Call center receives positive feedback

Published 3:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2014

From snakes in trees to service issues, the City of Troy’s two-month-old 311 program is proving effective.

“The call center has worked out really well,” said Janet Marshall, who coordinates special projects for the city.

The 311 program allows for residents to utilize either a direct dial number on their phones – 311 – or take advantage of downloaded app for smart phones and tablets. The call center handles everything from utility billing questions to reporting potholes in the road, to questions about city services and even errant reptiles.

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“We had a call from a lady who had snakes in her tree,” Marshall said. “Originally, I thought she was kidding, and I asked her if she was certain if she had snakes in her tree. The guy from Environmental Sciences went to see and called back and said that the lady had snakes in her tree.”

Peak call hours for the center are between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Marshall said the call center could field upwards of 150 calls during that time period.

Marshall said while the call center has caught on quickly, residents have been slower to embrace the downloadable app, which can actually provide quicker reporting and response times.

“The app is going to take a little longer to catch on, I think. People at this point would rather talk to someone voice-to-voice. I think they feel they’re getting better customer service that way. But, the app is actually the easiest and fastest way to get your service request in,” she said.

When submitting a request on the app, users will receive immediate alerts if service has been performed for the request or if the request has even been closed. If a customer receives a notification from the app saying the request has been closed, but the service was not completed to their satisfaction, customers can immediately reopen the request. “They can either have the option to not respond to it or they can reopen it if their request wasn’t met,” she said. “ If they have called 311 it won’t automatically open back up, they’ll have to call back and reopen the request.”

Marshall said the largest obstacle tackled since opening the services had been the terminology used within the app. The city uses specific terminology to describe services it provides, and Marshall said it had been difficult to match up the proper service if a customer uses similar but not the correct terminology in their requests.

“We know what we call things, but citizens don’t call it the same things,” Marshall said. “Trash is actually limbs and leaves for us, but you may call trash at home what we call garbage. We’ve tried to simplify things for how we handle things to how the customers would deals with it.”

Also in an effort to ease communications, Marshall said the app allows residents to share photos of service issues. “I think one of the coolest features is if they use the app they can take a picture of their service request so there is no doubt about their request. We haven’t gotten a lot of people use that service yet, but it really is a cool feature.”

Overall, Marshall said the city was pleased with the 311 program and said the benefits went beyond the citizens served.

“It has made our response to the community much better and easier, but from an internal standpoint it’s made us more accountable. We really, really enjoy it, and the (first) responders have responded well to it.”