Town of Cobourg Surveying Residents on Customer Service

A new survey for Cobourg residents is now available – the Town wants to know what they need to do to improve customer service. Customer Service Professionals Network (CSPN) has been hired to assist and created the survey. Their mission is to “help organizations answer two questions. How do we make happier customers? How do we make more engaged employees?” Another notable change, because the survey was created by CSPN, it does not use Bang the Table – otherwise known as Engage Cobourg – which was started by the previous mayor. Instead, the survey uses the popular Survey Monkey and links to it are prominent on the home page of the Town’s web site. There are 17 survey questions – the last one asks if you would like to participate in a focus group to be held Thursday December 15, from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm.  Other focus groups are being held with “local businesses and organizations”. The survey is open until January 6, 2023.

Survey overview

The introduction to the Survey says:

The survey will ask you about your service experience when interacting with Cobourg. The survey defines service as all actions and systems the Town provides to the people they service. Some examples include:

  • Contacting The Town for inquiries or concerns
  • Utilizing recreational programs and services
  • Applying for a permit or license
  • Making payments

Questions in the survey

  1. Overall, how satisfied are you with the customer service provided by The Town of Cobourg?
  2. When contacting the Town, how important is it to have one point of contact rather than contacting individual departments?
  3. How important is it to have Personalized Customer Service experience over a Transactional Customer Service experience? [Personalized and Transactional are defined]
  4. What is your preferred method of communication when contacting the Town of Cobourg?
  5. What is your preferred method of interaction when dealing with The Town of Cobourg, regardless of what is currently being offered?
  6. Please rank the ease of use / navigation of the Town’s website – cobourg.ca (I.e., is it intuitive?)
  7. When calling the Town, how long do you expect to wait?
  8. What are your expected response times for each of the following channels?
  9. When interacting with Town employees, please rate how effectively employees display the following characteristics:
  • Professional,
  • Friendly / positive
  • Knowledgeable
  • strong communication skills
  • show empathy
  • effectively listen
  • resolve my issues effectively
  • meet my needs in a timely manner
  1. What is most important to you while interacting with the Town employees? (top two choices). [Same list as in 9 above]
  2. What are the two (2) greatest challenges / issues you have when interacting with the Town? (Please select your top two choices from the list below).
  • Confusing and / or inconsistent processes
  • Unclear and / or unavailable information
  • Long delays and / or no responses to inquiries
  • Unavailable or limited digital tools / platforms
  • Unfriendly or unhelpful attitude from staff members
  • I don’t experience any challenges / issues
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Please provide any additional context to the challenges you have encountered with the Town
  2. What are the two (2) most important aspects to you when interacting with the Town services? (Please select your top two choices from the following list below).
  • It is simple and easy to access / use Town services
  • Staff are courteous & professional
  • Staff demonstrate accountability & follow-up with concerns
  • Access to information is accurate and easy to understand
  • Getting things done as fast as possible
  • Technology-driven processes to do things on my own
  • Resolving my issue at the first call / contact
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Please provide any additional context to what is most important to you when interacting with the Town.
  2. What would you like The Town to focus on in the future to improve Customer Service?
  3. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about your service experience with the Town?
  4. Would you like to participate in the focus groups? [More info on Focus group provided]
  5. Please provide your contact information below.
  6. How do you prefer to be contacted? Cobourg or CSPN will contact you about next steps for the focus groups.

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This project would also respond to the concerns expressed in KPMG’s Service Delivery Review which indicated that there were some staff and citizen concerns.

An announcement by the Town says that the results will be presented to Staff and Council in the new year.

Resources

Town of Cobourg Links

Cobourg Internet links

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23 Comments
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Scottie
10 December 2022 11:53 am

Talk about smoke and mirrors!! This town has very little in reserves (i.e. savings in the bank) — is heavily debentured (i.e. in debt!!) and they’re focused on doing a survey (with the help of yet another pricey consultant!!!) on customer service. SOMEONE SOMEWHERE within the town’s administration or newly elected Council MUST stop this silliness and start the process to get our financial affairs in order — it’s pretty hard to remain a “feel good town” when our taxes are going through the roof — this town is facing MAJOR, long overdue and delayed repairs to our infrastructure (harbour, roads/sewers/water towers) with the repair costs spiralling the longer we delay and don’t forget the provincial government’s recently passed Bill 23 which is downloading costs formerly borne by the developers, to the municipalities in a fruitless attempt to make homes more affordable— we’re in for a rough road people and the current concern of our administration is CUSTOMER SERVICE? Get real here and stop playing with our future.

Dave
Reply to  Scottie
10 December 2022 12:45 pm

Hello Scottie: To relieve one of your worries following Bill 23 the Premier announced the waiving of Development Fees only applies to building of affordable housing and has stated all Development Fees for affordable housing builds will be reimbursed to the municipalities. Any other type of build Development Fees will still be charged. There has been much misinformation on this issue. The biggest problem as I see it is building in the Greenbelt at all even if it is limited.

As for hiring a consultant to determine the level of customer service maybe they should consider just having “secret shoppers” to call, record and report their experiences.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
10 December 2022 2:48 pm

Dave wrote:

Development Fees for affordable housing builds will be reimbursed to the municipalities.

And who will pay the province to reimburse the municipalities? I feel a hand in my other pocket!

ben
Reply to  Dave
10 December 2022 5:06 pm

Premier announced the waiving of Development Fees only applies to building of affordable housing and has stated all Development Fees for affordable housing builds will be reimbursed to the municipalities. “

This may be the case but read the rest of the bill and the cost to your tax base is going to increase substantially. DCs only cover about 69% of development costs and that will increase when Bill23 kicks in.

Why should you and I pay the other 31%?

Dave
Reply to  ben
10 December 2022 6:38 pm

Ken/Ben – Apples and Oranges. Pay it either through continued increased paper values on your home or pay it through Development Fees for Affordable Housing built for people that are forced to used Food Banks, increased social service costs for people that can’t afford their rent, people that will continue to drive up rental costs as they won’t be able to afford a house as not enough will be built to cover demand under the current conditions. Supply drives down price otherwise write to the Liberal government and ask that there be housing and services first here as it is reported each year 300,000 people immigrate to Ontario for the already shortage of housing and infrastructure – think before you vote unless you want to be further taxed on a paper value on your home.
More homes to meet demand, competition, lower prices, lower paper value of occupied and for sale homes. Therefore lower property tax rates.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
10 December 2022 7:40 pm

Dave, why is the “paper value” of my home important? Why is the tax rate important? The only thing that matters is the amount of property taxes that I pay!

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
11 December 2022 2:07 am

As an obviously educated man Ken you would know your residential property will be assessed and the tax rate will apply to the assessed value. I referred to them as paper value, perhaps I should have said assessed value. Home that a few years ago were assessed at $350,000 are now assessed and sold for $1 million dollars as is the current occupied stock. I am sure you have already seen property tax increases.

ben
Reply to  Dave
11 December 2022 9:41 am

Dave the reassessment values are always reflected in the Annual budget usually 2-4% – keeping the overall levy down.

ben
Reply to  Dave
11 December 2022 9:39 am

More homes to meet demand, competition, lower prices, lower paper value of occupied and for sale homes. Therefore lower property tax rates.”

Dave you are deluded if you believe this stuff:

  • more homes: only if the developers release them onto the market they throttle supply to keep prices up
  • lower prices: where do you see this?
  • lower paper value etc.: only when MPAC gets around to revaluing property values every four years and a minor drop is not reflected in the reassessment
  • Therefore lower property tax rates: whenever have you seen the tax rate go down in the past twenty years?

Bottom line here is that development only pays off when developers pay all of the development costs! But when they only pay 69% who picks up the rest?

Dave
Reply to  ben
11 December 2022 12:36 pm

Ben there are many factors on the other side. The rules that set prices are supply and demand. Perhaps though with the unions and government increasing wages – more dollars to chase the goods -alternatively the Bank of Canada on the other side increasing interest rates, neglected infrastructure adding to building costs, water run off tax and MPAC assessment – one fellow said since this insane pricing took hold his property taxes have doubled this past 10 years due to assessment – increased supply will have a tough battle to lower prices. And it will be a long time to catch up to the 300,000 per year further demand place on it due to immigration without services being built presently. For the retired homeowner or renter it will be a struggle. By the way – Merry Christmas Ben!

Last edited 1 month ago by Dave
Bryan
Reply to  Scottie
10 December 2022 12:48 pm

Scottie,

The Town’s reserves (2020) totaled $10.3M, mostly development charges ($6.2M) and Gas Tax ($1.9M). The 2019 balance was $13M

The Town’s long term debt is just over $5M, mostly CCC mortgage and Bld 7 loans

The 2021 total is likely higher, but is currently unknown as the 2021 Audited Financial Statements have not yet been presented to Council.

In addition, in 2022(??), Waterworks (Town) took out a $2.3M loan to pay for the new water meters.

It is reasonable to expect the Town’s debt to at least quadruple (+$15M to $20M) during the next few years as the EP, harbour, Monks Cove, VPC, marina and other capital projects are done.

The annual debt service (principal & interest) will likely be upwards of $2M. This adds about 7.5% to the budget levy.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
Scottie
Reply to  Bryan
10 December 2022 3:56 pm

Thank you Bryan — I didn’t know the exact figures (actually NONE of us knows what the actual state of our affairs is) – since as you pointed out, the 2021 financials haven’t even been released as yet. That is disgraceful.

cornbread
Reply to  Scottie
10 December 2022 1:40 pm

Forget the Harbour…We can ‘t afford it anymore!

ben
Reply to  cornbread
10 December 2022 5:07 pm

So as usual you don’t say how to fix it as the liability of an unsafe facility will certainly loom large!

Ken Strauss
Reply to  ben
10 December 2022 7:42 pm

A high fence with razor wire on top should reduce liability for an unsafe facility. That would be far cheaper than actually fixing things.

ben
Reply to  Scottie
11 December 2022 9:44 am

Scottie why do continue to accept a double standard: your mortgage costs could be up to 50% of your income, but probably around 35%, and decry borrowing by the Town?

The Town’s debt servicing, as quoted by Bryan is 7.5% of the levy. Quite a bargain and how much would you save on your taxes if you reduced it to nothing – not much I would bet.

Last edited 1 month ago by ben
Jones
Reply to  Scottie
11 December 2022 11:05 am

And get the East pier fixed so everybody can access it,,,it’s was the town square where everyone met,
How many more years will this be a disservice to the town

Sandpiper
10 December 2022 11:30 am

I prefer a phone conversation as an Expeditious way to determine what it is that’s required or for precise direction on a topic not to rely on what may be a misinterpretation or my own understanding in some cases . Unfortunately No one ever answers the phone and if there should be someone answering its never the correct person . So your message might be taken
if you insist, or your passed off to someone’s answering machine Who might return a call but never does .
Some voice mail have messages that are 2 months old or more Like ” I am on holidays
until July 15th” and the time we were calling was mid Nov.
Speaking to someone that has knowledge of the topic that works in any specialized department
that you might be calling would be a real treat and a surprise.

Merle Gingrich
Reply to  Sandpiper
10 December 2022 4:50 pm

The topic is Customer Service. We the tax payers are the “Customer” and the Town is the “Service”.
If we the customer were treated like this at Wal-Mart, Metro or any other retailers we would probably walk out. Remember, a customer is always right even if he is wrong.
Bottom line, the Town needs to be educated in Customer Service

Cobourg taxpayer
9 December 2022 4:02 pm

Oh great another consultant hired! Couldn’t one of the recently hired managers conduct this survey? Anyway back to the survey. Seems until recently taxpayers were discouraged from visiting town hall due to Covid and all staff were sort of working from home. I am not sure about the relevance of this survey at this time. That being said I think the busiest staff members interacting with the public are likely bylaw during summer months and it appears they have their hands full.

Lois
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
10 December 2022 8:19 am

Your comment says it all or me. Cobourg taxpayer.

Tucker
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
10 December 2022 9:07 am

And how much is this costing us?

Lemon Cake
9 December 2022 4:00 pm

I had the misfortune of having to phone the town finance dept to figure out how to complete a payment online for taxes. The person was quite surly and unaware of how to pay for taxes online and told me so quite roundly – and it took some polite but firm nudging on my part to get any help at all. It was a bit like entering into a Monty Python skit except way ruder. Surprising because I find the people of this town to be generally very polite.