Kvetching on 311: What New Yorkers Complain About

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Interesting graphic at Wired, about one of the innovations of the Bloomberg administration: 311. Originally conceived of as a way to eliminate non emergency calls to 911, it has turned out to be a giant success, fielding its 100 millionth call recently.

Here’s Wired:

“Launched in March 2003, 311 now fields on average more than 50,000 calls a day, offering information about more than 3,600 topics: school closings, recycling rules, homeless shelters, park events, pothole repairs. The service has translators on call to handle some 180 different languages. City officials tout a 2008 customer satisfaction survey, conducted by an outside firm, that compared 311’s popularity to other call centers in both the public and private sectors. 311 finished first, barely edging out hotel and retail performance but beating other government call centers, like the IRS’s, by a mile. (At the very bottom of the list, not surprisingly: cable companies.) Executive director Joseph Morrisroe attributes 311’s stellar scores to its advanced technology, relentless focus on metrics, and employee training, which ensures that “customers will speak with a polite, professional, and knowledgeable New Yorker when they need assistance.”

If anyone still wondered whether the 311 concept was here to stay, New York’s 100 millionth call should have dispelled all doubts. So, for that matter, should the other 300-plus public call centers now in operation across the US. For millions of Americans, dialing 311 has become almost as automatic as 411 or 911. But—as New York learned in the maple syrup incident—the hundreds of millions of calls also represent a huge pool of data to be collected, parsed, and transformed into usable intelligence. Perhaps even more exciting is the new ecosystem of startups, inspired by New York’s success and empowered by 21st-century technology, that has emerged to create innovative ways for residents to document their problems. All this meticulous urban analysis points the way toward a larger, and potentially revolutionary, development: the city built of data, the crowdsourced metropolis.”

I called in a 311 complaint last year when the traffic light on 3rd Avenue and 42nd street was out — the operator told me they just received 4 other calls, and had referred the incident to Traffic Control, who were were dispatching a repair truck. As a lifelong New Yorker, it was quite a surprising experience . . .

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Source:
What a Hundred Million Calls to 311 Reveal About New York
Steven Johnson
Wired November 2010
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/11/ff_311_new_york/all/1

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