Town Talk: New communications system at city, utilities

In June, the City of New Ulm and Public Utilities installed a new voice communications system replacing the telephones throughout all departments. The new phone system is a big change from the old one. Up until this change we relied on a mix between analog and digital phones with relatively basic capabilities. Our new phones are fully digital and give staff many new tools that weren’t available before. We anticipate the changes will help the City and PUC keep operational costs low yet improve our ability to serve residents and customers.

Many of the new capabilities staff will have will help them make better use of voice communications. Employees who are frequently mobile for their jobs can maintain contact through smartphone apps, voicemail to email, enhanced voicemail, call routing, and many other capabilities. Office staff have clearer call quality, more options for equipment, computer integrations, and many tools to make calling quicker and easier. The IT department will have an easier job when employees request to have phones moved or changes made to their accounts. We now have the ability to customize features to meet departments’ needs so the phone system will fit nicely into the way they need to work.

Along with the implementation of the new phone system there are also some changes to contacting the City and Public Utilities. To start with, two new main phone numbers have been established. The hope is this means fewer phone numbers for callers to find or remember. When you call the main numbers for either the City or Utility you will get a voice prompt where you can dial an extension for an employee or department, or you can wait for options you can select for the various divisions in each organization. The City’s new main phone number is 507-233-2121 and the Public Utility’s new main phone number is 507-233-2110.

Most of the published phone numbers for both the City and Utility have been carried over to the new phone system. When you look in the phone book for a number you should continue to get connected to the department you expect to reach. Nearly all individual phone numbers have been discontinued and replaced with extensions, however. If you dial an old direct number you may reach a recording telling you that the number has been changed. Depending on whether you called a City employee or a Utility employee, the recording will also tell you to call 507-233-2121 or 507-233-2110. If you have the extension number of the person you want to reach you’ll be able to dial it after you’ve called one of the main numbers.

Adjusting from a system that has been in use for a long time to a new one can be a challenge and can cause a few headaches along the way. City and Utility staff have made a huge effort to make the change and have put a great deal of thought into how it can be used. We hope to continue to roll out more tools to make phone calls and communications even better for employees and the community and to provide even better service.

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Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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