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City of Johns Creek Automates 24/7 Contact Center with Amazon Connect

2020

The City of Johns Creek, Georgia, a tree-laden suburb about thirty miles northeast of Atlanta, is proud of its forward-thinking approach to citizen engagement. According to Nick O’Day, the city’s chief data officer, “Johns Creek has always had this expectation that we would try to be better or do more in terms of innovation than the typical government would.” So when city staff identified a bottleneck in data transparency, Johns Creek answered the call.

The problem was pretty straightforward: Johns Creek’s reception staff were receiving between 50 and 100 calls a day with questions that all had the same answer. This required a substantial amount of duplicated effort and a slowed response time as staff worked through the queue of callers. Having so many citizens seeking the same information wasn’t a new problem—or one unique to Johns Creek—but the advancement of cloud functionality presented a new and simple solution: an open data portal.

Excited to have a foundation upon which to innovate, Johns Creek set up a website to access the open data and then set about identifying additional ways to give residents even more access to their answers while simultaneously easing the workload of city staff. Along with its website portal, Johns Creek decided to focus on building two additional access points: in-home help and a smart call center.

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Using Amazon Connect’s open platform, we’ve been able to seamlessly leverage quite a few AWS services to make the customer experience better."

Nick O’Day
chief data officer, City of Johns Creek

Bringing Answers Directly to Citizens’ Homes

Inspired by an idea he encountered at a conference, O’Day decided to build a chatbot with Amazon Lex, the natural language understanding service based on the same technology used by Amazon Alexa. The chatbot leveraged the city’s open data and was accessible to citizens of Johns Creek via an Amazon Alexa skill. Using the skill that O’Day and his colleagues developed, citizens ask Amazon Alexa devices questions about everything from park hours to property taxes and receive answers right in their own living rooms. Johns Creek was the first city to build an Alexa skill for such a purpose, garnering AWS’s attention and the city’s first AWS City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge Award in 2018. Amazed by the initial effectiveness, O’Day sought to apply the same infrastructure to a service that could assist even more citizens: an after-hours call center.

Better After-Hours Service

The city’s existing after-hours call center was a standard system with a call menu and voicemail. Citizens called in with questions about traffic tickets or upcoming events, but they had to wait until the next day to receive a response. To speed up the city’s response time, O’Day’s team created an elevated service using Amazon Connect, an AWS contact center service that could provide citizens with answers immediately.

O’Day describes how simple it was to use the graphical interface to customize Amazon Connect and for callers to navigate the system: “You build this flow of how you want the call to go. The call starts with a yes or no question. If they say yes, it goes this way; if they say no, then it goes that way, and they hear a different response.” In other words, Amazon Connect allowed Johns Creek to develop a “choose your own adventure” path toward an answer. The system also enabled O’Day to add a custom prerecorded human voice to lead callers through the system, humanizing the experience.

To implement and optimize the Amazon Connect call center, Johns Creek used Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly, a service that turns text into lifelike speech. Amazon Lex, built into Amazon Connect, listens to callers’ requests and first tries to answer the question; if it can’t, it pinpoints the appropriate department based on the keywords it hears and routes the call to the department’s voicemail. In the morning, staff members listen to the voicemails filtered through the system.

The results were dramatic: the number of voicemails decreased from up to ten a night (excluding weekends) to nearly zero, a success that earned the city its second AWS City on a Cloud award in late 2019. Soon after, the city activated the chatbot during the day, asking Amazon Lex to simply direct the call without trying to auto-answer questions.

Supporting Its Citizens 24/7 with Amazon Connect

Raising the level of service and making a bigger difference in citizens’ lives are what drive Johns Creek to innovate. In the month after Johns Creek initially rolled out their Amazon Connect contact center, the city successfully transferred 60 percent of incoming calls to the appropriate departments, cutting the city hall receptionist’s call volume by more than half. “It frees her up to be more attentive to citizens in need of more complex, hands-on assistance,” says O’Day. “As we’ve marched forward using Amazon Connect’s open platform,” O’Day continues, “we’ve been able to seamlessly leverage quite a few AWS services. It shows that we are willing to innovate and experiment with new features—not just for the sake of being innovative but to make the customer experience better.”

Nothing illustrates this more than how quickly Johns Creek was able to pivot when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. What started as an after-hours call center designed to provide greater support under normal circumstances came with unforeseen benefits during a crisis. Though Johns Creek city hall had to physically close its doors, residents could still access the contact center, now automated to be 24/7. The city was able to respond immediately to its citizens’ changing needs by configuring their existing chatbots to their regular contact center hours. This took all but five minutes with Amazon Connect. Thanks in part to AWS-backed innovation, Johns Creek was able to continue doing what a city should: support its citizens and provide a steady, calming presence in a time of crisis. “We’re telling the story that this whole open data thing is valuable to support our citizens,” says O’Day. “We’re trying to lead by example, and I think Johns Creek excels in that across the board.”

To learn more, visit https://aws.amazon.com/connect/.


About the City of Johns Creek

Incorporated in 2006, the City of Johns Creek in Fulton County is a suburb of Atlanta that emphasizes entrepreneurialism to spur economic growth. It was named Georgia’s safest city in 2017 and 2018 and has a nationally ranked school system.

Benefits of AWS

  • Reduced after-hours voicemails by 90%
  • Reduced receptionist call volume by 60%
  • Information delivered to citizens up to 2x faster

AWS Services Used

Amazon Connect

Amazon Connect is an easy to use omnichannel cloud contact center that helps companies provide superior customer service at a lower cost.

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Amazon Lex

Amazon Lex is a service for building conversational interfaces into any application using voice and text.

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Amazon Polly

Amazon Polly is a service that turns text into lifelike speech, allowing you to create applications that talk, and build entirely new categories of speech-enabled products.

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