Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Welcome to our new 311 Blog!

As 311 marks its two-year anniversary, having handled over one million phone calls calls already and hundreds of thousands of visits to our 311 web portal, we are setting up this blog so that you will have one more way to give us feedback on our 311 system. County Executive Ike Leggett established 311 to make County government more effective, more accountable and more responsive.

That meant one number to call – 311 – for information and to request County government services.

311 is, essentially, the front office operation for all County departments. We take the information, create service requests, and send them to the folks who do the work. When you call 311, you are calling the department. In many cases you are speaking to the same folks who handled those calls before 311 was established.

The 311 Customer Service Center is designed to make it easier for county residents to obtain information, make service requests, and track progress on those requests. The system will also give the County timely information on County department performance to more effectively target resources to particular areas and needs.
Before 311 many residents didn’t know what number to call. When they reached someone it was often the wrong person. Often they simply reached a voicemail and never talked to a “live” person. There was little to no ability to track service requests across departments and tracking even within departments was often unsystematic. The information County managers used to allocate resources and solve problems was often not timely or was more anecdotal than scientific.
By consolidating County department call centers and doing away with duplicative systems and licensing fees, 311 saved the County about $10 million in its first two years. 
About two dozen phone numbers have been transferred to 311, leaving about 11,000 numbers that can still be dialed directly. If you call 311 and ask to speak to an individual County employee, you are connected. If we call for an issue that’s handled by the State, by municipalities, MCPS, or other agencies, we will connect you directly to them.
And, of course, our web portal – at www.mc311.com  -- is available 24/7. Most service requests, including, most recently added, bulk trash and scrap metal pickup, can be handled through the portal.
Every few months we survey County 311 users and have consistently found about a 75 to 80 percent satisfaction rate. That’s fine – but not good enough. We are making constant improvements.
For example, in mid-August, the 311 Call Center will expand its hours from 7 AM- 5 PM to 7 AM to 7 PM to better serve working families.
Let us know how we are doing – and thanks for visiting this blog.

Patrick Lacefield
Director, Montgomery County Office of Public Information