Re-engineering the City’s Communication Process

This is a short progress update on re-engineering the City of Winnipeg’s communication process.  Two key goals of mine are to:

  • Improve the ‘customer experience’ in how residents communicate with City Hall. I strongly believe we need to see a complete change of focus towards becoming ‘CUSTOMER AND SERVICE FOCUSED’
  • Ensure EVERY interaction with the ‘customer’ is focused on providing top quality service and information.

Prior to being elected (and it’s really been no different since being elected), I found that I was extremely challenged with the way information within the City was shared and communicated. I’ve spent a lifetime in service based fields – much of it self-employed –  and know the City can absolutely do better.

Since being elected as City Councillor in November, 2014, I am continually experiencing frustration trying to access information from various City departments in order to help constituents with the challenges they face. Working inside the organization is providing me with some first-hand insight  and the opportunity to question, challenge and change existing process.


Communication Progress

The good news is that a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work is occurring – which is chiseling away at re-engineering the City’s existing communication process. Here is a short list of work underway:

  1. Staff in Corporate Communications now report directly to the Chief Administrative Officer, Mr. Doug McNeil:   Mr. McNeil, our new CAO, reports to the Mayor and City Councillors. The lines of communication from the Mayor and City Councillors are now more direct, enabling more clarity and consistency in communication messaging.
  2. Communications Review Underway: A comprehensive communication review is underway within the City. This review is being conducted by an external professional communications organization and is assessing the current communication model. The firm will be providing recommendations on how to move forward to improve communications with a new City Council and Mayor – virtually all of whom campaigned on ensuring more openness and transparency at City Hall.
  3. Audit of 311 Contact Centre Audit: An 311 Audit Report was completed in 2014 and brought forward to the new City Council in early 2105. Multiple recommendations were made and are currently being implemented towards improving the operations of 311.  We are expecting a report in fall, 2015 on the impact of these changes.
  4. New 311 Director: A very experienced and new 311 Director has been hired to oversee 311 operations. The new director has over 20 years of experience operating a call centre.


 Interesting 311 “Big Picture” Stats

The graphic below contains information from the 2014 audit of the 311 Contact Centre Audit.  Highlights that I found interesting include:

  • 311 receives 1.6 million inquires each year. 73% of these inquiries are solely for information, NOT a request for service.  
    • Which begs the question, how can the City do a better job of providing information?  An improved website, a top class search engine, improved public information releases, etc.?
  • Of the 73% of people requesting information, 58% were calls to Transit for bus routes/scheduling.
    • Which begs the question, why are people calling 311 instead of Navigo or TeleBUS?  Is there is a need for a Transit APP?
  • Of the 1.6 million inquiries each year, 1.5 million are by phone and about 130,000 are by email.
    • Currently, Administration believes it is more effective (BOTH financially and for customer service) to have humans answer 1.5 million calls in person rather than providing/encouraging online service requests. Which begs the question, where is the actual data supporting this belief?  Why aren’t we using technology more?
  • About 500,000 calls each year are for actual service requests. Customers are either requesting a service, or have a concern with the service being delivered by City departments.
    • Here, in my opinion, is where the system really fails.  Simple service requests can be processed by 311 operators.  But if a customer’s inquiry necessitates seeking information from City departments to resolve the inquiry, the system fails.  The 311 Call Centre is unable to provide a timely response. The often frustrated resident then seeks a solution from the area Councillor – who is similarly challenged in gathering the information from City departments in a timely manner.


There is a lot of work to do in re-building the City’s foundation towards becoming a more ‘service oriented and customer focused organization’. I have spoken with Mayor Bowman and our CAO extensively on this issue and outlined the challenges I am facing when it comes to gathering information. I am very optimistic we are moving in the right direction and will be seeing significant changes in the months to come, but it’s just not fast enough for my liking.   I am reminded by many that change does not come fast, nor easily. However, I am confident it will come!


 311 Call Centre Stats



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