A couple of weeks ago, Citizen Editor Larry Platt asked, “When was the last time you encountered the city bureaucracy and said to yourself, ‘Wow, what great customer service?’” As a result, we’ve taken a page from private industry and unleashed a team of mystery shoppers to interact with city service providers and report back on their experiences…the good, the bad, and the disfiguring. Stay tuned for more.
Mystery Shopper Test #7: Getting a pothole fixed
- Called 311.
- Told the operator about a pothole located at 53rd and Girard streets.
- She gave me a confirmation number, and assured me it would be taken care of in one to three business days.
- 10 days later, pothole still there.
Time Spent: 5 minutes
Result: Pothole not fixed.
Takeaways: The 311 system for reporting is easy to use, but either the city cannot keep up with demand or there is a lack of coordination between 311 and the responding city agency.
Lightning Bolt Rating: ⚡️
Mystery Shopper Test #8: Fixing a broken traffic light
- Called 311
- Told the operator about a traffic light that was functional, but facing the wrong way/not visible to traffic on 54th and Chestnut streets. He gave me a confirmation number and assured me someone would come investigate within one business day.
- After I hung up, got an automated “emergency” email saying: “Someone will come investigate within one business day and it will be fixed within four business days.”
- Traffic light fixed in two days.
Time Spent: Five minutes
Takeaways: Safety seems to be a priority. While the pothole remains, the light was fixed promptly.
Lightning Bolt Rating: ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️
Mystery Shopper Test #9: Acquiring a police report
- After house in North Philly was broken into over Thanksgiving weekend, police came out and wrote up a report. The initial report did not contain a complete list of items stolen.
- Over the next week, we worked with the detective assigned to our case to update this initial list so we could provide an accurate accounting for our renters insurance.
- Called the detective multiple times, and emailed weekly for a month before finally the detective called back to say the report had been updated and was ready.
- At our local police precinct, I got different stories from different officers about where to go for the updated police report. Eventually, they sent me to City Hall to the Police Records Unit.
- At City Hall, I spoke to three officials, who were rude and unhelpful; one was on her phone half the time we were speaking with her. The computer program the officials used was so outdated it seemed to make looking up my information difficult.
- I was asked to pay $25 to get the police report from City Hall—even though I was the victim of a crime.
- I called my insurance company, which sent in the money to get the report.
Time Spent: Still ongoing—for 4 months
Results: No report was ever given.
Takeaways: Don’t be a victim of a crime in Philadelphia and expect to get justice quickly. You must do a lot of your own advocacy.
Lightning Bolt Rating: Zero
Mystery Shopper Test #10: Acquire a building permit for a residence
- Called 311 and asked where I can pick up a building permit application for a patio.
- 311 representative immediately told me I can find the application at the Municipal Services, 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Then he followed up by asking how far I am in the process of building a patio. When I said I’m in the preliminary stages, he put me on hold and returned quickly with a web address where I could find more information about building permits.
- Went to Municipal Building, took escalator to lower concourse level.
- The concourse level was very confusing and crowded, with many different services all happening in one place—a revenue department section, an area for paying violations, and the like. After a few minutes, I found the correct line for the Licenses and Inspection part of the concourse.
- I jumped in a line and waited for about four minutes. Representative quickly handed me a form.
Time Spent: 20 minutes
Takeaways: Customer service was very helpful and quick and I received the necessary paperwork for my permit.
Lightning Bolt Rating: ⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️⚡️
Previous entries in this series: