Call to Vancouver’s 3-1-1: Can you keep a camel, if only for its milk?

CAN you keep a camel in Vancouver, if only for its milk?

This was one of the most memorable questions asked of the City’s 3-1-1 contact centre in 2020. Every year, 3-1-1 citizen service representatives (CSRs) receive a wide range of questions, from the mundane to the weird and the wonderful, and last year was no exception, says the City of Vancouver.

Skilled in dealing with enquiries ranging from animal services to zero waste, 3-1-1 citizen service representatives provide Vancouver residents and businesses a single point-of-access to City information and non-emergency services.

Since its inception in 2009, the contact centre has expanded from the original phone line to include a growing number of channels for submitting service requests and enquiries. To date, there have been over 13 million interactions across all channels, including the 3-1-1 phone line, VanConnect app, live chat online, and the City’s social media accounts.

Here are some unique calls from 2020:

· Can you remove a dog from my bedroom? A friend left it, but I don’t know who. (Animal Services was dispatched.)

· There are some trees in your open data set incorrectly listed as apple trees. I’ve been eating the fruit and they are definitely not apples. (CSRs were not able to confirm what the caller had eaten.)

· I heard we’re allowed to dump one mattress and one piece of furniture in a back alley each year. Can we? (Dumping any items in back alleys is illegal year-round.)

With over 968,000 interactions across all contact centre channels last year, 3-1-1 staff have heard it all.

Phone remains the most popular method of contact, with 505,307 calls in 2020. Dedicated staff answered 71% of these calls within 60 seconds.

The most frequently asked questions relate to property tax, empty homes tax, and home owner grants.

The 3-1-1 contact centre is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the year, with interpretation service available in 240 languages.

Vancouver residents and businesses can connect with the contact centre by dialing 3-1-1 (or 604-873-7000 outside of Vancouver), downloading the VanConnect app, using the online chat, or interacting with the City’s social media channels.