News : Akron Taking Residential Complaints Online
Akron, OH, USA, Oct 24, 2017 -- The city is taking complaints and customer service into the digital age.
Mayor Dan Horrigan announced that the 311 call center and information line have moved online for residents to seek assistance or voice concerns from smartphones and computers.
The 311 help center, which is still taking phone calls, was established in 2004. It’s become the switchboard through which residents can reach the appropriate city employee or department. Last year, residents made 100,00 calls, resulting in 60,000 requests for service.
"The goal of the online platform is to allow residents to easily submit a report anytime, anywhere — including nights, weekends, and holidays," Mayor Horrigan said in a prepared statement Tuesday. "The 3-1-1 Action Center has been a user-friendly one-stop shop for many years, but in order to continue to meet the demand of our citizens, it was time for an upgrade."
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John Valle, whose Department of Neighborhood Assistance fields almost all issues raised by residents, hopes to see the online portal create a more efficient process, freeing up staff to satisfy customers and taxpayers.
"We are hoping that up to 30 percent of the calls we receive in the 311 call center will eventually be submitted online," Valle said of the newly automated system that funnels issues directly to the appropriate department. "This will reduce wait times on the phones, and free up our call center staff to process requests even sooner."
The system was designed to process a wide range of concerns, the most common involving potholes, overgrown lawns and bulk trash pickups. Now online at akronohio.gov/311, the digital version is mobile friendly, allowing users to make a new request for service or check on the status of an existing complaint.
Online users can type in the address of the concern or tap the location on an interactive map. Next, a drop-down menu allows the user to filter the concern by indicating whether it’s related to animals, high grass or weeds, housing or property, recycling, sewer or water, street lighting, roads or potholes, traffic signals or signage, or trash. After selecting a category, another drop-down menu appears, allowing the user to get more specific about the issue at hand.
Finally, the user is asked to submit personal information, including name, address, phone number and — if he or she wishes to track the city’s response — an email address.
To be more transparent in the digital age, Horrigan has updated the city’s website and provided a space for real-time updates, even live feeds, of some public works projects, like the monumental overhaul of the city’s combined sewer and overflow system. Moving 311 online is an extension of that effort to make services more convenient for tech-savvy residents.
"We are proud to provide high quality services in all our neighborhoods, and we want to continually improve the way we engage with our residents on the issues that directly affect them," Horrigan said. "We will continue to explore the possibility of deploying additional smart city technologies down the road, giving residents even greater access to City services and data — from event calendars and utility bill payments, to a map of available parking spots and information about local laws and regulations."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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