Technicity GTA 2023: Improving customer experience with technology

Customer experience and changing expectations in accessing government services was a key discussion at Technicity GTA last week. 

Karthik Venkataraman, director of IT services, Town of Newmarket, Cielo Medel, chief information officer (CIO), City of Mississauga, Gary Yorke, director of customer experience division, City of Toronto and Becky Jamieson, director of corporate services and clerk, Township of Scugog, shared their insights on the matter in a panel moderated by Mai Nguyen, head of government relations and public policy at VMware Canada.

The panelists kicked off the discussion by revealing the stumbling blocks that their respective municipalities face in implementing new technologies to streamline access to services for residents.

Collaboration across various departments and organizations, as well as partnerships with the private sector, help government leaders keep up with technology, update their legacy systems, and ensure that there are sufficient resources, staffing and technical help to face time-consuming roadblocks like budget cycles and council initiatives, explained Venkataraman.

The siloed structure of government teams is a challenge for the City of Mississauga also, Medel stated. “We have two levels of government: we have both the municipality and the region. The resident’s interaction starts with the municipality, but it has to flow through the region. So that alone provides a greater depth of access for the public.”

With 44 different levels of enterprise interaction within the city of Toronto, and each entity feeling like they own the customer or a fragment of the customer experience, delivering streamlined and consistent services to residents remains a challenge, Yorke added. “The city has to remember and be humble in the fact that we provide services. The group that owns the relationship with the public is council and the office of the mayor. We provide services.”

The biggest challenge in a smaller municipality like Scugog is being compared with and pressured to move at the same pace as larger municipalities while navigating outdated systems with very limited resources and budget, Jamieson explained. 

Here are some of the measures, highlighted by the panelists, that their municipalities have taken to improve customer experience:

1. Township of Scugog

  •  Implementing new software for building and planning applications, and launched a new Bylaw application.
  • Partnered with Region of Durham to launch the first phase of the township’s CRM

2. Town of Newmarket

  •  Building a new integration platform that standardizes the procurement of new technology, based on what it calls a LB (load balancer) API.
  • giving guidance on the use of these new technologies so that the service delivery department keeps up with the new standards.
  • Holding more hybrid council meetings that led to increased citizen interaction and engagement at a council level

3. City of Toronto

  •  Digitized all 600 types of service request, transitioning from a multi-channel environment to an omni-channel environment, looked at cost per transaction dropping from $11 – $16 (per service request calls) to 10 cents – $1, post digitization.
  • Developed the award-winning 311 Toronto mobile app, capable of handling over 600 categories of service request.

4. City of Mississauga

  • Invested in the ease of use and reliability of the website
  • Being transparent in the use of residents’ data . 

The panelists also acknowledged that engaging with frontline employees, getting their feedback and finding what tools and resources they need to be successful has helped deliver efficient frontline customer service.

“Don’t be afraid to bring any idea forward,” said Jamieson. “It may not be possible, but we’ll definitely consider it and see if we can find a way to incorporate it.”

Watch the full panel here.

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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