’re evaluating and implementing service solutions. Buffalo’s virtual 311 call center has earned multiple innovation awards and has been featured in several IT and government publications.