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Grand Rapids 311 pens Microsoft deal, earns 'Oscars of utility awards'

Grand Rapids 311 logo
Courtesy image

Municipal customer service may not seem an inherently exciting topic, until you talk to Becky Jo Glover. 

Glover is the customer service manager for Grand Rapids’ 311, which handled more than 265,000 resident questions and interactions this past fiscal year.

“We’ve literally taken calls that they thought we would never take here," she says. "We took that in the first five months.” 

Grand Rapids first began transitioning city departments into 311 two years ago. The city launched a full roll-out of 311 for public use in October 2014.

Glover calls it a 'one-stop shop' for phone, web and in-person services.

“[311 is about] connecting the dots. So instead of a person having to call 266 phone numbers, they can call one place and we can help them with any service, no matter what that is," she says. "One call, one person. We have everything at our finger tips."

And Glover says the city's 311 is the first in the nation to tackle all water department inquiries – service turn-ons and shut-offs, customer billing, any other calls that come in.

That earned Grand Rapids national recognition at the 2015 CS Week Conference - an annual North American utility services conference - and its Expanding Excellence Award for Innovation in Customer Service. Glover calls that "the Oscars of utility awards." 

The system has also gained the attention of Microsoft, which has licensed tools developed by the city into its business management software.

“The other thing [Microsoft has] done is the way we do our scripting – how we do all of our business here, and giving the answers back," Glover says. "We’ve actually done an entire training guide in how you can do that and format it, and that’s now become the protocol in [Microsoft Dynamic CRM] 2015.”

Glover says more than 200 city-related processes have changed due to 311, at a cost-savings of $1.2 million.

Moving forward, she says the department is working on new ways for residents to interact with 311 and the city online. That includes viewing recent calls and reports by neighborhood.

She’s also advocating for a truly bilingual experience and buy-in with the city’s sizable Hispanic population.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.