“We got lucky that we were able to identify a great partner in Twilio, and we were able to move exceptionally fast,” Garces said. “The change has been incredibly positive.”
For 311 operators, the change was as impactful as it was simple. The city had trimmed its support staff due to some individuals being more at risk, but Twilio Flex gave all operators—even the more at risk ones— the ability to handle the increased volume far more efficiently.
So efficiently, in fact, that some operators thought the system had broken.
“When we implemented Twilio, it was funny because it was the first time in a few weeks that we were able to have everyone working again, and able to take calls and handle them at the same time,” Garces said. “So the volume was spread across more people and some were disconcerted that we suddenly weren’t getting as many calls. Well, they were getting the same amount of calls, it’s just that we had more people able to take those calls at an increased capability and capacity.”
The system has proven far more efficient already, Garces said, thanks to a new interactive voice response (IVR) functionality that has enabled operators to better triage calls. That means callers spend less time waiting and the system has far fewer abandoned calls.
O’Toole said the 311 team is excited to try out some additional capabilities, like programmable messaging and chat, now that their new Flex solution is up and running smoothly.
“We’ve only explored a small percentage of the opportunities,” he said. “Now that we’ve gotten over this initial hurdle, we can breathe a bit and be more forward-thinking about what we can do now that we couldn’t do before.”
For O’Toole, it was rewarding to be able to respond to a challenge so quickly, and with a solution that will prove valuable now and far into the future, he said.
“There’s a stereotype that government moves slowly, which obviously there can be truth to, but we need to manage taxpayer money as carefully and responsibly as we can,” he said. “This was a moment in which we were forced to move fast, and I think we nonetheless remained good stewards for our residents. It was a great chance to show we can be agile when a crisis hits.”