Update on Customer Service Plan

In November 2020, KPMG delivered a report to Council outlining what residents thought of the services provided by the Town.  Then in October 2022, with Provincial funding, the Town hired Customer Service Professionals Network (CSPN) to take it further and create a “Customer Service Strategy & Implementation Plan”.  They started with another public survey. KPMG’s survey had managed to get 307 responses and CSPN’s got 110. (Another one by the Town got 219, in all cases, not many!). CSPN also surveyed employees, councillors and four public focus-groups. At the Committee of the whole meeting on Monday (15 May, 2023), Shawn Ashley of CSPN presented their report to Council and provided a summary.  The report is in Resources below. A copy of Shawn’s presentation was not made available although I managed to copy most of it with screen grabs.

Two documents were provided and are available in Resources below:

  • A 10 page staff memo outlining the project
  • A 135 page Final report from CSPN

Let me try to summarize.

Staff Memo Highlights

  • The Town currently does not have a dedicated customer service function (responsibility is currently assigned to Legislative Services) or a formal customer service policy.
  • In the Town’s online survey, 44% said they preferred communication by email and 29% preferred telephone contact.
  • Only 42% were satisfied with their experience [but then it was a small sample and maybe it was mostly the dissatisfied who bothered to take the online survey?]
  • CSPN were asked to “Identify opportunities for increased effectiveness and efficiency in service delivery”; and “Evaluate and develop a customer service strategy with a corresponding implementation plan including targets, timelines, and milestones.”
  • Modernizing and improving customer service will increase resident satisfaction and enhance the public’s trust and confidence in its local government.
  • CSPN identified 25 recommendations.
  • The next steps in the process will be for Council to receive the CSPN report and direct staff to review the recommendations and report back with proposals on implementation.

CSPN Report Highlights

These are a summary of Shawn’s summary which is itself a summary.

Goals of Project

  • Support the organization in delivering the best possible service to meet or exceed customer expectations.
  • Uncover pragmatic opportunities to increase efficiencies and streamline how services are delivered to reduce operating costs and resource requirements.
  • Provide a phased roadmap to support the organization with the knowledge and structure to effectively implement recommended initiatives.

Surveys Done

  1. Review existing Cobourg Documents for Data and Insights
    Approximately 10 documents were reviewed that covered topics including previous service reviews, strategic plans, and pulse surveys.
  2. Employee Stakeholder Interviews
    Virtual one hour interviews and group workshops: 36 internal stakeholders, Councillors, Senior Managers, Managers, and Front-line staff.
  3. Employee Survey – 59 employees participated in a Digital survey
  4. Customer Survey – 110 citizens participated.  The CSPN Survey questions were listed in this report on December 9.
  5. Customer Focus Groups. Four 60 minute virtual focus groups: Business, Tourist, Developer and Residents.

Spotlight Recommendations

  • Customer Service Policy – Validate to customers that the Town is committed to providing the best possible customer service to residents, partners and residents
  • Centralized Customer Service Desk – Located in Victoria Hall – possible in the lobby.  Not meant to replace existing frontline service reps and service desks. Goal is to better manage the volumes of customer interactions into a single point of contact and to better track service delivery data, metrics and KPIs.
  • Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) – customer database and management tool.  Will provide linkage to all staff dealing with any issue.
  • Customer Service Training Plan – help employees develop a customer-centric culture.

Time frame

The report divides actions into Short term (1-3 years), Medium Term (3-5 years) and Long Term (5+ years).  Basically, short term would be developing policies and creating the service desk.  In Year 3, one key action would be to “Remove Employee Contact Information from Public Facing Sources”.  Medium term would see the deployment of the CRM and “Onboard Two Additional Customer Service Focused Resources”. Long Term would be a focus on metrics and would include “Relocate Teams that Interact with Customers to Free-Spaces in Victoria Hall.”  See pages 76 through 84 of the full CSPN report for a lot more detail.

Cost Savings and Implementation Cost

CSPN provided estimates of Cost Savings and Implementation cost where possible.  The total cost saving is estimated to range from $220K to $505K; the total Implementation cost is estimated to range from $129K to $225K.

The above summary is an overview and is a greatly simplified description of the plan – see the full plan in downloads in Resources below.   I would note that the plan includes measures to address Employee concerns although these were not covered in much detail in Shawn Ashley’s presentation.

Councillors – especially the mayor – were enthusiastic about the benefits of implementing the plan.

CAO Tracey Vaughan said that staff were not waiting but were already working on some items to improve customer service and also that the staff implementation plan called for by CSPN will be provided in the Fall.

Mayor Cleveland commented that it would be best if this was in time for budget deliberations and that implementation in this term of council should be possible.


Cobourg blog reports


Print Article: 


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lemon Cake
19 May 2023 5:55 am

Customer service is notoriously poor – and yet I was charged a $2 “convenience fee” for booking a parking permit online. A permit I had to print using my own paper and ink. Would it cost them less for me to come in and do this in person? Or to have them print and mail it to me?

Reply to  Lemon Cake
19 May 2023 11:25 am

Good questions.
Is the Town being transparent about these “additional” fees or are they hidden?
Did the parking site indicate at or near the beginning that there was a $2 fee for using the service?

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Lemon Cake
19 May 2023 1:04 pm

It is not just an additional “fee” for a parking permit. For example, the Victoria Hall Box Office has a service “fee” for all ticket purchases. I suppose that it goes with the new stormwater management “fee” which until this year was part of our property taxes.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 May 2023 2:29 pm


Further, the User Fee consultant has still not reported to the Town on how much user fees should be increased. This was due back in December “in time for the budget”
It’s now mid May and not a word from the Watson (consultant) or Staff on the delay. Perhaps the Town should be equally prompt in paying the bill.

Reply to  Lemon Cake
20 May 2023 7:20 am

Maybe file a complaint with Canada’s Competition Bureau , Cineplex is getting sued for adding an extra charge on their tickets for buying online

Old Sailor
18 May 2023 10:47 am

I wonder what is really more important to Cobourg residents? Putting all hands on deck to deal with the gowing “Zombie” problem in downtown Cobourg or developing a three year customer service plan or investing more in DEI training for all??????????????? Take a long walk through the dowtown after 6:00 PM.

Reply to  Old Sailor
18 May 2023 11:05 am

Old Sailor- 945pm last night, driving through town. I am not sure if it was a man or woman; fairly certain a prostitute. Long blond wig, extremely short leather mini skirt, fishnet stockings, 7inch heels, belly shirt and a black mask. Walking right in front of our police station. I could not believe my eyes.

Reply to  Newbie
18 May 2023 11:33 am

Agree. Priorities are wrong.

There is an article in Todays Northumberland about the Town of Cobourg going to court over a person feeding Waterfowl down at the boat area last March, and then during Court the Town’s legal council withdraw charges.

When asked if the Town will appeal they said too early to tell as copy of the Court transcript was needed.

I wonder how much staff time was spent on this matter, plus tying up court time.

Going to Court over something like this is a clear waste of Cobourg Taxpayers dollars.

Last edited 15 days ago by Rational
Reply to  Rational
18 May 2023 11:53 am

Yes. I read that article, disturbing for many reasons…priorities??

Reply to  Rational
18 May 2023 3:08 pm


The Town has charged this person 4 times, and lost 4 times. The chap seems to be doing just fine without expert(??) legal representation. It also speaks volumes about the Town’s ineptness.
The charge was withdrawn by the Town (lawyer) because its evidence was flawed (dis-allowed) and the Town’s lawyer felt it was unlikely to be able to prove its case.

As the Town withdrew the charge, no judgement rendered by the court, so there doesn’t appear to be anything to appeal.

Reply to  Newbie
18 May 2023 1:14 pm

Long blond wig, extremely short leather mini skirt, fishnet stockings, 7inch heels, belly shirt and a black mask”

Yep definitely a prostitute, I won’t ask how you know that!

Reply to  ben
18 May 2023 3:18 pm

You never know these days, Ben, you just never know. Not something I thought I would see in our wee town.

Reply to  Newbie
20 May 2023 4:26 am

Is there a law against walking through downtown dressed like that?

Reply to  JimT
20 May 2023 11:31 am

I do not believe so, I was commenting on my shock of the attire (and black mask worn), and presuming it was likely a prostitute.

And if it was, yes there is laws against prostitution and sex trafficking (as of now).

Human trafficking has become a serious issue—not sure if you remember the Cobourg Police Services press release last spring/ summer.

As a citizen…serious concern for their safety and the towns. Selling your body (forcibly or not) for drugs, let’s say—is sad and deeply troublesome on so many levels.

Last edited 13 days ago by Newbie
Reply to  Newbie
20 May 2023 12:16 pm

True, no doubt, but the police are there to enforce the law, not to enforce conformity of attire.
I hope.

Reply to  JimT
20 May 2023 12:23 pm

Absolutely agree.

Concerned Cobourg Resident
Reply to  Old Sailor
25 May 2023 8:52 am

The zombie problem is a direct result in our publicly funding the homeless which continues to enables them to be homeless. If they had no funding to be here, they would pack up and move to the next town that gives them money. Easy solution.

Reply to  Concerned Cobourg Resident
25 May 2023 1:35 pm

Don’t feed the pigeons.

18 May 2023 8:09 am

Too busy doing plans…and no time for “doing”.

18 May 2023 7:58 am

I am also curious about these studies and who they are really meant to represent and benefit
especially when they refer to an area of the study group as Stakeholders . Who are they ??
All I know is that service sucks and has slowly gotten worse over the years and Mayors maybe even the CAO
When a study is commissioned by the Town its for a purpose my immediate thoughts are that its to make life better for the residents and Tax paying residents . Not Tourists or outsiders
or to Hide our Town staff under another layer of protectionism . Who are the Stake holders here ?
I know in our waterfront area its referred to all the time that the Stakeholders were contacted
You Know — I do not know of 1 resident neighbour that has been contacted or interviewed
when it came to matters of the Beach area , Marina rebuild , or the actual finished product
of the new Highrise Coastguard building If it were not for this News Blog of Mr. Drapers
we the Stakeholders would be the last to hear about anything that might impact us the immediate
affected Residents . So was this study of the Customer Service plan not more for the benefit of the Town Staff and departments . Seems like it to me

18 May 2023 7:14 am

Well I don’t see any improvement happening any time soon and not soon enough .
Short of a new idea yet to be implemented some time in 1 to 3 years from now
with nothing but confusion and kahaus until this is all sorted out . In the mean time the Towns various departments ie: Planning & Bylaw etc will continue to not respond and only communicate MAY BE by E mail which is nothing more than a regurgitation
from some manual we can read for our selves but usually requires interpretation by a field Expert .Pardon me the Town Tax Dept staff are always responsive and fast to reply .
I remember this game —-Hide and Seek for a Grand a week !

Reply to  Sandpiper
20 May 2023 9:33 am

Did anyone know the meaning of kahaus (sic) without looking it up first? Who knew the Probiscus Monkey’s screech had a name, Kahaus!

17 May 2023 6:08 pm

Common Sense and the Human Touch are so 1960s. (Sarcasm)

17 May 2023 2:47 pm

I put this comment in wrong post this morning:

Just wait…Chatbots will be your only way to communicate with the Town of Cobourg…no human contact, less accountability and more frustration.

I watched all of this unfold at the Region of Durham, same with hiring DEI managers and Director. People were afraid to communicate for fear of offending someone. You had to watch how you smelled (scent free), how you looked at someone, how you talked to someone, no touching for fear of harassment allegations. I used to call it a “Sense-Free” work environment. All senses dulled.

17 May 2023 2:05 pm

OK here goes, a couple of things. One we know the Staff does not like to deal with the pesky public, they (the public) slow down the wheels of bureaucracy. Two watch out for the complete removal of the public from Vic Hall. Well they will be allowed into the foyer – a couple of steps in to the customer service desk – just like the personal way we buy train tickets – from a person behind a barrier.

Did I read that the Councillors will have reduced access to the Staff when doing constituency work – line up with the public you Councillors! If that’s the case why have Cllrs? Just make a complaint/question online, get logged in the system and wait for an email giving you the answer.

Inside info tells me that the Staff are already wanting to convert committee rooms into offices and take over the James Cockburn Room as well. Time to alert the Grand Ladies of the VicHall volunteers, they will have something to say about that.

BTW if you think this is not happening now – the creation of “Fort Vic Hall”, try to access the Market building now that Bylaw has taken it over. I had to get a parking ticket fixed a couple of weeks ago by the supervisor and the door was closed. When somebody came to the door they left me standing outside while they came back to tell me, “Someone will phone you.”

Welcome to the future!

Reply to  ben
17 May 2023 7:16 pm

Tend to agree. Cobourg is in a mess. We have a police chief that becomes defensive if someone provides their opinion, the drug situation goes on and on – can’t do anything about that – but bring a beer to the beach and handcuffs on, watched council meeting last night – a bit iffy, and then there is the staff department – always ready to say why they can’t do anything. Oh and did you see the tax increase that was formalized today. And that excludes the storm water fee. Cobourg is in a mess.

Reply to  Rational
18 May 2023 9:40 am

What tax increase?? I got my bill and paid it. They want more???