City's 311 Call Center Celebrates Anniversary

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
kfarley@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City's 311 Call Center Celebrates Anniversary

Posted: 05/05/2008
The City of Knoxville's Call 311 Center celebrates its third anniversary today - more than 600,000 calls after it began operations on the morning of May 5, 2005, by answering calls to a single city department.

Today the office's seven-member staff handles non-emergency calls for all the city's departments, something it took nearly 20 people across city government to do before the 311 System was established.

Instituting a 311 System was one of Mayor Bill Haslam's goals during his first campaign for mayor in 2003.

He wanted Call 311 to essentially be the city's customer service center where Knoxville residents could call a single number to report a problem or get information about city services. 
 
"It has exceeded our expectations both in the numbers of users and their satisfaction and in terms of the data that we get from those calls," Haslam said. "It has made it easier for people to contact us, it's made it easier to get residents' requests to the right departments and it's made it easier for us to act on those requests." 
 
"So it has been a great source of information about city services and I couldn't be more pleased about how well it has worked," he added. "The 311 staff does a great job and they are a wonderful asset for the city." 
 
The 311 Center's motto is "One Number. One Call" and it provides a direct line of access to city government. 
 
"We get everything, complaints about potholes, calls about ordinance violations like overgrown lots," said 311 Director Russ Jensen, "questions about traffic tickets, about softball schedules, anything you can think of that has to do with the city government." 
 
The 311 service agents take calls for departments ranging from Public Service and Parks and Recreation to Engineering and Community Development.

Typically, if the call involves a question, the 311 service representatives provide the requested information, usually very quickly.

If the agent doesn't know the answer the 311 software includes an advanced search engine so they can find it and the caller doesn't have to go elsewhere for an answer.

If the caller has a service request the 311 staffer enters it into the city's advanced tracking system and submits it to the proper department.

Since all requests are assigned a tracking number the caller can keep up with the status of his or her request.

In addition to Jensen, the director, there are six customer service agents in the Call 311 Center including, Chris Coyle, Shawanna Tipton, Rebecca Hill, Cheri Hollifield, Jay McRae and Denise Johnson.

Most have been with the office since that first day. 
 
"The thing that impresses me most about this group is their ability to absorb what everyone (in the city) does," Jensen said. "They have become experts on many topics and they aren't afraid to answer any question." 
 
He said surveys of callers indicate that more than 90 percent are happy with the service they received from the staff.

The average call is answered in 18 seconds and the calls last an average of one minute and 20 seconds.

The 311 system can also provide city departments with data that can be used to better plan and provide services.

That's because the system generates reports about the volume and types of services citizens are requesting and in what areas. It also allows the city to identify chronic problems and indicates how various departments are responding to those needs. 
 
"From strictly a service perspective point of view it has been better than what we imagined," Jensen said. "I would still like us to use the data more in day-to-day management, and I think we will as we go along." 
 
For more information about 311 please call Russ Jensen at 215-2066.