A: The City of St. Louis has a centralized call center – the Citizens’ Service Bureau (CSB) – which was established in 1985. The CSB takes citizen service requests for all City operating departments, such as Parks & Forestry, Streets & Refuse, Building Division, Health Department, and Animal Control. Prior to implementing Cityworks, all of these requests (120,000/year on average) were entered into a DOS-based system. The system was bulky and difficult to run at offices outside of City Hall. Since most operating departments are not in City Hall, this made sharing data between the call center and the departments very cumbersome. As a result, many departments developed their own in-house databases (usually in MS Access) to keep track of the data that was important to them.
The old system had very limited functionality such as a single entry screen, regardless of the problem type. Because it had no Q&A scripting, it took a long time to train our Customer Service Representatives. They had to memorize what information to ask callers about each problem code. Also, CSRs could only search the records by either service request number or address. Because the system was not GIS-based, the address could be entered any number of ways, further complicating a search. In spite of the searching difficulties, CSRs were required to manually search for an existing request before entering a new request while on the call with a citizen. This was the only way to prevent duplicates from being sent to the operating departments.
The old system also presented many challenges for managers. Because the data was difficult to retrieve, very few managers were able to look at trends in their request data. With Cityworks’ robust search screen, managers can now drill down into their data for any given time frame, for any given ward, etc. Managers can also now create reports on the fly with the Export to Excel function. In the past, they had to ask the IT Department to create a new report for them or be limited to the standardized reports already created by IT.
Q: How is Cityworks being utilized at the City?
A: Since January 1, 2009, the City of St. Louis has been using Cityworks to track all citizen service requests. Most of the requests begin at the call center where a CSR takes the citizen call and codes their request so that it will be routed to the proper City agency. Our requests get routed to approximately 55 agencies (granted some of those get only a handful of requests each year). The following seven agencies receive 80% of the requests:
Animal Care & Control
Operation Brightside (graffiti removal)
Q: What benefits have been realized at the City because of Cityworks?
A: The most immediate benefit was the ability to have CSB staff and the Traffic Dispatchers working directly in the same system. Prior to Cityworks, dispatchers logged all of the service calls they answered on handwritten sheets. This meant CSRs at CSB had no way of knowing if they were entering a request that a dispatcher had already responded to. Dispatchers and CSB staff all trained on Cityworks at the same time and began using it in sync, thus eliminating the paper process and allowing staff at each location to be aware of what the other had reported. If one citizen reported a streetlight out to the dispatcher at midnight and another citizen reported the same light out to CSB the next morning, but in the meantime the dispatchers had a shift change, they frequently dispatched a second truck to fix a light that had already been repaired, costing the City time and money.
A similar success story comes from the Forestry Division. They used to maintain three separate Access databases for tracking tree, weed, and debris violations. They would print out the requests from CSB system and then reenter them into their database. Now they can work entirely within Cityworks. And because we are all in the same system, CSB can answer citizen follow-up calls without having to call Forestry for an update.
Even prior to Cityworks being implemented, our citizens were asking for a way to submit their requests online. We created an online form for this, but it was again a generic form with no scripted questions and answers. After citizens submitted the form, the data was dumped into a .csv file which we then had to upload into our DOS system each morning in order to pull a request number. We then manually emailed each citizen back to give them that request number. Because of Cityworks’ open back-end table structure, we were able to create a citizen online interface that mirrors the Q&A used at CSB, immediately inserts the record into the Cityworks tables, and instantly provides the citizen with a request number.
Q: What are your future plans for Cityworks?
A: We currently have one department (Forestry) utilizing the work order side of Cityworks to track tasks related to service delivery. We will soon be adding work orders for the Refuse Division. Now that Cityworks Server is available, we’ll be implementing this web application so that field employees can also be connected to our live data. Slowly, we also hope more departments will start using Cityworks’ asset management features – to keep track of tree maintenance, traffic signal maintenance, etc.
Q: What is your overall take on Cityworks?
A: Thinking back, it is hard to imagine how we ever functioned without Cityworks. The amount of time spent maintaining numerous silos of data and the duplicate data entry required in doing so was really slowing down our ability to deliver services. As a result of implementing Cityworks, operating departments are starting to realize what a gold mine of data they have at their fingertips and are now discovering ways to use that data to manage their operations more efficiently.
With Cindy Riordan, Customer Service Manager, St. Louis, Missouri