Many tasks in the municipal administration are divided by topic instead of by process. In most cases, there is no central point of contact where residents can find information from a single authoritative source.
The city of Cologne’s goal was to create a municipal call center to serve as a central point of contact for all citizen inquiries, successfully resolve issues on the first call and serve as a role model to other cities. This saves residents from long and unnecessary wait times and simultaneously reduces the workload across 60 different city offices.
Due to the wide variety of topics involved, an integrated knowledge management solution was crucial to enabling service staff to quickly find and access support documents on-demand, and respond with accurate answers.
The many letters of thanks we’ve received clearly shows the positive impact of our improved service on the residents of Cologne, who appreciate the fast, friendly service as well as the competence and quality of the information provided.
Axel Hansen, Deputy Head of Citizens’ Helpline, City of Cologne
City of Cologne, Germany
Public sector / government
Provide citizen services for 2.5 million residents, 1.1 million calls per year, >85 % first contact resolution rate
Once the project begun, the first task was structuring and classifying the huge volume of content. The prerequisite for high quality service was the ability to share knowledge between relevant city government offices to service agents and finally to local residents. To this end, the city implemented USU’s predictive knowledge management solution which ensured quick and easy access to 15,000+ internal and external documents.
Agents also benefit from the ability to search for natural language instead of classic keywords and can search for inquiries as citizens describe them. The system automatically qualifies and filters visible results and learns from the most used for ongoing search algorithm improvement. As part of the ongoing customer relationship, from 2002 to 2017 the system was continually optimized and customized to the city’s needs and has servs as the basis for consistent, high-quality service in both the past and future.
With over a million residents, the city receives an average of 6,000 calls per day and up to 10,000 during special events such as Carnival. Agents provide support for 4,000 different topics across all municipal services and matters. In addition, appointments are made, complaints received and managed and special services provided. Despite the high call volume and range of issues, 85% of inquiries are resolved in the first call.
The average response time is now less than 15 seconds. For the more complex questions, the back office is able to return calls within two hours.
Word of Cologne’s success has spread and neighboring cities such as Bonn, Leverkusen, Siegburg, Bergisch Gladbach and the Rhein-Erft district now use the services and infrastructure of Cologne’s contact center.
At the end of 2015 the city of Cologne’s citizens’ hotline was also switched to the to the standardized public authority number 115. The initiative for a nationwide uniform public services number was based on the successful model of Cologne.
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