Council makes U-turn over website listings
May 30 2012
Even as it was drafting its new customer service action plan, the City of Victoria was dropping names and contact information for department heads from its revamped website.
It's a decision that will now apparently be reversed after questions were raised by the Times Colonist.
But the city's director of communications initially explained in an email that no longer listing department heads would provide more efficient customer service.
"When we moved to the new site in late February, we reviewed customer feedback that [people] want to connect to operational staff faster, with fewer steps," Katie Josephson said.
She said few emails were sent to directors through the site, and the queries were often better directed to their respective service areas. "For example, if a resident has a query about garbage, parking or a street light, which is the majority of queries, the appropriate contact is the service area."
As a result, she said, contact information for main service areas is more comprehensive on the new site. "We also recognize each department is different in their customer needs, so in some areas direct contact information is noted for specific positions."
If someone looked under the "contact us" tab on the city's website before the change, they would have found, under the heading of City Manager's Office, names, individual phone listings and emails for city manager Gail Stephens and other senior staff members. After the change, they would have found "City Manager's Office: 250-361-0202."
Many city councillors, some of whom list their home phone numbers on the city website, were unaware of the change when contacted by the Times Colonist.
Coun. Marianne Alto, who has her office and cellphone numbers on the website, and has been the driving force behind the city's open data initiative, said she understands why the changes were made. "But it is a public body and the leadership of a public body needs to be identified. I don't have any reservations about that at all."
Coun. Geoff Young, who lists his home, office, mobile and city hall numbers on the website, said service staff should be able to handle most calls dealing with garbage collection or burnt-out street lights, but it makes sense to at least list names of department heads.
"I've always been in the [phone] book and I have found that people are generally modest in their demands for service," Young said, adding with a chuckle, "I certainly hope we don't get a situation where [people are] calling us instead of the department heads."
In her email, Josephson said there had been no negative feedback about the change. But Alto later said that after consulting with senior staff, the city has decided to restore the listings.
The city's plan to improve service for residents, businesses, builders and developers was outlined by Mayor Dean Fortin Tuesday at a meeting of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce at the Hotel Grand Pacific.
More than 200,000 people work or visit Victoria each day and the city should streamline how it serves them, said Fortin. "Recognizing how you do business is as important as the business that you do."
A key change will be the creation of a one-stop service counter at city hall where staff can effectively serve the business and development community, Fortin said. email@example.com