City to get 3-1-1 service, July 1

Press Release: Pensacola residents will soon have an easier way to request service from the City for things like broken street lights, damaged park equipment, or potholes. Beginning July 1, 2011, the City will be operating a “3-1-1” call center to field citizen requests, complaints, and questions, 24-hours a day.

The initiative, part of Mayor Ashton Hayward’s campaign to make City government more responsive and to improve City neighborhoods, is a mix of new technology and old-fashioned customer service.

Known as 3-1-1, after 9-1-1 emergency services and 4-1-1 information service, the program will take any phone call placed in the City of Pensacola to the number “311” and route it to a City call center staffed. At that point, the call center will route the calls to the appropriate department within city government. In addition, calls will be monitored by a new software system purchased by the City, so every citizen request can be tracked for progress, completion, and response rate.

Hayward said this new program would put Pensacola in a growing company of cities and local governments that are using the “3-1-1” service as a way to allow citizens to communicate directly with local officials and respond more quickly to fix sidewalks, traffic lights, park benches, and so on. Currently, Alachua, Seminole and Orange Counties, as well as Miami-Dade County, use a 3-1-1 service for some portion of their citizen requests for service.

“This 3-1-1 program is something that many cities are starting to use, and it’s a way to make sure that our City government is responsive to the needs of our citizens,” said Hayward. “Just as important is the fact that the new software we’ve purchased will allow us to measure our progress and assess just how well and how quickly we are meeting the needs and requests that come in. Tracking these numbers will give our staff, department directors, and me as Mayor a clear sense of whether or not we’re getting the job done for our citizens,” Hayward said.

Beginning July 1, the program will be staffed by the City for phone-based requests only. Calls to the 3-1-1 center will be routed to specific departments for service, with the gas utility ESP, Police Department, and Sanitation Departments still handling services calls at their own call centers.

In the future, citizens will also be able to submit service requests through a web-based form at the City’s website. These requests will also be routed directly to the appropriate department, and monitored by the work-order system for phone-based requests, so every contact can be tracked for progress and completion. The target date for online service requests being functional is August 1.

Hayward said the effort had been in the works for a few months, since visiting with Mayor Sam Jones of Mobile, Alabama, and viewing that city’s 3-1-1 call center. “I’m hopeful this will really move the City forward in terms of customer service and citizens responsiveness,” said Hayward.

“I’ve said before, that City Hall and city government belongs to the citizens, and this is another way to help citizens get a return on their investment in Pensacola. My goal is to give citizens every tool possible to take responsibility for their own neighborhoods, streets, and parks. The more we can make city services available to the citizens, and the more quickly we can respond to their requests, the better off we’ll be as a City and a community.”