The City of Houston announced the launch of its new 311 platform that will enable citizens to more easily access city information and report non-emergency issues.

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The city’s existing 311 Call Center handles roughly 2.2 million contacts and creates approximately 450,000 service requests each year. To ease the overloaded call center, Houston developed a new system that “embraces emerging technology that puts the power of case creation into the hands of residents.”

“The new, innovative system is a significant accomplishment for the City of Houston. Last fiscal year, we prioritized the development of a new 311 system by funding it through the [Capital Improvement Projects] process. In nine short months, HITS [the Houston Information Technology Services] and ARA [the Administration and Regulatory Affairs] were able to take that investment and develop a 311 system that modernizes 20-year-old technology and creates a platform that equips the city to better handle increased demand,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner.

The new platform includes a virtual agent to handle lower-level requests. This lessens the demand on the call center, allowing it to more quickly handle the most complicated cases. Houston residents now have three ways to create a service request: a smartphone app, a web portal with the virtual agent, and through the call center.

“This new 311 system has the potential to be the platform that connects all city departments and systems to each other ensuring a smooth and seamless experience for constituents,” said Mayor Turner.

In a press release, the city highlighted a handful of the portal’s new functionalities:

  • “A customer self-service portal with a virtual agent, allowing residents to create service requests on their own;
  • The ability to re-classify a case instead of having to close it and create another one;
  • Cases being routed to a team, instead of an individual [thus] minimizing case inactivity due to staff being out of office;
  • Cases created via web portal, app, or call-taker all have the same service request numbers and, when not confidential, are searchable on all platforms; and
  • Prior to service requests being created, there will be a proximity search performed to ensure no duplication of cases created.”

“Not only will this reduce wait times for people who need to call 311 instead of creating a service request on our app or web portal, this investment and upgrade in our technology will prepare us for the next 20 years of demand,” said ARA Director Tina Paez.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs