News : Operators Waiting to Help in Dallas’ 311 Call Center
May 22, 2014 -- Hidden away in the basement of Dallas City Hall sits a group of people anxious to hear from residents about what the government can do better.
The city opened its doors to promote its 311 call center to reporters on Thursday — more than a week after an assistant city manager kicked out reporters from The Dallas Morning News and KXAS-TV (NBC5) during a tour for members of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
City officials later said they did so because they realized they hadn’t addressed security concerns.
Margaret Wright, an assistant director of strategic customer services, said she was happy to have reporters there Thursday.
"We want people to know about 311," Wright said.
Inside the call center, operators in headsets sit in front of monitors to handle requests for information and city services. They help callers who report water problems, potholes, loose animals and any other city service issue.
For public safety reasons, such as problems with traffic lights, the center has staffers in the call center 24 hours a day, 311 supervisor Stephen Walker said, and 311 dispatchers also communicate with fire and police dispatch to lend support.
For instance, if police need a street blocked off or if firefighters need more water pressure in an area while fighting a fire, a 311 dispatcher will help.
During peak hours, the center is staffed with about 50 people, Walker said. There are about 100 total staffers, including support staff.
The city also launched a 311 mobile app in September.
Because of preset categories, most app requests go straight to city departments, never touching 311. But there have been about 2,000 "other" service requests that the call takers have had to figure out.
A call taker usually handles about 120 calls a day on average, but that fluctuates throughout the week and year.
To be able to handle that volume, call takers go through about seven to eight weeks of training. Then they have on-the-job training with seasoned professionals.
"Not everything is textbook," Walker said. "We do get a lot of challenging questions."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Dallas City Hall:
Dallas City Hall is the seat of Dallas municipal government, located at 1500 Marilla in the Government District of downtown Dallas, Texas.
Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2014