Minneapolis 311 center sees spike in abandoned calls

Updated: July 17, 2019 02:25 PM

Minneapolis residents are abandoning their calls into the 311 call center at a rate unseen by the city department in recent years.

The 311 center provides information about city services and takes reports on problems in the community from residents.


In 2018 alone, 31,200 calls were lost in the queue compared to just 17,916 the year before, and 11,169 in 2016, according to 311 data.

"I was shocked,” said Trish Glover, the 311 director. “I really was."

But the system the city uses to handle calls doesn’t allow the department to know when in the process the caller hung up, according to Glover.

Saint Paul also has a phone number for questions, concerns, and complaints. The number of people who abandon their calls to that line are about half of Minneapolis' totals.

"The city is growing exponentially," Glover said. “We're seeing an uptick in everything we do."

Minneapolis 311 center received record call volumes from residents, with 318,640 in 2018.

"Right now, because of our calls, our supervisors are taking phone calls, my program assistant is taking phone calls, my training analyst is taking phone calls," said Glover while discussing the reason for wait times.

The city of Minneapolis launched a pilot program in late spring that allows residents to type in their phone number, so they can hold a place in line and they don’t have to wait on hold.

Callers are asked after waiting one minute if they’d prefer the call-back option, it’s offered again after more time passes, and also when there are 10 people waiting on hold.

Minneapolis 311

City data shows 3,188 callers have selected the call-back option since the pilot program launched.

"I think we need to find ways to make 311 serve residents better," said Minneapolis City Council member Linea Palmisano.

Palmisano’s budget committee learned of the staffing issues the department was facing.

"Retention has been an issue because these people, once trained, are sought after for other kinds of city jobs," Palmisano said.

A new class of trainees will begin on the job later this summer. Their training program lasts nearly 5 months.

At that point, the 311 center may launch a “live-chat” option on the city website to go along with other portals residents can use to file complaints or request help.

Of calls that came through to operators in 2018, 54% were answered in 20 seconds or less, according to the city. That's a drop from 69.5% the year before.

Mayor Jacob Frey will release his budget recommendations for city departments in mid-August, including for 311.

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Eric Chaloux

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