Residents resolve non-emergency issues at the touch of a button
Across the U.S., cities of all sizes have adopted 311 mobile apps as part of their 311 non-emergency hotline programs, typically anchored by a call center where agents field calls from citizens.
For many cities, 311 mobile apps are a high-value tool. When done right, the apps can handle many of the most common non-emergency requests at a lower cost than call centers. A 2010 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that cities were paying around $3 (and sometimes up to $7) per non-emergency call. The cost of running a 311 call center explains why some cities have chosen to outsource their call centers to specialist providers such as DATAMARK, and why so many have bolstered their 311 programs by launching apps for smartphones and tablets.
The growth of 311 apps began picking up steam in the late 2000s, with the beginnings of the Open 311 community, which promotes a free technology for supporting web-based and mobile 311 systems. Another popular platform to emerge around this time was SeeClickFix, a reporting tool for citizens that has become the foundation the 311 app for dozens of cities.
In those early days, 311 apps were created to handle the most common non-emergency requests, such as graffiti removal, pothole repair and trash pickup. As the years have gone by, 311 apps in most cities have grown to handle a plethora of citizen needs. For example, Los Angeles residents can use the MyLA311 app to pay water and power bills, locate the nearest park or library, or catch up on news from City Hall through the city’s social media channels.
In New York City, residents can open their NYC311 app to find assistance for homeless people, make a complaint about a taxi driver, and report problems with rats or mice. In Dallas, where begging for money is illegal, the city recently updated its 311 app to report panhandling.
One of the common complaints about early 311 apps was that it was often impossible for a citizen to know whether anyone was responding to their request, or how long it would take for the reported problem to be resolved. This issue would often lead to a costly and time-consuming call to the city’s 311 call center for follow-up. Today’s apps are much more sophisticated: Many offer a feature that lets citizens track the progress of their request, or notifies them that someone else has already reported the problem.
311 apps also offer a means for cities to collect data that can be useful for identifying trends, such as which neighborhoods have the most reports of potholes or illegal dumping, so city managers can create strategies to address these issues. Many cities are making available to the public data collected through their 311 call centers, 311 web portals and 311 mobile apps. For example, the city of Austin offers a user-friendly Open Data Portal, and encourages citizens to analyze the data to help create opportunities for innovation and good decision making.
To learn more about how outsourcing can fit into a cost-effective strategy for city 311 programs, contact one of our 311 contact center specialists at DATAMARK or call 1-877-667-2151.