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The First and Busiest 311, Baltimore and New York City

“Looking back to when I started in 2006, 311 in NYC and around the country was a traditional phone channel. Since then technology dramatically enhanced access and touch points while expectations of government accountability increased. I’m proud of the team at NYC311 for continuously evolving to meet the needs of the public, and making government more accessible, more open and just easier for customers. “
– Joe Morrisroe Executive Director – NYC311

 

My first blog, “The Evolution of 311 and Government Customer Service” explains the 311 revolution. For my last blog, it makes sense to provide more details about the first 311, and to showcase the largest. Also, I enjoyed catching up with Baltimore’s 311 Director Lisa Allen and New York City’s 311 Executive Director Joe Morrisroe.

Baltimore 311 – BALT311

Established in 2001 by former Maryland Governor and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, Baltimore 311 continues to improve how they do business. The focus on shifting from a switchboard call center model to offering a variety of access points is a never-ending process.

During a webinar on September 12, 2009, Director Lisa Allen provides in great detail the success and growth of Baltimore 311. Specifically, the 2018 launch of a new CRM platform, service request modernization, mobile app and the utilization of data.  Also, she explains the city’s Digital Transformation Strategic Plan to enhance technology and the customer experience. Additionally, future enhancements include text, chat and a 311-mobile van for increased community involvement. Another key point, this year Baltimore was the recipient of both the Award of Excellence, given by CS Week 311 at their annual ENGAGE311 conference, and the Award of Distinction by the Association of Government Call Center Professional.

Baltimore 311 connects citizens, businesses and visitors with a vast array of city services, programs and information. Either by a live agent-assisted phone call or through the self-service web or mobile portal. The hours of operation are Monday to Sunday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The organization handles the annual 1 million calls with a staff of 88, which is a combination of customer service representatives and support personnel.

 

New York City 311 – NYC311

In New York,
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothin’ you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York  – Alicia Keys, Jay-Z

 

Former Mayor Bloomberg mentioned the concept of 311 in his 2002 State of the City Address, and  NYC311 was launched in March 2003.  NYC is known as the city that never sleeps, and this is true for NYC311 as it operates 24 hours a day. In like manner, as other 311 operations, NYC311 has evolved from a traditional call center and now offers access by phone, online, chat text, mobile app and social media.

Since its launch, NYC311 is clearly the largest and busiest 311 in North America. Comparatively, by volume alone, they are the “Big Apple.” To clarify, NYC311’s annual call volume is approximately 21 million, combined with other service channels the total equals 44 million. With this in mind, by the 17- year anniversary in March 2020, total combined interactions will be over 400 million!

The effective and creative branding of NYC311 is an example to follow. I just love the simplistic bright taxi yellow NYC311 logo, which is everywhere in NYC, including in taxi cabs. In true NYC fashion, to honor the 10-year anniversary, the Empire State Building illuminated the logo’s vibrant yellow.

NYC311’s mission is to provide the public with quick, easy access to all New York City government services and information while maintaining the highest possible level of customer service. Due to the ongoing success, NYC311 is a destination stop for delegations from major cities and government organizations from all over the world.

You can only imagine the wide range and the variety of calls and services that NYC311 provides. But what is equally impressive is supporting large scale events, such as parades: Gay Pride, St. Patrick’s, Puerto Rican, Halloween and the nationally televised Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Inclement weather is problematic for any 311 and NYC311 is not an exception. Snow, rain, floods and power outages drive high call volume. Indeed, the 2012 Hurricane Sandy put tremendous strain on NYC311.  According to a 2013 After Action Report, the daily average of call volume was four times greater than a normal busy day, peaking to 274,000 calls in one single day! Let me emphasize, this level of volume is more than many 311 departments handle in a single month or year.

As true government champions, the staff of NYC311 provides support for sports-related events or celebrations. For example, the win of an NFL Super Bowl, MLB World Series, or the annual NYC Marathon and US Tennis Open. In July, the NYC311 staff were not only answering calls regarding the US Women’s Soccer Team’s celebratory parade and pep rally at City Hall, but they also did a little on-the-spot branding with some young fans.

One Last Note

Being a GovLoop Featured Contributor over the last 12 weeks has been a noteworthy adventure. I have enjoyed sharing and highlighting local government and 311 rock stars! Remember, local government requires your participation, as you are the eyes and ears of your 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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