The City of Selkirk’s two CitizenSupport representatives do exactly what their position says they do – support the citizens of Selkirk.
And their goal – not be rude – is to interact with citizens as little as possible.
“The CitizenSupport representatives want to find the answer to your question as quick as possible, to make your experience with the city a pleasant and efficient one,” says Duane Nicol, Chief Administrative Officer.
“They want to reduce the distance between question and answer, and whenever possible, they want to be able to help you without having to pass you along to another city department. We’re improving the efficiencies of our processes, cutting some red tape and finding ways to work better for the citizens of Selkirk.”
The first point of contact with the City
For just over a year, the CitizenSupport team has been the front line for customer service in the City of Selkirk, answering any and all kinds of questions either on the phone or online.
Nicol said it’s a system that will evolve as it matures – as the staff members become more familiar with the common questions asked and they can literally have the responses to less common questions at their fingertips.
“We’re trying to find answers for people rather than have them try to track down their own answers by calling different people within city departments. Often organizations depend on the tacit knowledge of staff which means customers or clients get passed off and may have to wait on the one person who knows the answer,” Nicol said.
“Using some knowledge management and process improvement technics, we’re making CitizenSupport a one-stop shop.”
Happy to answer your questions
Kelsey Van Dorp and Tammy Loutit are the CitizenSupport team. After a year on the job, Van Dorp says you get a sense of what the most common questions are so you’re better prepared to answer them, and people do appreciate it when one call does it all.
“We deal with water accounts a lot and we’ve had some people, whether they come into the office or just phone, who are surprised that it’s just that one interaction,” she said.
“They say, ‘oh, that’s all? You’ll just send that to me?’ We say ‘yes’, and they’re very happy.”
CitizenSupport is also an online service, so you can make requests for city services from your home computer or your mobile device and the request will automatically be sent to the appropriate city department.
You simply fill out the online form, include a picture or other file if it’ll help tell your story, and hit send. The city will answer your question as quick as possible.
Every time someone asks a question, whether on the phone or online, a ticket is created through innovative software and the city tracks the ticket from start to finish. The information gleaned from each ticket is invaluable and lets the city know everything from what questions are being asked to how long it takes the city to respond.
Answering as fast as we can
The city has a first-response time standard of two business days, and the software keeps tabs on the response times for phone calls, in-person and various online queries.
“Usually we average 2 hours or less,” Nicol said.
In fact, the average first response time is .66 of an hour, which thanks to the software can be broken down to show that when someone calls, the first response is .02 of an hour and when they email, first response is 1.74 hours.
Nicol says the data will also help the city identify the services that are most important or impactful on citizens. Knowing this, the city can then look at how to improve the processes that deliver those services to improve the speed of service and reduce unnecessary work.
“Using business process reengineering methodologies, we’re going to be able to use this data to deliver service better, quicker and cheaper,” he said.
“Anyone can look at this on the website and you’ll see there’s fluctuations, which is natural. When a staff person is away, the response time will reflect that because we’re a person down. When we first started CitizenSupport, our times were a bit slower because we were breaking new ground,” said Chris McIvor, Information Technology Administrator.
“But we’re getting faster and we’re building efficiencies in our system. The end result is that we’re providing better service to the people of Selkirk.”
Answer your questions online
CitizenSupport also allows for the public to ask questions whenever they want. McIvor says if it’s Saturday night and you have a question, you can submit it online right then and there and not have to worry about remembering to call or email on Monday morning.
Your question will be answered as quickly as possible when staff return to work.
While more than 50 per cent of the interactions between Selkirk staff and citizens tend to deal with utilities or tax bills, the CitizenSupport software has educated the city on what programs and services perhaps need to be promoted more.
You help us answer the important questions
Van Dorp says they received a number of calls asking for times for the Sticks and Pucks skate program at the Rec Complex. They gladly provided the answer but have now made the times more prominent on the website and pushed them out more frequently over social media. Being able to anticipate citizen needs and proactively provide the information or tools in the right place at the right time is a goal of the program.
For Nicol, learning from the citizens is key to providing better customer service and it improves asset management.
“Evidence based decision making is what we’ve really been focused on. That’s what asset management is all about, making better decisions based on really high quality data and improved processes,” he said.
“So how do we provide the best experience for a citizen? People expect more, they expect quicker response times and they want to self-serve, people expect that they can do more for themselves with the Internet and we’re do that with CitizenSupport.” If you’d like to all the data our CitizenSupport team has put together over the past 90 days, you can visit our website at myselkirk.ca/servicestats.