Windsor joins municipal movement towards 311

The City of Windsor, Ont., will be among the first Canadian municipalities to take advantage of a CRTC ruling that will allow citizens to reach non-emergency services by dialing 311.

“”Everyone is racing to get 311 up and

running,”” said Tom Malanfant, manager of customer service for Windsor and the city’s 311 project manager. “”The CRTC released their decision on (Nov.) 5; we got council approval on (Nov.) 8.””

Services such as snow removal, garbage collection, and parks and recreation are currently handled by separate departments. “”It’s just very confusing sometimes for the public to know who to call,”” said Malanfant. Windsor’s plan is to aggregate them all in a call centre which responds to 311 service.

The city will allocate a staff of 10 to 12 people to handle the service, which will be available to the public 14 hours a day. Based on the experience of American cities, which have had 311 up and running for a while, Malanfant said he’s expecting an average of one call per person per year. “”We’re anticipating 200,000 to 250,000 calls in the first year,”” he said.

The service is scheduled to launch this summer and Windsor will make sure ahead of time that citizens are aware that the service exists and the aspects that it covers.

“”We’ll have a big splashy launch at the time that we go live. The thing that you want to handle with 311 (are) the expectations, so they’re not calling for absolutely everything. The first impression is going to be hard to break,”” said Malanfant.

He added that he expects initial call volumes to be high, followed by a cooling-off period.

Bell Canada will be Windsor’s telephony provider for the service and Motorola’s Customer Service Request (CSR) software module will be used by call centre operators.

“”Seventy per cent of calls to municipalities tend to be for information only. (The software) has a way of getting the information from the various city departments onto the computer screen of the call taker,”” said Britt Oldenburg, manager of business development for Motorola Canada.

Motorola has supplied CSR for number of American cities that already have 311 in place, including Dallas, Chicago and Baltimore. The software works just as well for the Canadian market, since most North American cities provide similar citizen services, said Oldenburg.

“”Canada has more stringent privacy requirements, so we had to make sure we met (those), but that hasn’t been problematic,”” she said. CSR is built around service management rather than personal information. “”The idea isn’t to know everything there is to know about the citizen — the product is architected on where the citizen is.””

EnWin, the utility that provides hydro and water services for Windsor, will also have access to the CSR system. That way it can better coordinate its efforts with the city.

Crews from different services are sometimes dispatched to the same location, explained Sylvia de Vries, corporate communications manager for EnWin, which provides hydro and water services for Windsor. “”One’s there for water main replacement and the other’s there for something totally different and the road has been dug up twice. (311) eliminates that problem.””

The City of Windsor will use EnWin’s existing call centre facilities to house its 311 operators.

The city anticipates significant cost savings by moving to 311, said Malanfant. It should help reduce duplication of effort by the various services represented by 311. As well, response times can be reduced since call centre operators will immediately know the location of the caller. In the event of a critical emergency, a “”reverse”” 311 aspect of the CSR software can be used to contact citizens immediately.

Other Canadian cities that have filed for 311 service with the CRTC include Gatineau, Que., Calgary, Halifax and Toronto. Gatineau said last month that it is using a customer relationship management suite from Bell Canada to manage its 311 service.

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