'Customer service' at City Hall falls short of 'excellence'

Ombudsman Fiona Crean says complaints to her office were up 28 per cent in 2013 over the year before

A new annual report from Toronto's public service watchdog casts doubt on whether Rob Ford is delivering on his promise of 'customer service excellence.'

Complaints to Ombudsman Fiona Crean's office were up 28 percent in 2013, compared to 2012.  

She says there is a "worrisome rise in poor communications" by city employees.

Just over 1,800 complaints were filed and of those, 70 percent of them were from residents who felt left in the dark by the public service.

Crean says her office hears accusations of staffers not returning phone calls, employees behaving rudely, and complaints from residents who have had to endure long waits for fixes to problems that need attention immediately, while being left with little to no information that explains what is being done to help them.

"Its the notion that somehow (the problem) is the resident's problem, and not the public servant's," she adds.

While Crean calls the rising trend of complaints about poor communication from city hall "unacceptable," she says overall, Toronto's public service does a good job with resources that are stretched thin.

The Ombudsman believes Toronto's rising poverty is also to blame for the spike in complaints.

"People are becoming poorer.  The waiting list for subsidized child care is over 15,000 now, 'working-poor' has spiked from about 16 percent to 21 percent," she says.

"The greater the marginalization, the more residents depend on government services."

Crean adds that her office has noticed 'a tremendous increase' in 'unacceptable' behaviour in the people who have come to file complaints.

They seem to be more desperate than they've ever been.

Her staff has filed reports of complainants "shouting, cussing ... we have had to call (city hall) security on a number of occasions," she says.

Crean says often those are 'people who lose their jobs, who lose their housing -- that's a pretty desperate situation," she says.

Crean says staffing cutbacks at city hall are putting employees under pressure to do more with less but adds managers have all the tools they need to ensure performance standards are met.

The Ombudsman says she has met with Toronto's City Manager to discuss the findings of her report.

Mayor Rob Ford, who campaigned on promises to make city services more efficient, says his administration has accomplished 'a lot' over the 3 years since he was elected.

"As long as I'm Mayor, its going to become perfect but we're far from it now," Ford says, "I think people are going to get pink slips if they don't start responding to tax payers when they call."

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  1. karen posted on 02/12/2014 06:03 PM
    Anything Mayor Ford gets involved in has excellent excellent customer service. In fact, it's not unusual for city hall staff and ward councilors to say "nothing can be done" only to have the mayor take over and fix things in a Toronto minute.

    We need for our "showers-in-parking-lots" city council to restore the mayors funds and powers so Torontonians cn get their excellent customer service back 100%.
    1. Sammy posted on 02/12/2014 06:59 PM
      @karen the reality is mayor Ford has to wear these troubling figures of citizen complaints about the service they receive when contacting city hall.
      he can smoke and mirror as much as he wants but these figures of complaints are troubling.
      customer service excellence is a myth and the Ombudsman has just confirmed that.
      The taxpayer deserves better services.
      I don't want someone replying that his powers were taken away that's the reason. He's been mayor for over 3 years he wears it.
      Maybe he should spend a little less time getting wasted and stoned and do his job
  2. Ernie posted on 02/12/2014 06:53 PM
    "managers have all the tools they need to ensure performance standards are met"

    sounds to me like some managers need to be fired if their departments are not performing!
  3. sally posted on 02/12/2014 07:11 PM
    So restore the Mayor's powers or blame someone else..
    1. Charles posted on 02/12/2014 08:04 PM
      @sally nice try but the blame falls on mayor Ford who has been at the helm for over 3 yrs now and should accept full responsibility for service cuts and higher user fees for the lower class . Because if this article above stated that customer service has been excellent both you and me know who would accept full credit
  4. Mark7 posted on 02/12/2014 07:52 PM
    City council without Rob to control the children simply does not work.
  5. Starchild posted on 02/12/2014 08:07 PM
    ....and another day blaming the mayor. These potsmokin' city council hippies should be fired and anybody else who support these boycoting rebels. They are the problem.
    1. arthur posted on 02/12/2014 08:26 PM
      @Starchild if only the leadership was just smoking pot just think how much more we could accomplish after a bag of Doritos :)
  6. David posted on 02/12/2014 08:52 PM
    Well, what do you expect? Over paid and under worked government employees who think they are doing you a favour by serving you and don't give a damn that your taxes pay their wages.
    1. JJ posted on 02/13/2014 09:40 AM
      @David attitudes start from the top. if we had proper leadership driving the bus and that leadership cared about the service we wouldn't let this get out of hand. so now we have what we have no leadership
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