Call center a boon to S.F.

New statistics obtained from San Francisco’s 311 hotline are starting to home in on residents’ everyday concerns, with graffiti, illegal dumping and questions about “when’s the next Muni bus coming?” high on the list.

In mid-February, city officials started to route calls for the Department of Public Works and Muni through San Francisco’s new multimillion-dollar call center. Nonemergency calls for other city departments will be integrated into the system during the next two years.

Championed by Mayor Gavin Newsom as an easy-to-remember three-digit number to report problems or ask questions about city services, the 311 line can be used to report a stolen wallet, get a Muni schedule, find out where to get a flu shot and request that a broken street lamp be fixed, graffiti removed or a pothole filled, among other uses.

Since it’s hooked up to a central computer system, the hotline also allows The City to track such information as the number of calls that come in and which departments are getting the most calls. It will also be able to maintain call follow-up records, according to Newsom.

Since its February launch, the 311 system has received more than 660,000 calls and is on pace to pick up its 1 millionth call in October. Most of the calls — 492,000 — have been for Muni route and schedule information. Another 56,000 have been for such Department of Public Works service requests as handling illegal dumping, filling potholes and cleaning up graffiti.

The next largest batch of calls — 21,000 — have mostly been complaints about Muni service, with the new T-Third line receiving the most complaints.

Lost-and-found calls and a handful of compliments about the public transit system were also logged. Another 27,000 calls have been for all other city-related information.

The average pick-up time in recent months has been about 12-13 seconds, said Edward Reiskin, director of the 311 Customer Service Center.

The 311 hotline is staffed by operators 24 hours a day, according to city officials, with the ability to communicate in more than 145 languages. To date, less than one percent of callers have asked for language assistance, Reiskin said.

Getting the system up and running cost $8.8 million, and this year another $9.8 million has been allocated from The City’s budget.

“The reports are already having an impact,” Newsom said. “I start my Monday department head meetings talking about how many calls for services [were received], and if there’s a disproportionate number of calls, asking [city officials], ‘What are you doing about it?’”

beslinger@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

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