be open, and yet, if they get online and get stuck and have a question, they need a way to have it answered.

We noticed we were getting e-mail questions all hours of the day. We also noticed transactions were occurring all hours of the day, so it was a logical step.

Older generations would consider that a luxury - to not only be able to do something online, but to be able to get support online, especially in a government arena. Younger generations are annoyed if they can't do something online and are told to go into an office to do it. So more and more, with the younger generation, it's not a luxury. It's not even a nicety. It will become a necessity. 

Q: How is staffing managed?

Cowart: Our 311 operators staff both the 311 telephone calls and the Live Assistance. The center is staffed at different levels throughout the day relative to call volume and live assistance statistics. Staffing consists of 14 full-time positions and three part-time. 3-11 handles, on average, 17,000 telephone calls a month and 2,000 Live Assistance sessions a month.

Watts: We [Utah Interactive] do the staffing from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. That's because the bulk of the questions come in during those hours. After that, we turn it over to another state location, so it's state employees at an alternate office who answer the questions during the off-peak hours.

We have four people who sit here and take chats, and answer e-mails and phone calls. They do all three things, and sometimes simultaneously.

The live chat is actually beneficial for us because it's freer than a phone call. You have a little bit more time to form a response. And it's quicker in a lot of cases than an e-mail because you have the immediate, back-and-forth response. Our customer support people really like the chat environment.    

Q: What kind of training does the staff get? Where do they get all the answers?

Watts: They knew all the answers because they were doing the phone calls and e-mails already. The issue with chat is you have to be on top of your game with grammar. You do with e-mail too. But with chat, because you're doing it so quickly, we have to hire people who excel in grammar.   


Q: What kinds of questions do people want answers to in the middle of the night?

Cowart: The calls cover the entire range of questions about government services, from how to pay traffic tickets to tax questions, to information about recreation classes, to court-related questions. Time of day doesn't seem to have any special correlation to the question type.

Watts: Because we support all of, I couldn't even explain the myriad questions we get - everything from what different agencies do, to specific support on an application.

I asked customer support to find out what they're getting after-hours versus during the day, and there are a few things that drive after-hours questions. The first, they said, is deadlines: People come down to the end of the month. For example, they're late on their vehicle renewal and have to get it done that night. They're really concerned about late fees. Or they're trying to pay their taxes at midnight and they want to know if they get it in at 11:30 p.m., does it still count?

They also get many questions about our leisure applications, like hunting and fishing licenses. People, after they've left work, have time to think about that sort of thing.

They also get a lot of homework-related questions. There

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen is the former editor of FutureStructure.