Houston, TX (January 29, 2013) - Today, Mayor Annise Parker joined the City of Houston's 311 Help & Info to launch the all-new 311 Smartphone app. The Smartphone app is the newest addition to 311's entirely new design focused on maximizing citizen engagement.
"I am excited to join 311 today to announce the redesigned 311 Help & Info," said Mayor Parker. "The old 311 was inefficient and failed to meet Houston's needs. The new 311 is a completely transformed entity which places focus exactly where it should be; on the customer. Today, Houstonians can reach 311 through a variety of channels that are convenient and easy to use."
The City of Houston launched the 311 Houston Service Helpline in August 2001 as a telephone helpline, and the technology backbone which ran the system became rigid and inflexible over time. Now, 311 Help & Info users are able to submit service requests via the new Smartphone app, the redesigned website, email or by calling the 24/7 call center. The new 311 system is more flexible, convenient, efficient, and customer-focused than ever in Houston's history. Additionally, the new 311 empowers citizens to join the City's effort to improve the community by making it easy for them to report issues that need to be resolved.
"I am so proud of where 311 is today and look forward to where it's going in the future," said Frank Carmody, who oversees 311 Help & Info. "We want to hear from Houston's citizens and we are working to create as many avenues as possible to allow them to communicate with us on their terms: When they want, how they want, and with whom they want."
Prior to 311's transformation, the 311 Call Center provided telephone Service Request and information service 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Due to budget-required layoffs in FY2012, 311 had to stop offering service on the weekends. As of August 15, 2012, 311 Help & Info launched 24 hour a day, seven day a week service. Additionally, 311 installed a labor model that more closely matches the demands of Houstonians. Furthermore, the service extension was implemented at an operating cost to the City of $600,000 less per year than the former 311 Call Center model.
In addition to expanded call-center hours and the new Smartphone app, 311's redesigned website, www.Houston311.org, enables Houstonians to easily submit a request for service online. For example, the 311 website only received 2,144 "hits" in January 2011. In January 2013, following its redesign, the website received more than 13,485 "hits." Over the past week, 311 has also launched a new interactive mapping tool that allows Houstonians to track the progress of their request and view other requests in the area.
"The work that went into building these new customer tools really epitomizes the City's approach to customer service," said Parker. "A cross-functional team comprised of executives from my office, the Public Works & Engineering, Information Technology Services, Planning, and ARA departments worked together with a vendor, SeeClickFix, for months to bring these new services to the public. The result captures how I expect us to serve our citizens: we use one simple, convenient doorway into the City, an effective communication and coordination system, and thousands of workers from many departments are called to action. We can now provide a way for Houstonians to see our follow through. We have created the ability for citizens that fund these services to track where and when the City responded to their request."
"It is because of our agents' dedication to customer satisfaction that 311 continues to become more and more successful every day," said Carmody. "When a citizen reports a problem, they can rest assured their issue will be reviewed. In fact, the City stands firmly by its high-level service agreement which requires the completion of every service request within a certain period of time."
The recent 311 upgrades improve two-way communications between the City and its citizens, resulting in drastically higher engagement by Houstonians. However, the City's 311 Help & Info leaders work constantly to expand and improve 311 functions to better meet Houston's needs. In addition to other future plans for 311, including the launch of a call-back assist program and SMS texting service requests, the next versions of the Smartphone app and website map tracking tool are already being designed.
"Today is really about re-introducing Houstonians to 311 Help & Info," said Parker. "This new Smartphone app and newly redesigned website marks the beginning of many upgrades to come. The nature of technology in our society today is to iterate and improve, and the new 311 will not be an exception to that."