Tag Archives: customer service

Who You Gonna Call? It’s 311.

If you haven’t already heard, when you have a problem or question about Charlotte or Mecklenburg services, it’s best to call 311. CharMeck 311 is the region’s customer service line to have your city service questions answered and assessed. 311 was introduced to the area almost 20 years ago in 2005 as a consolidation of services. Before, residents were directed to contact services and utilities separately to have issues resolved. Since then, 311 has received tens of millions of calls that range from tax questions to water issues, animal control, and more. They even get out into the community for in person events to answer your questions! They have a standing engagement at your local libraries if you would like to speak to them in person.

311 On The Go at a local event recently

You may wonder, how does an agent get information for a caller at the drop of a hat? Surely they don’t just know all the information off the top of their heads? Agents are trained to use an application the city calls Emerald. It is essentially an internal search engine with which agents are trained to look up keywords to find solutions to questions quickly. Emerald is kept up to date with current city projects and programs so the information you get is current and reliable.

Customer service representatives are trained to handle different types of requests, with the most senior representatives trained to handle any type of call that comes in. The agents are masters of multitasking by providing service to callers via phone or online and inputting information and requests through a myriad of forms. In this role, many agents become extremely well versed in a variety of city subject matters and some even move to different departments in the city as incredible assets to their new teams with their wealth of city knowledge.

To maintain consistent quality over time with new agents being hired, 311 commits exceptional effort to training and quality control. Regina Peralta, a Quality Assurance Analyst at 311, offered the insight that 311 is unique as a call center as it is a public service rather than a traditional private company helpline. Agents receive calls from a wide audience of people that have a large variety of needs, and it is a tough job to be sure everyone is served with the same care and quality.

Zekia Young, Senior Customer Service Representative

At 311, the agents live and thrive in the same communities they serve. Pictured above is Zekia Young. She’s been with 311 for over 18 years since 311 opened in 2005. I had the pleasure of sitting with her for an afternoon as she took calls and she handled each one with poise and professionalism. I asked her what she hopes for the public to know, and she said that she hopes that people understand that the team at 311 works hard every day to accurately satisfy the needs of the community.

To contact 311, you have a few options!

You may call the service center and speak to someone like Zekia from 7am-7pm Monday through Friday. You may also utilize an online chat feature to speak to a real human during those hours (trust me, I witnessed it myself).

Otherwise, you may submit service requests online or via the CLT+ app. For more information, visit the 311 contact page.

From the River to the Tap: Billing

“Before any water bill goes out, there is a long process involving a lot of people, all to make sure each bill is accurate and sent on time.”

Customer Service Revenue Assistant Febee Martin is not only a 12-year Charlotte Water employee. She’s also a detective, reviewing water bills for the department’s nearly one-million customers as part of a critical process that ensures bills are accurate.

Here’s how it works: specially equipped Charlotte Water trucks drive specific routes and read meters via transmitter. The data is downloaded and the system checks it. If the data falls within a normal range for the customer, the bill goes out. If it’s outside the norm, Febee and her three coworkers start investigating to determine whether there’s an issue with the meter, a water leak, or just a month with high water use.

Febee Martin pic

“Before a customer even sees the bill, we check it,” she said. “We go into the account and analyze the information, which includes pictures of the meter, readings, the transmission report and previous bills. We look at all the details to figure out why the data falls outside the normal use.”

Sometimes the answer could be as simple as a customer starting up an irrigation system in the spring; the account history may show a similar jump in use the previous spring, so the bill will go out. Other times, Febee needs on-the-ground information, so she’ll send a service order.

“Our investigators call the customers and go to their homes,” she explained. “They check the meter to ensure it’s working properly. If it is, they’ll look for leaks. Many times, customers will find out about a leak at their home from us – before they even receive a higher bill.”

It’s one way Charlotte Water is proactive, using these “detectives” to check customers’ bills for unusual activity and help track down the issue.

“When I started, I didn’t know how detailed the water bill really is,” Febee said. “Customers only see the paper bill, and they don’t realize everything that goes into it before it ends up in their mailbox.”

Febee takes her job seriously – and so does her sister, who also works for Charlotte Water, in the finance department.

“This job provides a service. What I do helps the customers, and we try to provide the best service we can.”

To read the next step in the water process click here