Service Desk in Victoria Hall Lobby

In 2019, it was proposed to move the Concert Hall Box Office to the lobby of Victoria Hall. It would also be a reception desk and function as a Visitor Information Centre. The estimated cost was $40K.  At the time, Council decided to defer the project primarily because of budget considerations. But at the Committee of the Whole meeting on 27 November, 2023, Council approved spending $15K on a “Centralized Customer Services Desk located within the front foyer of Victoria Hall in the current location of the existing Security Desk”. The idea was to have a single point of contact for all Town Departments. Requests and complaints would be input at the desk into a data base so as to give a better understanding of issues.

A memo by Brent Larmer explains in detail how the single point of contact will improve Service to Cobourg residents and contribute to the Strategic Plan’s goal of Service Excellence.

Expected Benefits

  • Eliminate customer confusion with one point of contact.
  • Streamline customer inquiries.
  • Decrease transfers between departments.
  • Minimize time / effort from transfers, rework, errors, and duplication of effort
  • Efficiency Savings (Hrs.) – 750+ hrs through the streamlining of processes.
  • Financial – Cost / Efficiency Savings: $30-000 – $50,000
Customer Service Desk

Download Brent’s memo here or in Resources. Please download and read before critiquing the plan.

Council’s discussion was mostly about the Service Desk rather than the single point of contact idea. Design of the desk would be guided by the Heritage Planner and the Victoria Hall Volunteers as well as the Accessibility Advisory Committee but the memo included the attached image of a desk used by East Gwillimbury. The desk will be constructed by a contractor and its design has not yet been decided.

It seems that the required data base already exists and the required $15K is already in the 2023 budget.

The idea of moving the Concert Hall Box Office was not brought up nor discussed.

It was not explained where the person at the desk would come from and no time frames were provided.

Resources

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Jones
2 months ago

Return the East pier to the public

ben
2 months ago

Posted by Dave:
People bogged down by being pulled away from their jobs to answer inquiries instead of having the time to advance the work in often misdirected calls.”

This puzzles me as a reason for efficiency in the name of a ‘service desk’ and a tracked enquiry/complaint system. Once the enquiry/complaint has been received by the front desk the workload to resolve it stays the same.

In fact in the name of operational change we have added one person to do what the public now does for free!

Dave
Reply to  ben
2 months ago

In my wife’s former experience calls were routed by reception, a private industry company, out of 2 people responsible for returning the calls only one did so, leaving their allotment of the calls unanswered until the unreturned callers complained to the reception their calls were not being answered by that person. Without routing and ability to trace number and timing many people do not take the time to complain to higher authority and in that case most likely the company would have simply lost many customers Ben. In this case the information desk will know exactly who the calls are going to and it states there will be documentation of such calls to ensure the public gets their answers. The reception desk has not been fully explained at this point. It is quite possible Ben there will be no new hire but the placement to it by an experience employee with excellent knowledge of the government of the Town of Cobourg and most likely be also able to answer many of the inquiries at the desk rather than transfer saving work time all the way around. Hope this helps otherwise as Rob pointed out he provided a link to the Mayor’s office you could enquire with.

Rob
3 months ago

Office of the Mayor – Town of Cobourg

If you have questions about the hall monitors desk, encampers, Storm Water taxes, 5% budget increase, any investigated or proposed 2024 efficiencies/savings/service cuts OR the Mayors latest proclamation that he plans to increase Municipal head count in 2024….here is a link to submit your question.

marya
3 months ago

I see the benefits of a Service or Reception Desk. It could make the system(s) more efficient and effective by using faster and simpler working methods. We think of all of our neighbours without computers who will be able to easily obtain information. Those amazing Victoria Hall Volunteers will likely be already designing an appropriate station.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  marya
3 months ago

Marya, why not simply a telephone number where everyone can efficiently get information? No need for an expensive and ugly reception desk, no need for a home computer, no need to venture out in inclement weather, no need for a car and no need to pay for parking.

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
3 months ago

311 Operators are a physical customer service department located in Metro Hall, not just a phone number, so a 311 type service would most likely become a division within Town hall Ken. The advantage of a desk at Victoria Hall would be the availability to tourists seeking information many of whom would not be conversant with a phone number only making it more customer friendly to the clientele they serve. I am sure this desk will additionally have ability to simply call from your home without physically visiting for the information inquiries of the citizens of Cobourg.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
3 months ago

Dave, I don’t believe that the proposal mentioned hiring additional staff. Since the majority of tourist enquiries would be on weekends and holidays when town staff are off. Surely you are not suggesting that we should hire someone just for tourists!

Rather than looking for ways to squander our taxes on non-problems it would be far better to address things that actually matter to residents. Considering today’s weather forecast, improved snow clearing of our downtown sidewalks would be more appropriate than wasting our taxes on yet another boondoggle.

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
3 months ago

Ken – if you read the proposal it states this desk is an information desk encompassing citizen municipal government matters as well as tourists. I would imagine as tourists are included for the purpose of the information desk staffing hours will be considered. Surely you are not going to suggest that all the complaints made on this Blog are people’s imagination with regard to non-returned calls or not knowing which department to access are you Ken?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Dave
3 months ago

I have little doubt that the complaints here are legitimate. But why squander our tax dollars to answer tourist questions on weekends and holidays?

Dave
Reply to  Ken Strauss
3 months ago

Besides Ken – this town is growing. The population signs standing as you enter have not been updated in over 10 years for either Cobourg or Port Hope. The census figures seem a bit short when you consider all the condos, apartment buildings and new housing which has gone up in this year and and in the couple of preceding years. I know it will be difficult for long term residents such as yourself to move into the future but as the saying goes time stands still for no man. And change and growth is here like it or not.

Tucker
Reply to  marya
3 months ago

Just another reason to spend money. Have the Council just “moved on” to another topic instead of “cleaning up” what is more important. i.e. the encampment. I see no reason for a “service desk” and paying salary for yet another Town employee. In the last 14 years since moving back to Cobourg, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve even went inside the Town Hall and when I did I found the directions on the wall adequate. As far as some departments answering the phone, I have found everyone quick to answer and very pleasant. Spending money to install an “information” center and staff it, is not money well spent.

Rob
3 months ago

Now they will have a hall monitor for the washroom that in 2022 DM Beatty and others so desperately demanded remain unlocked and accessible at all times – Beatty decried “…an open washroom was a basic human right.” Give me a break…

Leslie
Reply to  Rob
3 months ago

Centralized Customer Services Desk is a “Gatekeeper” position…next will be Chatbots. Further distancing your accessibility to a knowledgeable live person — who can effectively address an enquiry you may have. I have seen this unfold at another, large Regional Municipality I worked for.

Gerinator
Reply to  Leslie
3 months ago

Agreed. Just another intermediary. Times when I’ve in wanting to speak to someone I found the service provided by the Clerks office more than adequate.

Mrs Bigley
3 months ago

It might be of interest for the town to contact commercial office supply companies to ask for their opinions and types of desks etc that would be complimentary to Victoria Hall – l can think of a couple – one being Steel Case office supplies – a world wide company with the Cdn head office in Toronto – there are others that l am aware of – might be worth inviting a company for opinions and possibly save some dollars

Dunkirk
3 months ago

Someone once explained to me that an Elephant is a Racehorse designed by Government.
If anyone has ever seen what the Province did to the interior of the once magnificent Brookside you’ll understand what lies ahead for the lobby one of our best remaining civic assets….

Service levels won’t be fixed by a kiosk….
Tent encampments won’t be removed with a By-law….
Parking issues won’t be fixed by erecting signs….
Do our staff and Council truly believe that they do?

When I went to my Bank’s ATM and I received a message that ‘in order to serve me better, fees will be increasing next month’, that doesn’t make the ATM any more valuable to me. The better and more accurate message should have been; ‘..It’s our fiscal year end, in order to preserve our string of quarterly dividends, we are laying off 2300 people or 4 % of our workforce and lowering your fees by 4%…”

Many municipalities are now opting for 4 day work weeks in order to ‘serve us better’ and it’s only a matter of time before that losing strategy gets offered up to us too…..
It will be a truly sad day, if this kiosk gets built and it never seems to be open….

Dave
3 months ago

Toronto, I know, perhaps other municipal governments with larger budgets have services such as 311 assisting the public in their inquiries. It is unfortunate that government is not at all times clear and services available may not be accessed due to a person not knowing where to call. 311 is invaluable to the public coordinating service and information requests of all kinds.

This desk also provides ability to document and ensure public inquiries are answered in a satisfactory manner. There are constant complaints on this Blog regarding people calling for information and not getting answers and at times not being able to reach the person they feel is able to answer their inquiry. I think it will improve communication, get answers needed and also provide a documentation process that will provide areas that are not functioning well.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Dave
3 months ago

I think this will act more as a Blockade and a additional step in time to certain departments
that do not answer the phones Now nor return calls or meet you at their desk or counter . Most require at least 2 Emails and a call or 2 . I believe that most people inquiring know what they are after,it seems that the Department reps don’t respond . So now it will be Come on down and line up folks
This may serve more as just another step in time and process an extra day to respond
or a request / inquiry that gets lost along the way Many departments are not even in the Town hall
311 is a Far better solution it still requires a person but you don’,t have to go to Town hall
all in hopes of an answer or response .

Dave
Reply to  Sandpiper
3 months ago

As I read this Blog I read the same people complaining the projects are not moving fast enough, calls not returned, etc. People bogged down by being pulled away from their jobs to answer inquiries instead of having the time to advance the work in often misdirected calls. The number would be a call in as well so eliminate citizens from having to go to Victoria Hall.

Cobourg is growing and changing. Eight short years ago I invited a friend of a minority ethnic culture to visit. As we sat enjoying a coffee on King I noticed a number of towns people peering at my guests giving them a dirty look. As my guest was simply enjoying their coffee there was no reason. I hoped my friend would not notice. Today multi-cultural enterprises are establishing themselves, you see much more variety in ethniticity today, now I have many more neighbours of a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Simply put Cobourg is growing and yes it is a Tourist Town – that is unless the tourists, a main economic factor here are driven off by the unwelcoming attitude of some locals.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Dave
2 months ago

Its a 2 to 3 Month Tourist town Nothing more
we only have 1 beach to offer and Cold great lake water at best .

Ken Strauss
3 months ago

The proposed renderings seem far more suitable for a 1970’s office of cubicles rather than for the foyer of a stately175 year old town hall. Even the current security desk is a more appropriate design!

Leslie
Reply to  Ken Strauss
3 months ago

Perhaps a cold, minimalist and soulless design should not be proposed if “Staff recognize and appreciate that Victoria Hall is a celebrated National Historic Site.”

I can think of a number of passionate Local carpenters that would pay proper homage to a Customer Service/ Tourist/ Box Office that would compliment A Hall So Grand.

Dave
Reply to  Leslie
3 months ago

In reading this except “FURTHER THAT Council direct Staff to work with the Heritage Planner and the Victoria Hall Volunteers on the selection of colours (desk top and cloth) for the Centralized Customer Services Desk to ensure the desk is complimentary to the foyer and the previous agreed upon coloring of the current desk.”

I thought the desk was still being designed as described and is not in existence yet.

Leslie
Reply to  Dave
3 months ago

Staff Report: “…examples of the Customer Service station proposed…”

Dave
Reply to  Leslie
3 months ago

I hope it will be efficient, that is my hope, should it be a cardboard box that would be fine with me. However at this point the design has not been finalized.