News : Atlanta Officially Launches 311 Call Center
Atlanta GA Nov 3, 2014 -- The City of Atlanta officially launched its 311 call center late last month. It’s a one-stop shop for all city-related, non-emergency questions. The call center is off to a busy start.
The 311 hotline actually soft launched in March, and has averaged about 2,000 calls per day. Its director, JoAnne Butler, says the 311 service is a big change from how the city operated before.
"We had disparate call center operations with different operating procedures and standards so we’ve consolidated all of that," said Butler.
Butler says so far about 80 percent of calls have been about water and sewer issues…things like bill disputes and setting up new service. Other calls have had to do with things like reporting potholes and downed trees.
In addition to the new phone service, a corresponding website – Atl311.com – now allows Atlanta residents to track the progress of requests online. Butler is especially hopeful about the website as a means to create a more accountable customer service system.
"We can better standardize it, better package it, and hopefully that makes you more responsive," said Butler.
Dozens of cities over the last two decades have created similar 311 call centers. It’s now widely considered a best practice.
Russ Jenson leads Knoxville’s call center, which recently won an industry award for excellence. He was quick to impart some wisdom, saying it’s all about hiring the right people.
"If their skill set is not talking to grandma and grandpa on the phone you’re going to fail. You have to have people who want to be on the phone," said Jenson.
He says within the first six months of launch back in 2005, Knoxville saw a 30 percent drop in the amount of time it took to handle service requests. That’s the idea, Jenson says - Tangible results.
"It’s got to be data driven. I mean it’s great that I say we’re friendly but if I don’t have the data to back it up, it’s meaningless. How long does it take to fix a pothole? How long does it take to get a storm drain fixed? Because that’s really where the value comes in for taxpayers and the administration," said Jenson.
An Atlanta spokesperson confirmed the city plans to publish monthly reports on the 311 calls. The city is still working out what will be included in those reports.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, November 4, 2014