With a population of 36,000, Vernon is the commercial hub of North Okanagan and was ranked the third best city in British Columbia by MoneySense Magazine. Recognized for its prosperity, affordable housing, lifestyle, and weather, the City is in the process of developing a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure it is actively competing with other BC municipalities. As part of this process, they recently implemented a formal complaints management system that ensures a fast and efficient turnaround of service requests. This has enabled the City to effectively maintain its infrastructure, minimize liability, and provide reliable customer service.
Vernon receives over 4000 service requests per year by phone and email from both residents and City staff. Prior to 2010, when a service request was received, the calltaker would issue a handwritten note and deliver it to the Public Works supervisor. Not only were these notes easily misplaced, there was no process in place to track when work on a project had begun or been completed. The City also lacked a system for prioritizing projects based on potential liability. For example, burned-out street lights or missing storm covers pose a safety risk to citizens and should be given priority over less urgent complaints.
To more effectively manage its infrastructure, the City of Vernon overhauled their service request process and created a formalized complaints management system. They developed a central hub to receive requests and implemented both Cityworks Desktop and Server AMS 2010 to process service requests for all of the City’s assets, from underground wastewater utilities to street signs.
Utilizing the forms and tools within Cityworks, Vernon’s GIS and Operations Departments created 60 templates for service-related issues such as snow and ice removal, garbage and recycling pickup, and pothole repair. They assigned a billing code to each type of service request, allowing them to link templates to the Accounting Department and track where money is being spent.
When a service request is received, the operator fills in the corresponding form and emails it to the Public Works supervisor, who delegates the work to an employee. Projects are assigned one of three levels of priority, based on the severity of the complaint. When projects are complete, the date and time of completion is recorded and the issue is closed in Cityworks. This new process enables managers to track “time to close,” allowing benchmark levels of service to be established and compared. The new system has also helped reduce liability concerns by enabling the City to prioritize projects and ensure they are being completed on schedule.
“With a formal complaints management process in place, we are always on task, tackling service requests as soon as they come in,” said Chris Thompson, GIS/Asset Management Analyst, City of Vernon. “We can easily prioritize projects and identify problem areas to ensure that we are deploying resources where they are needed most.”
Aside from tracking new projects, search tools within Cityworks are also used to pull up old service requests, so operations personnel can analyze patterns and trends over time. They can see the number of service requests received within each category and map out trouble areas. This information can then be shared with upper management and the City Council to make critical budget allocation decisions and measure key performance indicators. For example, staff can create charts to identify the number of service requests logged per meter of road and see how this compares to other municipalities.
Looking forward, the City of Vernon will soon use Cityworks to develop a complete maintenance management system to track work orders across all departments. This will enable Public Works supervisors to create and assign preventive maintenance tasks to proactively manage the City’s infrastructure.