Operational Improvements to 311

Thank you to CTV for this in depth interview. SEE CTV News

I know we can improve on the 311 Call Center interactions with residents seeking service or information. I’ve been working with a variety of the public service staff over the years to make improvements. I’ve had some success but unless there is top down support to FOCUS on the issues – there are just band aid fixes. In October 2019 I made a formal request for action; see Motion for Operational Improvements to 311

I presented the motion and suggestions to the Mayor and Executive Policy Committee* in November 2019, and they supported part of the motion – so this is what is now underway:

  1. Report back within 60 days on:
  2. All operational improvements made to 311 within the past four years.
  3. All operational improvements made to 311 that are currently in progress.
  4. All operational improvements to 311 that have been identified for future consideration.
  5. Current staffing levels, required staffing levels, and the rate of turnover within the past four years.
  6. Submit a request for a Council Seminar on the progress of all ongoing projects related to 311 operational improvements.

*Presentation to Mayor and Executive Policy Committee (EPC)

“You Mr Mayor, and your EPC are the Committee responsible for 311.

The 311 Contact Centre is the first point of contact citizens have with the City of Winnipeg – it’s the citizen’s ‘first impression’ of the City – and first impressions – and interactions matter – they set the ‘tone’ of the citizen / city relationship – and the many many interactions that follow.

I’d also say 311 sets the ‘tone’ on how citizens ‘perceive’ the city’s ability to deliver services.

  • The feedback I receive almost daily from residents – is that 311 does not work – residents are frustrated by the responses and lack of information provided and the run around.

I’m hearing there are combinations of things that residents are not pleased with:

  • There is a long convoluted process to get to the answer they are looking for – there is a ‘run around’ of many many email or calls and a multitude of service request numbers that are provided for the same initial service request
  • Timelines – and expectations are SET – but the actual delivery of service does not occur in the timeline that was set out.
  • There is no ‘conclusion’ to the service request – no follow up stating if the ‘service request’ has been completed.
  • Timelines that are set – can be completely unrealistic – as C. Mayes recently highlighted with curbs.

So what all of this frustration does – is it ‘redirects’ the service request to the Councillor’s office, and to be clear – I have no problem dealing with the service requests – trying to seek the answer from the many departments – or even Council 311.

  • But – I ask – is that the role of a Councillor – to be a 311 Call Centre ?
  • The financial cost of having every Councillor (15) and every Executive Assistant (15) spend hours and hours each day on 311 is not an effective use of Councillors time or the taxpayer’s dollar.

Since I started in 2014, I’ve been focused on trying to improve 311:

  • I worked extensively with Ms. Burch – trying to see new technology applied to 311 – to improve service delivery
  • Then Mr. Legary started with the City and I worked with him on identifying issues – to which he found the solutions – but it took over a year to actually resolved because of software incompatibility
  • I’ve worked closely with Mr Berezowski to understand why, when the department completed a work order, the  information was not fed back into 311
  • I’m regularly providing input to Ms. Wiltshire – whose department – Customer Service & Communications – is now responsible for 311

Because there is no standing committee that 311 reports to –

  • Councillors have no ability to scrutinize and seek accountability on the challenges of 311
  • Councillors have no ability to understand what is being done to fix the 311 challenges

You Mr. Mayor – and your EPC – are the Committee responsible for 311 –

  • My motion asks to provide Councillors with an update on the current situation of 311 – and what is being proposed for the future

SO that when we receive the very frustrated calls about 311 – I can at least provide them with information that the City IS trying to improve the service delivery abilities of 311.

I see a variety of emails coming out that work is being done on 311 – but I have no idea what the end goal is – I have no idea what the department is working towards –

I’d like that information – I’d like to share with residents that:

“YES – we recognize there are challenges – and we are doing – this / that and whatever to improve the challenges.”

I want to assure residents we are working as hard as we can to improve their 311 experience. Currently – I have no idea if we are or not.

I sit on the Innovations and Economic Development Committee – and Councillors who are not part of the Executive Policy Committee are learning more and more what that department is doing every time we meet.

  • We are seeing how the department – through its Innovation Strategy Program – has selected internal projects to analyze to see if they can improve the business process – provide better service delivery – and save taxpayers money through the use of technology.

This is great – I think this is a very very progressive approach for the City to be undertaking.

  • I love the methodology they are using –
  • I think the investment to seek better business improvements is an excellent approach to improving business process.

I think the projects they are working on hold great potential, some we’ve already seen good success on.

But I have to tell you – I really believe we must focus MORE on our front line interface with the public – we must put MORE effort into improving the ‘customer experience’ related to service delivery.

I made this initial motion – but now with a greater understanding of how the Innovations and Economic Development Committee works –

I’m going to ask that EPC make a friendly amendment to the motion –

I’d like EPC to recommend to Council:

  • that the Innovations and Economic Development department be approved conduct a deep dive into 311
  • to apply the methodology – and look at how the Innovations and Economic Development can improve the business process currently being used in the 311 environment – to provide service delivery to residents.

I appreciate the Innovations and Economic Development department has some great INTERNAL projects on the go –

but having been involved in the world of service delivery virtually all my life –

I truly believe – our ‘front line’ – our ability to interface with the public is of utmost important and we should have a GREATER focus on improving 311.”