The 311 on how your city can work for you

Recycling and Green BinsImagine coming home from work after a long day in the office and an equally tiring commute. All you want to do is park the car and plunk your head on the couch for a few moments of peace and quiet.

But wait.

You have to park your car on a narrow city street and get out. Why? Because for the umpteenth week in a row the sanitation workers have left your bins lying on their side in your driveway and blocking the adjacent sidewalk.

I must admit that we take great pride in our house in sorting garbage, recycling and green bin waste into three meticulous bins. We take equally great care to place our bins outside our house as per the strict city guidelines.

Why should taxpaying citizens be held to such high standards while sanitation workers get a free pass?

Having had no luck e-mailing the local city councillor’s office in the past, I reached out to a new service on Twitter @311Toronto.

If you are ever looking for a way for social media to help your business, this is a great example.

The folks at @311Toronto pretty much do everything right. They are not simply a blank government feed, they post the names, titles and photos of the individuals who are responding to what I can only imagine are complaints for the most part. When they respond, they are genuine and even funny. They build an instant report – exactly how customer service should be.

Having shared a couple of twitpics of my garbage bin situation (see photo above), the good people from @311Toronto have opened a service request with the city. Imagine how many minutes of time would have been spent on a phone call! Instead, in less than 140 characters we were able to work out a resolution.

It is too early to report back on whether my bins will be returned to their full upright position on a regular basis, but @311Toronto humanized a faceless bureaucracy and for that they deserve kudos.

Working in a similar customer service role in my day-to-day job at the CFL, I understand how difficult it can sometimes be when you are on “the other end” when things go wrong.

However, if you are the one making the complaint, please remember to keep it cordial and friendly. Dropping F-bombs never helps. And I have seen my fair share over the past couple of weeks on Twitter and Facebook. Just remember, while we can fix most problems, chewing out the Twitter guy about how the officials cost your team the game really won’t make a difference. Best to sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight.

Lessons Learned:

  • Following the ‘Golden Rule’ on Twitter, as in life, will generally lead to a positive resolution
  • Using social media to help solve customer problems is a great way to support (but not replace) your current modes of customer service
  • If you are the one making the complaint, remember that people are more apt to help you if you treat them with kindness and respect

About Jaime Stein

Jaime is the Senior Manager, Social Media at Hootsuite. He is a digital marketer with expertise in social media and content marketing. His experience stems from leading the social media strategy for two national brands. Jaime holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing and Strategy from the Rotman School of Management where he was selected valedictorian by the students of the Morning MBA Class of 2011. He is the former radio voice of the Toronto Argonauts and currently lives in Vancouver with his wife and two sons.
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2 Responses to The 311 on how your city can work for you

  1. Becky says:

    I recently used 311 and was also quite happy with the service!

    I didn’t get the outcome I wanted, but they were quick about sending an informative reply.

    Good job 311!

  2. Mihnea G. says:

    This reminded me of @Twelpforce, a similar service from Best Buy.

    Jaime, am I starting to see a theme here with all these posts about city government? Are you planning to run for office?

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