Blog Category: Implementation

Setting a New Standard — the Future of Constituent Experience

Learn how Catalyst, equipped with Salesforce technology, is helping local governments modernize their public services and deliver better experiences for their constituents.

Imagine there are two tasks you need to accomplish in one day, and a good friend offers to take care of whichever you think is harder. The first task is to return a pair of shoes you bought from an online retailer. The second is to notify your local government of a pothole on a major road that has doubled in size in the last two months.

Which task would you give to your friend?

The standard for customer experience has risen rapidly in recent years. Both B2C and B2B customers expect seamless, personalized experiences from businesses that treat them like real people. Notably, digitally-facilitated customer service is increasingly the norm with technology serving us across many – almost every – use case that is modern, connected life. This has contributed to and has driven the high expectations for digital customer experiences. Public sector and local governments aren’t granted exceptions to these customer service expectations and standards. Yet, in many cases, there’s a significant gap between the experiences customers have versus the ones they have as citizens or constituents of their local governments.

At Catalyst, we’re committed to closing that gap.

We are the 3-time winning Salesforce Partner Innovation Award recipient. Of those three awards, two were awarded in the Government & Public Sector category with one in Transportation & Travel. Our implementations for the City of Toronto, Toronto 311 (2022), Port of Seattle (2020), and the City of Chicago, CHI311 (2019) earned this accolade three out of four consecutive years. Each project drove revolutionary transformation in how these organization serve and build trust with their publics. The work in each project impacted numerous departments and touched several technology solutions, with Salesforce serving as a “glue” or common source of truth. In this article we’ve chosen key details that demonstrate and provide models for constituent-centered government technology. Read on for a closer look at how modernizing technology can improve constituent experiences.


In the winter of 2020 alone, the 311 (non-emergency) team for the City of Toronto received more than 10,000 phone calls related to winter weather concerns.

Before modernizing their systems with Salesforce, the processes for receiving, tracking, and resolving service request cases like these weather concerns were very manual and disconnected. Lack of integration between their systems and piecemeal workflows for different kinds of service requests made it slow and expensive to resolve cases, with limited ways to collaborate across departments.

We sent our team of government technologists to overhaul the underlying technology with a revamped CRM built on Service Cloud, equipped with a custom-built public-facing mobile app and web portal. Both the app and the web portal make things simple, easy, and clear for Torontonians with a single intake form that dynamically responds to the scope and variety of the public’s needs with nearly 600 different service request offerings. Requesting city services to address potholes, graffiti, or a traffic light malfunction, is unprecedentedly easy with a variety of channels to best appeal to constituents’ preferences for their 311 experiences. Whether it’s via email, social media, the web portal, the mobile app, or with the assistance of Salesforce Live Agent on the web and mobile platforms, there is no wrong door to access Toronto’s government services.

Constituents can now receive convenient email, SMS, and push notifications with real-time updates on their service requests, which improves transparency and trust in the city government’s abilities to serve its stakeholders. With “Explore”

functionality built into the mobile app and the web portal, existing service request cases surrounding a given address are suggested to be viewed when a constituent types in that given location. This enables stakeholders to opt in for updating notifications, even though they may not have been the individual who originally reported the concern.

And with boosted constituent satisfaction and unprecedentedly easy ways to get in touch with local government, Toronto 311 is on track to receive twice as many cases per year — from about two million to 4.6 million.

Port of Seattle

With more than 50 million flyers traveling through SEA-TAC airport every year, it’s easy to imagine how the slightest inefficiencies in digital operations can have an immense impact on constituent experiences. Before working with Catalyst, the Port of Seattle (which oversees the airport and other critical infrastructure) had a disconnected digital ecosystem spread between siloed platforms, which was impeding on their abilities to offer efficient customer service experience. Across the Port’s domains for Airport Customer Experience (ACE), Commission Services (CS), and External Relations (ER), processing and responding to constituents communications was subject to inefficient technical operations.

Our Catalyst team unified all of the Port’s disconnected systems under the Salesforce Customer-360 umbrella, bringing communications, marketing, event management, and other functions together into a centralized platform. This enables constituents with the ability to contact ACE with questions, complaints, concerns, compliments, and comments about their experience at SEA-TAC through social media, email, text (SMS/MMS), and web form. AI-powered tagging features categorize constituents’ communications, which allows the organization to automatically vet, triage, and assign cases for the fastest follow-up and resolve. With decreased resolution times for airport travelers by more than 16%, constituents get faster, clearer communication.

With our implementation, the airport is also equipped to send SMS alerts to notify travelers of happenings within the airport. Constituents are immediately in-the-know with real-time updates on everything from construction update to airport concessions.

Travelers are also now empowered with self-service options in a mobile-responsive web form, hosted on SEA-TAC’s website, where inquiries are met with informational knowledge articles. This cuts the volume of instances in which an individual would have to contact airport departments.

And the momentum continues, as we’ve just started an additional project with the Port of Seattle to enhance their call center operations!


It’s easy to forget that the original digital transformation movement started by turning analog, paper-based systems into digital processes. Before partnering with our Catalyst team, if Chicagoans reached out to the 311 department about a pothole, snow removal, graffiti blasts, streetlight repair, or other non-emergency requests, the 311 employee had to search through physical binders with hundreds of pages to find the information they needed. Callers often had extensive waits on hold, even for simple, purely informational requests like an updated ETA for fixing their pothole.

With a vision for transparency, efficiency, and constituent satisfaction, the City of Chicago partnered with us to usher their 311 department into the 21st century with the build of a public-facing web portal, a best-in-class, modern website, and their first-ever public-facing app. Fitting of modernized government service delivery, Chicagoans can self-serve and access city information, as well as request services via multiple channels outside of calling 311.

Now, a comprehensive — yet concise — digital library of over 500 knowledge articles on the website and mobile app provide constituents the information they need to answer their own questions. In situations requiring service request, individuals can remain updated from submission to completion with real-time updates presented in the portal, as well as via push notifications from the mobile app.

With “Explore” capabilities enabling visibility on Chicago’s processing of requests in any given neighborhood, constituents are granted transparency and the means for accountability of their city. This improves trust and rapport between the public and the government entities that serve them through a constituent-first lens. Through

efficient technology, the City of Chicago is now providing greater transparency, faster services, and improved communication with its residents.

In pursuit of better government services

The future of constituent experiences will be shaped by forward-thinking, innovative leaders who prioritize seamless technology operations and a constituent-first approach. Our team of government technologists here at Catalyst are up for the challenge, and as a minority-owned business, we take the responsibility of building technology that works for EVERYONE very seriously.

Our implementations with the City of Toronto, Seattle, and Chicago demonstrate what the future of connected government and public sector organizations can and will offer to their constituents with investment in world-class technology – improved efficiency, no-wrong-door approach with multiple communication and engagement channels, enriched trust, transparency, and equity.

If you’d like to learn more about our public sector technology capabilities, or have any questions for our team, please reach out — we’d love to hear from you.

The Art and Science Behind a Robust, Scalable Salesforce Case Categorization Model

This blog post was written by Luke Kotowski, Senior Salesforce Solution Architect here at Catalyst. Luke discusses how to implement an impactful case categorization model that accurately describes records housed within a Salesforce CRM. He underscores the importance of such a model as it can heighten employee morale, minimize manual labor, improve data quality, and lead to time savings that translate into higher quality customer service.

Any Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application worth having should illuminate trends in your data that inform how to improve your business processes. After all, why collect reams of data in a CRM if not to help your organization do better work? The categorization model used to describe your data is paramount–it must equip end users with digestible, clear verbiage that describe their day-to-day responsibilities accurately.

Designing a categorization model requires deliberate and careful thought— you need to make sure the available options are varied enough that they can describe all possible scenarios, but not so many that the model becomes challenging to use. Identifying this point of diminishing returns is key to striking the correct balance.

Below, we detail how Catalyst navigated these considerations with Salesforce Service Cloud as we stood up a categorization model for a customer service organization within a major international airport in the Pacific Northwest.

We’ve found success by infusing new life into traditional picklists by soliciting end user feedback on the values available in reference records, as well as tapping into artificial intelligence to make the categorization process easier.

Picklists Need a Pick-Me-Up

Yikes, look at all these picklists.

The standard CRM categorization system is the picklist — a drop-down list of pre-selected values that allow users to assign data to a defined category. Picklists are helpful because they standardize data entry and improve data quality while supplying guardrails against inconsistent formatting.

While picklists are integral to data collection, the experience of using them is decidedly uninspiring.

Nothing makes an end user decide to take an early lunch like seeing a wall of required drop-down fields staring back at them from their screen. It’s time-consuming and feels antiquated, not to mention that the process of filling out a series of picklists, arranged in a pre-determined order, does not accommodate how people naturally want to discuss the phenomena around them.

Think about it. If you were to sit two people down and ask them to describe a customer interaction, the first might begin by discussing the overarching theme of the interaction, while the second might remark on the location the customer visited to prompt the outreach.

If we can create a model that allows our users to describe their work on their own terms, then we can create an intuitive user experience that does not compromise the value or accuracy of categorization.

While we want to make sure to offer users the necessary latitude to categorize their work accurately and efficiently, it’s equally important to make sure that the organization uses a consistent language that scales with the enterprise. For our client in the Pacific Northwest, the answer to creating this shared language lay in using reference data.

A Data Model by the People, for the People

We are reference data evangelists here at Catalyst. Correctly implemented, reference data has a broad range of uses that can be used to control many different types of system behavior without actually changing any Salesforce configuration. For example, reference data records might inform the physical locations in an airport that a representative can associate with a Case, as they do for our client in the PNW.

We always advise that a select group of business superusers – not an administrator – create and maintain reference data records. That way, the solution empowers users to create the language they themselves use to describe their work, while also lessening the burden of maintenance on the administrator.

We also recommend that there be a proposal process for new reference data values. Even though most users should not be able to insert reference records on their own, it’s imperative to keep the entire user base engaged in the work of designing the model. Allowing them to propose new reference records can help ensure that their ideas are heard while ensuring that they are properly vetted out.

We saw this democratic method at play with our client as we implemented their solution; their team brainstormed values to describe cases related to COVID-19 and selected the options viewed most favorably by most stakeholders. As we move into 2021, we’re confident their users will be able to leverage the reference data framework we created to accommodate the ever-broadening topics of conversation that customers reach out about.

Easy as AI

Let’s say our picklists – and the values available within them – are agreed upon. There’s one more step to take before we can get to work serving customers: machine learning.

Applying standards consistently across cases can be difficult, and the variance in data quality will scale with the size of a service organization, as enforcing categorization standards becomes difficult due to the subjectivity that each newly onboarded resource introduces.

To minimize the possibility of human error as part of our implementation, we used Salesforce’s Einstein Case Classification (ECC) product. ECC uses the power of Salesforce’s artificial intelligence technology to predict case field values based on historical data.

By comparing the subject and description values of past cases against their user-selected field values, Einstein develops a sense of the commonalities between cases with the same values. ECC then uses this information to make predictions as to what field values should be on incoming cases without introducing any additional subjectivity into the equation, saving users time and allowing for a consistent application of your categorization model.

Setting up an ECC model is straightforward—there’s no need for code.

ECC is a relatively new product, having first arrived as part of Salesforce’s Winter ’20 Release.

Standing up an ECC prediction model is simple and accomplishable entirely through configuration. But given its position towards the left of the maturity curve, we set the expectation with our client that ECC is intended to augment the human aspect of the categorization process rather than replace it entirely.

We see ECC-recommended values as suggestions—they provide a solid starting point for the categorization process rather than acting as its be-all and end-all. As the Einstein suite of products matures, it may become possible to defer to ECC more definitively. But especially for now, we knew it was important to offer a flexible user interface so that users can focus on the work of accurate categorization.

We at Catalyst have built out a custom categorization interface using Salesforce’s Lightning Web Component framework. The component is broken out into two parts: Selected Categories and Potential Categories. As the names suggest, the Selected Categories section holds values that the user (or Einstein) has selected, while the Potential Categories section holds search results returned by a text search.

Take a look at the seamless value search and selection process made possible with a custom interface. Much better than a wall of picklists!

What Comes Next

Stay tuned for more material about reference data models from us.

And in the meantime, if you like what you see here, let us know! We’d be happy to sit down and unpack how Catalyst can help make your organization more efficient with a powerful CRM.