Have your say on Newmarket's digital customer service
The town wants resident feedback on digital services as it tries to make its response process more efficient
Aug. 26, 2021
Would a chatbot help you help you get the answers you need from the Town of Newmarket?
You can provide your feedback on the town's online customer services as the municipality prepares to overhaul its digital processes.
Newmarket council discussed website improvements, chatbots and data gathering at a digital transformation workshop Aug 24. The town is aiming to update its digital technology and processes through a transformative strategy headed by consultant StrategyCorp.
The town launched a resident survey asking about digital services today to help with the process. Mayor John Taylor said he hopes the transformation can provide “broader, deeper and more meaningful communication” between the organization and the public.
“We are very excited to move toward a more digital Newmarket that will allow us to better serve our community,” Taylor said. “The digital transformation study will help us identify new technology and software that will make it easier for you to engage with the town and get the information and services you need.”
Council discussed several ideas for improving customer service, including installing a website chatbot to help provide answers to common questions, gathering questions on public social media to make them easier for the town to respond to, and improving search functionality on the website.
Deputy Mayor Tom Vegh said he would like to see something automated to allow residents to track the response to complaints, rather than councillors tracking it for them.
“We as elected officials, councillors, are sometimes reduced to being the residents’ secretary, following up on items,” Vegh said.
Councillor Christina Bisanz said making information more readily available online for people could help reduce the load on councillors.
“I know that residents will often contact us as councillors to find out, ‘how high can I build a fence,’ basic questions,” Bisanz said. “While I certainly don’t want to dissuade residents from feeling they can contact us, what that means is I have to go in and search.”
StrategyCorp engagement lead Jaiman Chin said improving these processes can help free up staff to advancing strategic initiatives.
”The sheer amount of time people report spending on things that are what we call non-value add, or even wasteful, in a process, is pretty significant,” Chin said. “It’s a way of getting a lot more productivity around the staff resources.”
Councillor Bob Kwapis said the study should consider those who cannot necessarily use technology easily, though Taylor said they could still receive help by telephone.
Taylor said the changes would get some political pushback.
“Even introducing a chatbox as a source of information to the town, many people will embrace and see its value and some people will be annoyed. ‘Oh, you won’t answer the phone now?’” Taylor said. “Issues around trust, being forced to use something that’s less personal.”
The public survey will be available until Sept. 10. More information is available at heynewmarket.ca/digitalstrategy.
“It’s hard to not get a little bit excited about seeing the potential for change and for improved customer service, more efficient operations, less duplication,” Taylor said.