City’s new 3-1-1 service debuts

From within Metro Hall – using the former city council chambers – a new groundbreaking and streamlined city service is taking shape.

311 Toronto is a comprehensive telephone service dedicated to the majority of the municipality’s non-essential services. As of today, the only number Torontonians will need to remember when accessing city services is 3-1-1.

The service replaces the former Access Toronto and branches out to many formerly independent services. In all, those three digits will take the place of upwards of 300 telephone numbers. Toronto mayor David Miller was on hand for the official launch.

“There was a time when government services were only available during business hours,” Miller said. “Those days are over.”

The comprehensive overhaul attempts to minimize call transfers by making a wide array of information and services available to their first contact call centre workers.

Project director Neil Evans ensures each customer service representative in the call centre completes 17 days of training and is equipped with an ever-growing knowledge database that includes 15,000 answers to 13,800 questions.

“We’ll be able to settle 70 per cent of requests right here in our call centre,” Evans said. “And if we’re not able to provide the service here, we’ll get you to the right people.”

Prior to the inception of 3-1-1, a citizen would initially be greeted by a telephone operator and then be transferred to whichever service their question related to, be it water, waste management, or any number of other fields. If they had more than one issue they would be transferred back to the first tier operator and have to start all over again.

With 3-1-1 Toronto, citizens can speak to one customer service representative; whether it’s regarding garbage pick up, a broken water main or the nearest public pool.  Furthermore, citizens will now receive a tracking number to follow the progress of their request.

The $35 million project will carry an annual operating cost of $11 million, but because the majority of the 90 full-time and 40 part time staff are already city employees, it’s not expected to cost the city any new funds.

By early next year the city hopes to have the new service fully integrated online as well, but even today the new website is a valuable source of information.