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Tue May 10, 2022 4:30 p.m.

The City of Buffalo’s successful use of a virtual 311 call center again captured national attention.

The current issue of StateTech magazine features the innovation of the city’s Citizen Services Division, which quickly implemented a remote 311 call center in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic forced the hotel to close of Buffalo City.

The publication also reported the city’s decision to continue using a virtual model to meet the non-emergency needs of Buffalo residents.

Mayor Byron Brown tasked Oswaldo Mestre Jr., director of Buffalo’s Citizen Services Division, with finding an immediate solution to keep the city’s 311 call center operational when COVID-19 abruptly forced center staff to work from home.

Mestre explained how he worked with the University at Buffalo to adopt a Cisco Webex contact center solution to set up the remote center within 48 hours.

The Buffalo 311 call center continues to operate virtually today, and Mestre said its track record of success will pave the way for it to continue operating virtually in the future.

“To be completely honest, I think it’s the new normal,” Mestre said. “We expect the call center to be there all the time. We must always be available to provide information and process service requests, as well as to return information to residents, and our virtual model does this seamlessly. »

In Brown’s recommended 2022-23 budget, he proposes to invest $1.5 million in a new customer management system (CRM) to further improve 311 call center operations.

StateTech magazine explores technology issues that state and local government information technology managers and workers face when evaluating and implementing service solutions. Buffalo’s 311 Virtual Call Center has won several innovation awards and has been featured in several IT and government publications.