News : ATL311 Non-emergency Call Center Goes Live
Oct 27, 2014 -- On the fourth floor of the Municipal Court Of Atlanta, roughly 60 full-time phone operators wearing blue-collared shirts and hands-free telephone headsets sit in cubicles and answer a barrage of calls from residents. One person calls in a possible water main break on Beecher Road. Others are asking about code enforcement violations, business permit inquiries, and trash pickup requests.
Until last week, 911 operators received calls those kinds of calls in addition to reports of fatal car accidents, fired gunshots, and other life-threatening matters that required immediate responses. Now there's "ATL311," the city's new customer service hub, that will handle these non-emergency complaints, service orders, and other information requests over the phone. Complaints will also be handled through a new website, ATL311.com.
The new customer service center will be open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Atlanta residents and visitors will also be able to submit requests and track changes online at all hours at ATL311.com. You can call 311 from a home phone or 404-546-0311 from a cell phone to use the service. Major emergencies should still be phoned into 911 - ATL311 employees will lend a hand to the city's response efforts as needed.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Reed called ATL311 a "game changer" for how people interact with City Hall. The mayor, acknowledging that the city’s customer service hasn’t always been top notch, said the new call center would go a long way toward fixing past problems. And, he says, ATL311 will make the way Atlanta operates more open and transparent.
"We’re celebrating a new era of accountability, transparency, responsiveness, and efficiency for our city," Reed says. "…[ATL311] is going to change the way this government operates for very, very long time."
With ATL311, customer service reps for the city’s watershed management, public works, and numerous other departments are consolidated under one roof. City officials this year set aside millions for ATL 311 and consider it a more cost-effective approach than running customer service out of different departments.
"That’s going to give us a clear picture of everything that’s happening around the city," Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Michael Geisler says. "And it’s going to save the city money."
ATL311, which is a free service to residents and visitors, will enable people to access real-time information about their complaints over the phone and on its website. In early 2013, Atlanta received an "F" grade for its spending transparency practices in a Georgia Public Interest Research Group report looking at whether U.S. cities provided residents with "comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility." At the time, former Reed spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs told CL the 311 call system would help improve Atlanta's transparency grade.
However, the launch was initially pushed back following delays in getting the final approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission and AT&T. The two snowstorms that shut down metro Atlanta last winter further postponed the launch date.
Reed says ATL311’s launch is a sign that the city is "heading in the right direction" toward becoming more open and transparent. The data collected through the call center will eventually be made available to the public. That data, he says, will help city officials set goals for different departments, improve employee performance, and help prioritize long-term funding in future budgets.
"It's going to make a significant difference," Reed says. "You're going have the ability to see into the kind of requests we're getting and have the ability to see how they're being handled."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Be Prompt
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311 is Atlanta’s primary phone number for government information and non-emergency services.
Published: Wednesday, October 29, 2014
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