Winnipeg’s 311 service celebrates 10 years of service

Dialing 311 for information about city services is a routine phone call for Winnipeggers these days, but a decade ago, it was a strange new world.Winnipeg’s 311 service quietly celebrated its 10th anniversary Wednesday, but for the people who were there when it launched back in 2009, it was an important milestone.Story continues below

“Back in the early 2000s, there were major Canadian cities, U.S. cities, that were moving to this idea of a ‘one call to City Hall’ model of customer service,” said Yvette Cenerini, part of the original 311 project team.READ MORE: Winnipeg mayoral candidate pledges overhaul of ‘screwed up’ 311 service“We wanted to make it easier and more convenient for our citizens to get information and services from their city government.“We had a City Hall information service, which was where you would call if you didn’t know where to call, but we also published eight pages of numbers in the phone book.”Cenerini, currently a manager at the city’s Water and Waste Department, but still the “voice” of 311 that you hear when you first call up, told 680 CJOB Wednesday that navigating the web of different civic services and departments was one of the biggest difficulties in setting up the phone service.“One of the challenges in establishing 311 was recognizing that customers were used to calling certain numbers, certain people,” she said.“There was a lot of work done to pull together information on all of the city’s services and programs. That was probably one of the scariest processes that we went through in establishing 311, because we had to try to mine that information out of those departments.“I don’t think people have any concept whatsoever of how large, how complex our departments are. There’s always some level of expertise that you need to go and mine somewhere else.”Technology, said Cenerini, has played a large role in the way things have changed over the years, with online requests and resources making it even easier for Winnipeggers to get the information they need.Residents can now search city services online and fill out self-service requests for reporting potholes, property crimes, property lost on a transit bus, and much more.WATCH: Audit shows 311 call wait times longer than ever before