Complaints, confusion over 311 requests marked as closed but not fixed

Austin 311 (KXAN/Kylie McGivern)
Austin 311 (KXAN/Kylie McGivern)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Several people have reached out to KXAN with concerns surrounding the Austin 311 app. Specifically, complaints being marked “closed” even if the problem hasn’t been fixed.

Living in Austin, Katie Patton says she’s better off using her bike to get around. But lately, it’s another factor altogether that’s slowing her down.

“For over a month, there was a large amount of shattered glass pretty much everywhere all around this area,” Patton said of the MoPac and 183 interchange. “It makes it a bit frustrating to get on your bike and know alright, well, here I get to play dodge the glass.”

The concern was despite multiple complaints sent through the Austin 311 app and phone calls to 311. The app launched in July 2014 and lets users easily submit pictures and service requests

“Nothing was done. The only thing that got rid of some of it was rain,” Patton told KXAN.

Austin 311 Public Information Officer Paul Bestgen says when a complaint is “closed,” that just means its been completed within the 311 system. While most of the city departments do work within that same system when fulfilling service requests, other departments take the information, enter it into their own system, and then close the request.

“We are looking to add messages to the mobile app to let them know that their service request is being worked by a different department, even though it shows as closed,” Bestgen said, explaining when a complaint is sent into the app, it’s funneled directly to the appropriate city department.

Bestgen said 311 is working to improve communication not only with citizens, but with the city departments and agencies with TXDOT that are working on the requests, so status updates can easily be provided.

“It’s a very important tool, we understand that, and we want to enhance it every opportunity that we get,” Bestgen said of the app. “We care about our community and we care about customer service and so we’re never going to stop striving to improve our processes and our procedures.”

Austin 311 met with its app vendor just this week, to determine what solutions it can put in place in the short term and long term to improve communication. Since its release, the app has been downloaded nearly 20,000 times and more than 36,000 requests have been submitted.

When 311 requested public feedback earlier this year from surveys and discussions on SpeakUpAustin, the departments says most of the feedback did center around service requests being “closed” with no notification on what action was taken. Other app users expressed that they wanted to be able to manually type in an address rather than drag the pin to another location. Because of that feedback, app users now have the options to manually type in any address as well.

Representatives encourage anyone wishing to follow up on a complaint to call 311.

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