311 Celebrates 10 Years of Citizen Services
Ten years ago The City of Calgary published over 500 numbers in the phone book, citizens who called were occasionally rerouted up to seven times in order to reach the right person, and it was up to citizens to figure out who to call for help.
“A lot has changed since The City of Calgary first launched the 311 service 10 years ago,” said Cindy Pickett, Director of Customer Service & Communications. “311 is more than just a phone number. Citizens can get information, request a field crew to action work and complete transactions - not just over the phone but also through The City’s website and mobile app – something that wasn’t even on our radar 10 years ago.”
On May 18, 2005, The City of Calgary launched the first 311 Contact Centre in Canada. Not only was it the first 311 service in the country, but Calgary was the city that led the process for the Canadian Radio Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to designate 311 as a number to be used exclusively by municipalities.
“When we first launched 311 we knew we wanted it to be more than a switchboard,” said Pickett. “311 is our primary customer service touchpoint with citizens, and through it we process the majority of work throughout the City. 311 isn’t just a switchboard, it's a workflow management system for the city. When a citizen calls 311, the inquiry for a service is entered into a database which has predetermined the appropriate work crew to be assigned that item for action. In many cases the work crews have mobile devices in their vehicles so they can receive action the items while they are out in the field.”
This workflow system that electronically dispatches work for crews immediately after the citizen hangs up with 311 creates savings on gas, mileage and staff hours by allowing crews to take in new work while out on the road.
“Through the 311 Customer Service function The City is able to work with citizens to coordinate work and manage emerging needs of citizens,” said Clarke Bellamy, Manager Citizen Services. “This system works, and we have seen many examples of that in the past few years with the numerous natural disaster situations that Calgary has faced.”
One of the disasters Bellamy is referring to is the 2013 Flood in which 311 received 330,284 calls in June and July – numbers that would normally be seen over a four month period. That call volume was the highest 311 has ever seen for those months in its history.
“We made history in the 2014 September snowstorm as well,” said Bellamy. “September was not only a record call volume month with 124,000 calls in one month, but we had 28,400 calls in a single day – a record for the most calls in one day in our history.”
Since then, 311 continues to make history and hit major milestones. In March 2015, 311 took its 11 millionth call. 311 continues to improve the way citizens request information and services from The City. The City of Calgary has around 3,000 employees across the corporation that have access to the 311 system to obtain and provide information and services to citizens – constantly adding information, processing service requests and improving workflow.
The City of Calgary's 311 call centre’s official 10-year anniversary date was on May 18, 2015.