3-1-1: Tracking City Services (from Potholes to Ghosts)

We often talk about the "Shared Services Model" as a framework which provides employees of a company a centralized location to view, request, and track all the various services available to help him or her do the best job possible.  We love talking about this model and have put it into practice with Stave's Shared Services Manager cloud application.


The Shared Services Model exists outside enterprise as well and can be found deployed within city governments, though in such a case the prevailing term used is not "Shared Services", but "non-emergency services" branded as a "3-1-1" hotline (or increasingly; a portal).

In a growing number of cities across North America residents can dial 3-1-1 to access non-emergency municipal services. The success of these systems is seen in a number of areas.

The system diverts call away from existing 9-1-1 systems allowing cities to ensure that true emergencies are prioritized. To quote a promotional campaign used by Akron Ohio, “Burning building? Call 9-1-1. Burning question? Call 3-1-1.

By centralizing the requests and using a unified system the municipalities can track from request to assignment to completion. Consolidating this data allows them to see trends in missed trash collection, graffiti, or potholes and to better prioritize issues on the front-end.

Additionally, 3-1-1 systems can serve as a backup for 9-1-1 in times of heavy call volume, or vice versa 9-1-1 operators can answer non-emergency calls when there is extra capacity.

The first 311 system was implemented more than 20 years ago in Baltimore. At that time the system was operated solely via call center. As the systems have matured and technology has advanced they are becoming more automated through apps. Spencer Stern, a consultant who advises municipal governments on their Customer Relationship Management systems points out, “It’s more expensive to process via phone. I’m seeing a de-emphasis on these big contact centers, and more of a push to self-service.”

Baltimore has gone a step further in integrating it’s 311 system with social media using twitter (https://twitter.com/baltimore311). City employees document closed requests and post them to the feed. Everything from abandoned Christmas tree’s…


To open fire hydrants…


To requests for removal of a sparrow that left us too soon.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 3.06.19 PM

The difference between an emergency and a non-emergency can vary from person to person, which brings us to the title of this post. New York City 311 got at least two call about ghosts. In one of the calls there were “ghosts banging and pounding”, and the other involved ghosts in Staten Island dragging heavy objects across the floor. In both cases the ghosts weren’t destroying the city, they were just making a racket. Having 311 in place allowed NYC to route the calls away from the emergency line and properly route the incident. It was determined that proton packs were not necessary.


Do you require a new or updated 3-1-1 for your city?  Who you gunna call?  Start with Stave and see how we can help.