Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 001
Monday, January 5, 2009

DEPARTMENT OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSIONER COSGRAVE CONGRATULATES 311 ON RECORD LEVEL OF CALLS AND NEW SERVICES IN 2008

New Yorkers Rate 311 Service as Very Favorable;
New Technologies Contribute to More Efficient Call Servicing

Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave congratulated the staff at New York City’s 311 Customer Service Center today for a record-setting 2008, during which they handled 16.1 million calls, servicing 95% of them in 30 seconds or less and answering all calls in an average of seven seconds.  The record call volume surpasses the previous mark of 15.3 million calls, set in 2007, and was largely driven by the nearly 600 new services added to the system in 2008, such as the Financial Education Network, MillionTreesNYC program, the accessible taxicab dispatch project and Pictures and Videos initiative.  Since inception in March 2003, 311 has received more than 74 million calls.

“The services New York City provides are only as good as their availability to the public, and as a vehicle of accessibility 311 is unmatched,” said DoITT Commissioner Cosgrave.  “In nearly six years of operation, the 311 idea has grown from a physical call center to an abiding philosophy of good government: that an effective City is accessible, transparent and accountable, with quality customer service a key driver of its success.  In delivering upon Mayor Bloomberg’s vision, I congratulate the entire 311 organization for its tireless work in serving New Yorkers, and thank our fellow City agencies, and millions of customers, for helping making 311 what it is today – the pre-eminent call center in the country.”

In conjunction with the NYC Feedback Citywide Customer Survey facilitated by the Mayor’s Office of Operations and Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum earlier this year, a 311-specific survey was conducted by industry leader CFI Group, Inc. to rate overall customer satisfaction with the 311 Customer Service Center.  The performance of 311 was rated “very favorable” by over 2,000 survey respondents.  As noted by CFI Group: “Satisfaction with NYC 311 is above highest performing private sector benchmarks for call centers and is above local and federal government benchmarks”.

The Call Center achieved an overall Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) score of 79, outpacing government sector call centers and ahead of private sector call centers, including high-end customer service industries such as hotel and financial services.  Satisfaction with 311’s Call Center Representatives was even higher, achieving a CSI score of 88 for performance in categories including: courtesy and professionalism, ability to determine customer needs, and providing information needed.

Commissioner Cosgrave continued: “While historic in itself that, more than 16 million times last year New Yorkers called into 311, what matters most is what they got out of it.  That the public rated the service it receives there as very favorable is remarkable.  And that 311 continued to exceed its high standards by providing 95% of callers with a representative in under 30 seconds, well above the industry standard of 80% – even as it was receiving more calls than ever before – speaks volumes about the dedicated men and women who never fail to answer the call of New Yorkers.”

“The success of 311 is in a very real way the success of the City agencies it helps to represent,” said Joseph Morrisroe, the Executive Director of 311 and NYC.gov.  “Originally designed to help New Yorkers navigate City government, 311 has become a place that also helps City agencies deliver their services to the public more effectively – whether that’s fixing potholes, keeping City streets clean or investigating noise complaints; improving public access to healthy food options, quit smoking programs, affordable housing, financial assistance services and job training; or helping New Yorkers file for the Economic Stimulus Payment and Earned Income Tax Credit.  For this we have to thank Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Cosgrave, our many agency partners, and the entire 311 staff for serving the public with distinction.  From our dedicated Content and Agency Relations, Reporting, Quality Assurance, Training and Technical teams; to our support staff; to our Call Center Representatives who interact with the public around the clock, for 311 customer service truly is public service in action.”

To more efficiently manage the record call volumes in 2008, 311 aggressively employed new technology measures in meeting its customer service standards.  Increased use of automated messaging prior to reaching a representative allows customers to access more commonly-called about information quickly – such as Alternate Side Parking Status, school/street closures, and special event information – while providing customers who require a representative for assistance more available call takers.  Other innovations, such as the ability for the public to check the status of previously-filed 311 service requests online via NYC.gov has helped to reduce the need for a customer to make multiple calls about the same issue, also freeing up call takers to service other calls more quickly – and to spend more time with the callers who need it most.  These efficiencies, and more web-based enhancements to come, will allow 311 to continue providing the quality service New Yorkers expect, while better positioning the Call Center to do more with less.

Due in part to such improvements, the length of an average 311 call increased by nearly 15 seconds in 2008 when compared to 2007.  This additional time could be especially important when handling calls in languages other than English and/or those calls about health and human services-related matters.  Both types of calls saw increases in 2008, attributable to the expanded social services information and referral available through 311 as announced by Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs last April, as well as the multi-language automated messaging, in seven languages, available to callers before they reach 311 representatives.

The top 10 call types handled by 311 call takers in 2008 were as follows:

Call Type # of Calls
Heat Complaint - Residential Building - Inadequate Heat 211,281
Bus or Subway Information 196,088
Noise from Neighbor 175,736
Landlord Complaint - Maintenance 166,285
Parking Violation - Ticket Assistance 155,489
Schedule a Plan Examiner Appointment 143,215
Find a Police Precinct or PSA by Location 135,902
Missing Vehicle - Towed 130,551
Alternate Side Parking Information 123,701
Bulk Items Disposal 101,994

Announced by Mayor Bloomberg in his 2002 State of the City Address, 311 is the City’s phone number for all non-emergency government information and services, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and providing language translation services in nearly 180 languages.  311 can also be accessed from anywhere in the world by dialing (212) NEW-YORK.  The Call Center has become a model for non-emergency government service numbers around the world: Denmark, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as the stateside cities of Philadelphia, Newark and San Francisco have all established innovative non-emergency service numbers based on New York City’s 311 model.