City Controller Ron Galperin Thursday released a report on the 311 program, which he said is plagued by long wait times and lags behind similar programs in other cities.
The 311 system was created in 2002 as a call center to help residents access government services and improve civic engagement. It is supposed to be a one-stop shop for non-emergency services. People can call the number if they need to get graffiti erased, street lights fixed, potholes filled, bulky items removed and more.
“When you see a pothole or an abandoned vehicle on the street, you should be confident that by calling 311 or making a service request through the MyLA311 app or website, you can get that matter resolved,” Galperin said. “But right now, it’s not that easy. Some basic neighborhood issues aren’t included in 311 and it’s very hard to track progress on many that are. The city needs to retool its approach to 311 and adopt a customer-first model to better meet Angelenos’ needs.”
Galperin called on the city to fix the program, which last year received 1.75 million service requests through the call center, email, website and smartphone app. The mobile app and website account for 80% of service requests in 2020, up from 51% in 2016.
Galperin said the 311 program functions worse than similar programs in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas.
Galperin cited five problems with the city’s program, including:
— many city departments also have their own service request systems, causing confusion about 311, which is meant to be a one-stop shop for service requests;
— some issues commonly experienced by Angelenos aren’t included in 311, such as noise complaints, housing complaints, fire safety issues, parking violations and abandoned vehicles, which Galperin said should be added to 311’s system;
— customers waited an average of 3.3 minutes in 2019, while other cities’ systems experience wait times ranging from 10 seconds to 2.8 minutes;
— 311 does not give customers an estimate of how long it will take for the issue to be handled, which Galperin said undermines accountability; and
— 311 doesn’t seek out customer feedback about the program and the requested service.
Galperin recommends the city reimagine the 311 program through a customer-first approach. He said the city should reevaluate how it engages with residents and the role of 311 and other department call centers. It should also incorporate customer ideas into the design process, use new technologies, like artificial intelligence, to improve self-service and create a contact center that integrates all the ways people use 311, Galperin said.