Atlanta launches ATL311, one-stop city service hotline

Atlantans: Program this number into your phones: “311.”

That’s the city’s new non-emergency customer service hotline, officially dubbed ATL311 and unveiled this week. If all goes as planned, gone are the days residents had to navigate hundreds of phone numbers to access myriad city services and departments.

“We discovered we were giving constituents a challenge,” said Deputy Chief Operating Officer Kristin Wilson. “…We relied on them to figure out whether their problem was a Watershed problem, or a Public Works problem.”

Now, those living in city limits can dial “311” from landlines or smartphones for answers to the city of Atanta’s most pressing questions. Water leak? 311. Downed tree? 311. Trash pick-up? 311.

The city is employing 60 full-time operators to take calls and route residents to the right department. Residents can access the free service by phone, web and on all mobile platforms. The long-term hope, city leaders explain, is to make it easier for Atlantans to access information while alleviating pressure off the city’s 911 system.

Mayor Kasim Reed said the ATL311 service will “modernize the customer service experience and make the city of Atlanta more accountable, responsive, and efficient.” Data collected from the center will help city leaders measure how well they’re doing in solving residents’ problems.

The 311 call center, with a price-tag of roughly $8 million, has been a few years in the making. The idea began with Reed’s Innovation Delivery Team, a group funded by $3.3 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies with the mandate of improving customer service.

It was scheduled for a “soft launch” earlier this year, but was delayed by two major snowstorms that hit the region in January and February, Wilson said. The city also needed approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission, and buy-in from the major telecommunications carriers, to route the 311 number to the call center.

JoAnne Butler, call center director, said roughly 70 percent of the calls received so far are for information requests, and about 30 percent of callers have service needs. Users are able to track their reported requests online, city leaders note.

Wilson said the call center will also be activated during emergency events to assist with 911 overload.

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