Voice processing speeds Sacramento customer service

Voice processing speeds Sacramento customer service – County of Sacramento, CA; Octel Communications Corp.’s interactive voice processing

Eva Ware

With a multi-billion dollar budget deficit and a population still growing at a break-neck California must contend with both escalating demand for public services and plummeting financial resources.

In a move to address both the demand for new and/or improved services and dwindling resources – particularly from a staffing perspective – the County of Sacramento implemented a suite of integrated voice information processing solutions from Octel Communications Corp.

To date, the county has installed a wide range of voice processing applications designed not only to boost responsiveness, expedite communication with the public and increase staff productivity, but, in short, to allow the county to “do more with less.”

The county is using voice information processing applications for a variety of services designed to increase communication with the public, including a Well Baby Line for expectant, low-income mothers; a Household Hazardous Waste Line to inform the public about recyclable materials and the disposal of household toxic wastes; and a Bid Line designed to inform vendors of upcoming projects at the Public Works Department and the County Purchasing Division.

The county also uses OctelForms to inform lawyers about the disposition of Superior Court cases, and uses IVR (interactive voice response) to allow callers to interact by telephone with information in computer databases.

The Treasurer/Tax Collector’s Office was in dire need of additional resources. With a 300% growth in direct levies since passage of Proposition 13, a 168% increase in notification to taxpayers since 1987 and issuance of more than 400,000 tax bills each year, the Treasurer/Tax Collector’s staff was inundated with questions and requests for information and explanations. In fact, when property tax bills were mailed out each year, the office received between 8,000 and 11,000 call attempts per day from concerned, confused and/or irate taxpayers – the majority of whom were requesting routine information.

Nearly 90% of these calls, however, didn’t make it to a tax specialist; most received a busy signal.

To counter this problem, the Telecommunications Division and Systems and Data Processing Department worked together with the Treasurer/Tax Collector’s office to develop and implement an IVR application. The new application enables residents with property tax issues to enter their 14-digit parcel number and listen to information about their specific tax liability for the current and/or prior year.

Hiring new employees to manage the swelling demand for public services simply isn’t economically feasible for the County of Sacramento. Instead, voice information processing solutions enable the county to increase the level and responsiveness of service to the public by extending service hours, simplifying access to routine data dissemination and freeing up staff time to handle problems and issues that require personal attention – all without requiring more employees.

IVR also provides general information, allows callers to request a duplicate copy of their tax bill and to respond to an opinion survey – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. During normal office hours, callers also can access one of the office’s tax specialists simply by pressing the 0 key.

The system was launched right before the annual tax statement mailing. On its first day, the system increased caller service by 1,000% without any increases in staffing. In fact, 4,389 calls were answered that first day versus the previous maximum of 400 calls that the staff was capable of answering in one day. According to feedback from the on-line opinion survey, 95% of users approve of the new system.

The Information Center Mailbox is used for the Sheriffs Department/Jail Division to provide information on the disposition of incarcerated individuals, freeing up the Sheriff’s Department staff. The Superior Court application enables lawyers to quickly and efficiently check the outcome of civil court cases. Previously, callers had to listen to a 30-minute loop tape to check the results of cases – an inefficient, time-consuming process.

To date, the systems support more than 1,370 individual voice mailboxes and 10 enhanced applications. The demand for new applications in the county has been rapidly growing. There are currently 16 different IVR or automated attendant applications under consideration, pending funding.

COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group