In February 2007, the Division of Citizen Services began the process of researching, developing and implementing a thorough method to convert the Mayor’s Call and Resolution Center to a 311 Call Center. The Mayor’s Call and Resolution Center, also known as the flagship operation within the Division, has grown into an invaluable hub for constituents, commuters and people who have a vested interest within the City of Buffalo and may request a city service. The Mayor’s Call and Resolution Center has streamlined the process of these requests over the past year. Our goal is to make this process even more efficient through a conversion to a 311 Call & Resolution Center, equipped to handle an expected and continuous increase in the number of phone calls and service requests.
In past practices, when residents have reached out to government in an attempt to solve a city-related issue, their inquiry may be transferred several times before it reaches the appropriate department. Viewed as a customer service improvement strategy within city government, the 311 system simplifies and shortens the time between a resident reporting a problem and receiving a resolution, while improving the delivery of city services both in terms of quantity and quality. The system is an effective management tool generating real-time reports using performance analytics and metrics that will help department heads manage staff, track evolving trends, highlight outstanding performance, target efficiency needs and maximize its resources under the guidance of the CitiStat initiative.
The city-wide 311 system is a "one-stop shopping" center for access to all City of Buffalo city services, information and non-emergency police services. Residents can call 3-1-1 to report service needs, inquire about City initiatives and policy related matters, check the status of previous service requests, obtain information regarding city programs or events and handle non-emergency police matters. Service and informational requests can also be submitted to the city utilizing the Internet via a Citizen Services self-service portal or by utilizing the Buffalo 311 app.
The system is fully transparent and will foster accountability. This transparency makes it possible for residents to track the progress of their requests step by step, allows managers to establish customer service goals and oversee the work of their departments, enables city officials to monitor the delivery of services to their constituents, and help city administrators render informed decisions regarding the allocation of resources, based upon the identification of emerging trends by using performance analytics and metrics. In order to improve the transparency of services being provided to the public, we will regularly report generated information, from 311 call center data, to the public through the City of Buffalo’s website.
The 311 system serves as an important public safety role and will help make the county's 911 emergency system and other departments more efficient by diverting all non-emergency calls that could impede the city's emergency response, thus preserving the availability of the emergency system for callers truly in need of immediate attention. The 911 service is truly designated for emergencies, such as house fires and violent crimes that require an immediate response by police, fire crews, or an ambulance. For all other city services, the designation of a single number will provide a centralized mechanism for assisting citizens, while making city government more responsive and efficient.
Additionally, the 311 system is deemed a very valuable tool for municipalities in the case of other emergencies, such as natural disasters or winter storms. During the October Surprise Storm in 2006, the Mayor’s Call and Resolution Center turned into a 24-hour call center that, amongst other duties, assisted in the dispatching of emergency medical personnel, transporting of people to warming stations, clearing debris-filled streets, and providing referrals to appropriate agencies, thus clearing the way for 911 to deal with true emergencies. This new configuration and alignment will prepare us in the event of another natural disaster, as well as establish a framework for a city-wide 311 Incident Call Center.