Hartford unveiled its new 311 resident information number that was promoted as a way for the city to better serve its residents and help city departments streamline delivery of services. Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez said Tuesday the best thing about the system is that there will be a human at the other end of the line waiting to give residents customer service.
Perez demonstrated the new system pretending he needed a copy of a birth certificate. When he called in he was prompted through a series of questions to determine the nature of his call. Once the phone system was able to determine Perez was looking to find out how to obtain a copy of a birth certificate it put him through to a customer service representative who was able to tell him where he needed to go, what forms of identification he needed to bring, and how much it would cost to obtain a copy. Tom Mazur, vice president of sales for Lagan the company that installed the “Frontlink” software and search engine needed to run the system, said there are two kinds of calls the service center will receive: one for information and one for service. Perez’s call was one for information. A call to report a pothole would be a call for service, Mazur said. He said if someone calls in to report a pothole they will receive a number so that they can track the progress of their call and find out if the pothole they reported was ever followed up on. He said ultimately residents will be able to call up the work order for the pothole online and see where it is in the process. Clyde Younkin, executive vice president of EMA, the company hired as project manager for 311 said at the moment the system will work for residents with old-fashioned landlines or cellphones if they are used within the city limits. It’s not yet compatible with Internet phones. “It’s important to get the voice going first,” he said. “Effective and efficient customer service is crucial,” Perez said. “Streamlining requests is essential for good government.”“We don’t need 20 calls to fill a pothole. We just need to fill it quickly and properly. 311 will cut down on duplication between departments and help us get the job done fast and get the job done right the first time.“The system cost $1 million to implement and will cost the city $300,000 in annual operating expenses which includes the salaries of the eight customer service representatives hired to handle the calls. Other cities with a 311 system include Baltimore and Chicago.