Operators are standing by, and citizens are calling 311
A few weeks ago, CityCaucus.com provided our readers with a glimpse into the operations of the 311 service in Vancouver. We provided you with some interesting statistics that were never be published through the “normal” channels at City Hall. We’re now pleased to bring you our second quarterly installment of how 311 is working in Vancouver.
As you will note from fellow blogger Frances Bula’s recent posting on 311, the City of Toronto has been very supportive of their 311 program and has been active in encouraging its citizens to use it whenever they can. In contrast, Vancouver’s 311 service has been very cloak and dagger. This is despite the fact the City just contracted Ryan Merkley, Toronto Mayor David Miller’s former political operative and avid Hollyhocker, to run the City’s communications department. One would think he would have been all over this since his arrival on the scene a few months ago. It doesn’t appear so.
If it weren’t for the regular CityCaucus.com reports on 311, you’d think the City of Vancouver didn’t actually even run a multi-lingual 24/7 service line to help citizens connect to their local government. As many have speculated, the reason the Mayor and his caucus have been so mum regarding 311, is the fact it was initiated by the previous NPA regime – full stop.
In our most recent FOI regarding 311’s operations, we obtained data for the months of December 2009 to February 2010 (link to stats). It’s interesting to note that the Olympics appear to have had very little impact on the overall operations of the service, except to help reduce the amount of time it takes for callers to get an answer. In December it took an average of 75 seconds to speak to a service agent. In February, that time had dropped to only 26 seconds. This is despite the fact there were hundreds of thousands of additional people roaming about the city.
Once again, Engineering had the highest number of calls in February. There over 6,500 people who phoned in with questions about garbage. That was down slightly from 7,800 the previous month. The fewest calls logged were directed to Financial Services at only 31 calls in February.
In total, there were 47,000 “calls offered” in January which was higher than the 38,000 logged the following month. This is significantly higher than the 12,000 or so calls placed last May. As you can see, as each month passes by, the 311 service is getting more and more popular with the citizens of Vancouver.
If you’re wondering why there has been virtually no communications strategy to promote 311, you have good reason to be scratching your head. According to a staff report from June 2009, the 311 program should have already been launched by now:
The introduction of “311” calling in the City will be accompanied by an extensive communications plan beginning in mid September, 2009. This delay after the introduction will ensure that the complex task of integrating new business processes into the Call Centre can be appropriately tested and confirmed before broad information is made available.
The elements of the campaign will include:
- direct mail to all residents and businesses within the City of Vancouver,
- creation of a brief video outlining the 311 service, and
- a media launch event at the 311 Contact Centre.
If Vision’s caucus could reduce the amount of pettiness they’ve demonstrated toward this project and embrace it as their own, perhaps then every citizen would become better informed of how 311 could better connect them to their local government. Stay tuned for more reports on 311 that you never seem to be reading at Council.