Police departments around the country are taking proactive steps to engage with the general public more with social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. The Redwood City, Calif., Police Department is taking a high-tech step to engage with the public through the use of live video chat software from Netop. Redwood City PD is one of the first municipal government agencies in the U.S. to provide such video interactivity between officers and the community they serve. Residents use this access to receive assistance with questions on police services, how to report traffic accidents and even to report crimes online (although residents are encouraged to still use 9-1-1 for emergencies).
Netop Live Guide
Netop Live Guide is live chat software that offers departments a wide range of personal communication features on their websites including two-way text, audio and video chat. With Live Guide, a department can easily engage and assist visitors to their website. Live Guide’s full feature set, advanced reporting capability and industry-leading operator interface are designed for usability and efficiency, resulting in increased conversion rates, lower service costs, and improved customer satisfaction.
Live Guide extends the value and immediacy of live chat with audio and video. Imagine being able to bring the equivalent of that friendly “Hi, may I help you?” to the Internet. Using live audio and video, Live Guide brings a new dimension to online customer service. With a simple click, website visitors can communicate with police officers using text chat and then switch seamlessly to audio and video.
Live chat with audio and video is the next generation of online citizen engagement.
Live Guide is a cloud-based live chat system. Since it is provided as a fully hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution there is nothing to download or install, no maintenance is required, and no special hardware is needed. And Live Guide is based on the pervasive Adobe Flash Player so you can be assured that it will work on any computer at any time.
Netop Live Guide offers police departments the unique ability to add live chat functionality to e-mail and social media — including Facebook and Twitter. Now departments can reach out to residents where they are most likely to be — online. Adding live chat to the department’s website, social media and e-mail extends the power of chat beyond just a website to increase citizen engagement and satisfaction.
How it Works
With Live Guide, customers simply click to chat from e-mail and social media, and connect to an officer instantly.
Throughout the country, local and state agencies are migrating government services to their websites. Citizens are directed to go online for forms, to register for services, and to get information. In most cases, question resolution and customer service still occur over the phone or require a trip to city hall.
With a simple click, residents can easily communicate, live and in real time, directly with online service representatives via text chat. Every interaction is 128-bit SSL encrypted to ensure secure communication. Netop’s robust set of tools allows departments to handle multiple inquiries, send prepared responses, forward forms and direct citizens to the online resources they need.
Bring an additional level of interactivity to online government services by incorporating video chat. Video chat creates a strong bond between citizens and the governmental official they are speaking with — from police officers to elected officials.
Government agencies know the value of improving access to services. A robust library of information coupled with the tools available in Live Guide allows you to create a virtual town hall for citizens.
Redwood City, Calif. Police
Redwood City is located in the Bay Area, between San Francisco and San Jose, with a population of 76,500 citizens. According to Captain Chris Cesena, the department wanted to use social media to connect with Redwood City citizens. Since 2010, the Redwood City PD embraced Facebook, Twitter, Nixle, Youtube, etc. Chief JR Gamez also wanted to use video chat. The department researched what companies provide that capability, and their research led them to Netop. “It’s all about providing our residents the best technology that’s out there, at a reasonable price,” said Chief JR Gamez, Redwood City PD.
On Redwood City PD’s website, citizens can simply click on an icon that says, “Video Chat Now” to video chat with a live Redwood City police officer. Cesena said 90 percent of the time officers are available to video chat, and 10 percent of the time administrative staff answer the call. Citizens don’t have to have a camera on their computer or smart phone to utilize this service. Redwood City officers will always be on camera, but residents can ask questions anonymously. Cesena said it’s important for residents to be able to see real officers. “That connection is important,” he emphasized. As of now, the hours for video chat are Monday – Thursday, from 9 – 5 Pacific Time, but Redwood City PD is considering expanding the hours for those residents who work evening hours.
Cesena said the video chat capability is like having a normal conversation with an officer. Residents use it to ask questions about “quality of life” issues, such as street lighting, parking enforcement, paying tickets, etc. They can talk to officers about suspicious behavior or theft before making a full report. Redwood City also has an online crime report system. While on video chat, officers can walk residents through the process of filling the forms out online for reporting a traffic accident, for example.
Greg Griffiths, LiveGuide Marketing Manager, said Redwood City PD is the first department in the country to use Netop’s LiveGuide video chat. Griffiths added that a lot of departments are now showing an interest in doing this service as well. Netop offers technical support, available when Redwood City needs them.
Community reaction has been great, according to Cesena. “Residents are extremely intrigued by this,” he noted. He has received a lot of calls to see how the system works. It is a real customer service” to citizens, providing information on events such as fireworks, parking, etc. The department has been praised for their desire to “be there” for Redwood City residents. “It is a convenient way for them to ask questions while sitting at home or work,” Cesena commented. The city manager is also intrigued by the video chat service, and is interested in possibly doing it citywide.
Redwood City PD is looking at adding a bilingual component to its video chat service. “It’s a great way for the community to work and interact with the police department,” Cesena said. It’s also a way for the department to provide good, timely, accurate information. With today’s technology, “people are starting to expect this kind of service,” Griffiths added. Netop already provides video chat solutions for banking and retail outlets.