City Hall will never be the same, or at least that’s the experience of other cities that have taken on the 3-1-1 constituent call center system – a system that Chelsea plans to roll out on March 1.
The 3-1-1 system was approved last year by the Council on the initiative of City Manager Tom Ambrosino. Since that time, it has been developed by new 3-1-1 Director Bernabe Rodriguez. The non-emergency call center program will also feature a website and an app for the phone. All of it is based on giving information, taking suggestions and logging complaints.
“This is our big roll-out for a big change in City Hall,” said Rodriguez. “It’s a push we have been doing starting last year. We did a lot of research on how to better communicate with the community and how to more efficiently communicate…A community like Everett and Revere are comparable to us and we’ve seen how their operations there work. There was an increase in efficiency in their City Halls – less phone calls sent to voicemail or long lines. It’s a one stop shop and it give a first person to communicate with. People don’t get the information they need when they are transferred from department to department.”
He said there are a number of functions that can be called in, registered via the website, or logged via the phone application. Residents can use it for a variety of non-emergencies, including getting simple information. They can also make complaints about things like potholes or broken signs, and Rodriguez said that information can be sent directly into the field to a City worker to investigate and fix.
“The rollout of 3-1-1 has the main function in being a call center – taking constituent reports and answering general questions about City Hall and what a person might ask,” he said. “There are a lot of questions that should take 45 seconds to answer but unfortunately because of the traffic we have at City Hall, it’s hard to get those questions answered quickly. One role of 3-1-1 is to get those questions answered in a better way.”
The website and app are currently being developed, but appear to be on track for the March 1 launch. Those 3-1-1 features will include FAQs, self-help buttons and links to things like appealing a parking ticket, paying for parking passes or paying municipal bills.
“It’s a lot for one web page, but it’s what we get called for a lot,” he said.
There are some kinks to 3-1-1 as you have to be in the City limits of Chelsea to call the 3-1-1 number. If someone is out of the limits or close to the Everett or Revere line, they might get the call centers for those cities. However, if one uses the app and presses the ‘Call Us’ button, it will go through no matter where they are.
Right now, there are two people assigned to the Call Center, including Rodriguez. The idea is to be able to launch the program, and take some of the pressure off of the departments in City Hall – whether that be on the phones or in person.
“We think it will be a big help for residents because they may not get a call back now or maybe they don’t know where to go in City Hall,” he said. “If we can’t get an answer immediately, our goal is to give a call back in five or 10 minutes. Getting answers to these questions will be a big help for some in the community that have no idea what happens in City Hall or where things are in City Hall. It will be a learning process and over time we’ll add to or take things away. The goal is simply to improve it over time.”
The Call Center is staffed by Spanish and English speakers, he added.