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Who do people call if they have a city tax question? In a growing number of cities, they call a 311 call center. Those centers are equipped to answer questions and pass service requests to appropriate agencies.

In many municipalities, requests for information account for 60 percent to 75 percent of calls. People have questions such as "What are the library hours on the weekend?" or "What's the current tax assessment on my house?"

Call center employees can usually answer those questions quickly using a customer relationship management application. CRM tools typically include a database of frequently asked questions or Google-like search technology that searches government Web sites and, in some cases, internal databases.

"We have a first-call resolution of over 80 percent, meaning that more than four out of five calls do not need to go any further than our customer service professionals because their service request has been entered or their question has been answered," said Don Stickney, call center manager for Minneapolis 311.

"That's a tremendous improvement over what the experience was before, when people had to choose from one of 275 city phone numbers in the blue pages," Stickney said.

About the Author

Heather Hayes is a freelance writer based in Clifford, Va.

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