Showcasing 311 in Canada

“Congratulations @Bandreescu_!” “You’ve made history and made a whole country very proud. #SheTheNorth.” – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

As it mentions in my bio I am a tennis enthusiast. With this in mind, September is one of my favorite months due to the U.S. Tennis Open. It occurs annually at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY. Of course, watching the matches unfold to see who makes the finals is exciting. Equally, as exciting is witnessing the 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu ace the spot as the first Canadian to win a tennis singles grand slam.

Earlier this year when the Toronto Raptors became the first Canadian team to win an N.B.A. title the hashtag #WeTheNorth was born. In the same fashion, the hashtag #SheTheNorth for Andreescu is now in full swing. Additionally, it makes me grin that this young history maker is over the top because the rapper Drake made contact on social media! What a wonderful “break point” for Canada!


This is a perfect opportunity to showcase Canada’s 311 footprint!

To be exact, there are 19 successful 311 platforms in Canada. Unfortunately, in this blog it is impossible to showcase all of the Canadian 311 systems. So, I will highlight Toronto because they celebrate their 10 year anniversary this month (and they won the N.B.A. title). Also, it is a must to highlight Calgary as the first 311 in Canada.

Toronto 311

On the same track as the first 311 operation in Baltimore, MD, Toronto’s 311 uses a centralized system for city services. With an annual budget of about $18.6 million, the operation receives 3.4 million interactions by phone, social media, email and online.

” There will always be complaints. Service requests make up about 30 per cent of calls – people calling, for example, about a pothole that needs to be fixed. But about 70 percent of their business is just general inquiries, questions staff can easily answer.”Director Gary Yoke

I remember Toronto 311’s beginning in 2009. What sticks out in my memory is the beautiful facility and setting for the 311 employees. The Toronto 311 occupies the previous Metro Council chambers. It is described as having “high domed ceiling, buttressed with metal supports with long windows along the sides of the room to admit natural light.” Definitely not your average 311 center. Incidentally, the location was also a movie scene for X-Men.

The nerve centre at 311 Toronto with its screen showing how many callers are in the queue, how many employees are on calls, and how many are not ready -- perhaps making notes or going to the washroom.

According to the website Toronto311 this is the largest North American system to launch an end-to-end service integration. The platform provides residents, businesses and visitors with easy access to non-emergency city services, programs and information 24 hours a day, seven days a week, offering assistance in more than 180 languages.

Calgary 311

The City of Calgary is the first 311 platform in Canada. Since the launch in 2005, the system is now more than just a number. Unquestionably, Calgary 311 is an omnichannel service hub offering the community access through a mobile application, online and social media. A part from this , the addition of 311 Live Maps allows users to stay up to date on the status of service requests. This interactive system updates every five minutes. To see how this actually operates watch this tutorial video.

The tradition call center is still available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On top of that, they handle over 3,000 calls per day. However, during summer months this swells to 5,000 calls.

Without a doubt, “Making life better every day”, is more than just a slogan for this organization. It wasn’t before long that this holistic business approach produced positive results. In 2016, Calgary 311 received the CS Week 311 2016 Award of Excellence.

Despite, taking the job of servicing the community seriously they know how have a few giggles. Earlier this year in March, on the City of Calgary Newsroom is a post “The Strange Tales of 311”. Some of those funny tales include:

  • Deer running across a backyard and setting up a ‘Deer Crossing’ sign so they would know where to go
  • A pancake stealing squirrel
  •  A restaurant watering down its root beer
  • How to cook a frozen turkey
  •  The distance between Mercury and Earth?

|“We have an amazing group of public servants whose primary objective with every call is to make sure we have met the citizen’s need to the absolute best of our ability.”  – Manager of Citizen Services Clarke Bellamy 

As was previously stated, Canada is having a great year! Also, over the years it has been my pleasure to share best practices and collaborate with my colleagues up north! I am happy for their recent record-breaking wins and proud of their accomplishments and contributions to the 311 community.

Janice Quintana is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. A government nerd, customer service practitioner and 311 pioneer, she has worked in local government as the Director of 311 in three different municipalities. She is fascinated with innovation, technology, data, service delivery and community engagement. When Janice is not following local government rock stars or trends she enjoys her status as a tennis enthusiast and travels the globe to watch a good match. She currently lives in Charlotte, NC with her two chihuahuas. You can read her posts here.

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