PHA answering customers' questions with cutting-edge technology
    Can you say "high technology" and "public housing authority" in the same breath?
    At Philadelphia Housing Authority you can. 

    To PHA executive director Carl Greene, every housing authority resident and landlord is a customer and deserves at least the same high quality customer service they would find in the private sector. PHA's new state-of-the-art Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software developed with PeopleSoft has made it possible for PHA to increase customer satisfaction while cutting costs and increasing efficiency. 

    "This is not the typical software used by public agencies," says Greene, who has propelled PHA into the 21st century by insisting upon using innovative technology throughout the housing authority. 

    This fall, as part of its CRM initiative, PHA is rolling out its Integrated Voice Response (IVR) system, which will enable tenants, landlords, employees and vendors to receive automated information through a central call center. Although IVR systems are common in large corporations, they are not often found in the public sector. Just try to get through to your local post office. 

    "Typically," says Greene, "a public agency is detached from its customers. This system breaks down the barriers. It provides quick answers and a quick turnaround." 

    The IVR will help callers get basic information-rent balance, paycheck status, account information-or be transferred to a representative. Once transferred, the software will enable staff to pull up a customer's history immediately and help resolve the issue without transferring the customer multiple times. A case management component will enable staff to track resolution of the problem-a helpful feature if the customer calls a second time about the same issue. 

    The IVR system will not only increase customer satisfaction by providing accurate information in a timely manner, it will also increase employee productivity by freeing staff from responding to routine telephone inquiries. 

    PHA will also be able to spot problem trends through the system. "We'll be able to track client-landlord relationships in our Housing Choice Voucher program and see if clients have problems with a certain landlord," says Greene. 

    At the housing sites, PHA's superintendents, maintenance foremen and site managers are also using the Customer Relationship Management system to track work orders, order supplies and monitor service performance. Using wireless "tough books"-laptop computers developed by the U.S. Army to withstand frontline conditions-staff will be able to fill out inventory, billing, payroll information and submit data electronically by bouncing the signals off of PHA's own towers over the agency's own network. For PHA customers, this means quicker repairs and better property maintenance. 

    "This is unique in the public housing world," Greene points out.