Editor's Note: 10 Questions is a new weekly feature on NBC10.com. If you know someone who we should profile, please email us.
Kimberly Adams, 33, has worked at the Philly 311 Contact Center for the past three years. She sheds light on what she does as a gatekeeper of information for the City of Philadelphia.
Who is Kimberly?
I’m a pretty outgoing motivated individual. I’ve lived in Philadelphia my whole life and I plan on living here my whole life. I get to be in a position where I’m helping other people but I get to help myself to. I’m a dedicated public servant. I am a social media coordinator, customer service officer and contact center supervisor at the Philly 311 Contact Center.
What is 311?
It's the city’s customer service contact center. The office provides general information about city services and city departments. We also do service requests like the street department that picks up your trash. We are open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can submit your questions via a mobile app, email, social media channels and by website 24/7. The mobile app requests will go straight through the departments. The service has since December 24, 2007.
Where is the Call Center located?
It’s in City Hall Room 167. People do come in because City Hall is a public building. Sometimes homeless people come in or mentally challenged people. We service those customers the same way we would any way else. Sometimes people need an emergency shelter. We don’t turn away anyone. We never dismiss anyone. Walk in center is only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What is like working there?
We are a big family. We all are in it together taking the calls, the emails and being on social media. We are all here improving the quality of life.
Provide an example of a common call that the 311 Center receives.
A common call is one that asks for general information about court dates or how to connect to a specific courtroom. Then, we connect them to the CJC (Criminal Justice Center). People will ask how to pay their water bill, and we connect them to water revenue. Those are the most general calls. For service requests, we get-- my street light is out, my trash has been missed, I need a vacant lot cleaned, I have a vacant lot next to me.
How do you handle heat-related calls?
We do have a seasonal requests, such as where can I go for a cooling center and is there any help or relief for code red or excessive heat warnings. The first thing we tell them is what we have here. We give out the number for the Heat Hotline (Philadelphia Corporation for the Aging) 215-765-9040. We tell them we have an excessive heat widget on the mobile app because it’s all encompassing. It gives them all the information we would tell them over the phone. If they don’t have a mobile app, we read the information such as the summer pool schedule and closest pool to your area. And we provide information on how you can help the homeless during a code red emergency.
Have you ever not been able to answer a question?
Yes, a lot of times there’s no information. We are not always going to have all the information all of the time. If we get calls that we can’t answer right away. Then, I would be one of the people to reach out to make sure we have that information included into our information base next time. Then we update the information to make sure it’s accurate.
How do you defuse angry callers?
We get a lot of angry callers, but it depends on the situation. We take a lot of opinion calls as well. Depending on the type of calls we are taking we can defuse the call. If a caller is upset about a general service, we can educate the customer on what 311 does and how long it takes to honor a complaint. An example is a vacant lot complaint. We try to empower the customer by giving them as much information about the service as possible. In this case, it takes 30 days for License and Inspection to come out. A lot of what we do is simple education. The more we educate the public the less complaints we get. I had a caller who had called about a vacant lot she was trying to get cleaned up. She would send messages on Twitter and once I received her complaints on Twitter, I responded to it and educated her. We generate a service request and educate the customer of the process, and within 90 days the lot will be cleaned.
What is an example of a wildest complaint?
We received a call three months ago where a customer was upset at a Rite-Aid employee and they said they were going to blow up City Hall. We said we can’t take the complaint against the Rite-Aid employee and thus we got a bomb threat. The craziest call I have taken personally is-- “When does Best Buy on Delaware Avenue close?” I say we are not 411. Last night, someone asked someone who won the Phillies game. We are a customer service center, so I did not completely strike down that and say I can’t give you the information. I let him know that we give out city government information only and then I gave him the details on who to call for that information.
Why do you love your job?
I feel like I’m in some small way I’m giving back. Improving people’s life and helping citizens. I get to use social media and I can see first-hand the services of what the city provides and what it could be providing. It becomes very obvious to me that some answers are not intuitive to everyone. It allows me to see on the ground level that in some way we make a difference. We are educating customers and I know that information is filtering out through the city.