From City Hall: Voice mail tips and a new Web site

5:30 p.m.:

Mayor Ann Johnston is starting the study session. City Council members were saying very little about the revision late this afternoon of Wednesday’s agenda to address the Fire Department.

A number of arts advocates had come to lobby the council not to use $1.1 million in arts funding to help bridge a $23 million deficit. Mayor Ann Johnston told them this study session is not about that. She said to come back on Wednesday. They are leaving.

5:35 p.m.:

Public Information Officer Connie Cochran is presenting a report on customer service. Customer service training is mandatory for new employees, she said.

Not all employees do it, though, O’Rourke said.

The training is done in one eight-hour session. Sessions are offered four times a year. The cost to the city is $850 per session.

Training involves talking about such things as problem solving, telephone etiquette, and handling upset customers, Cochran said.

She is talking about attitude. It is important to be polite and concerned, and to say no nicely, Cochran said.

It is reasonable for residents to expect from City Hall timely and accurate information, thorough explanations and follow-up, she said.

Cochran said she believes employees provide good customer service but that, “There’s always room for improvement.”

Cochran said she can give employees tips for using the telephone, perhaps providing voice mail scripts.

Interim City Manager Kevin O’Rourke said that during a furlough and holiday period last year voice mail messages were “all over the place.” Cochran helped improve that, he said.

Cochran has some recommendations, among them a “secret shopper” program and employee recognition.

She said the city Web site is also out of date. For example, it has about 8,000 PDF documents loading up the site, many of them out of date.

6:05 p.m.:

Cochran is previewing a new city Web site. Mayor Ann Johnston said the site has been in the works for about a year. She asked when it will go online. Cochran is waiting for outlines from departments to create a site map. There are competing priorities.

The city was a forerunner in 1999, Cochran said. The city had a Web site that year, and not many cities did.

O’Rourke said it is hard to get employees to focus on the Web site. He said that getting the council’s endorsement is critical.

Cochran said six months to move content and train people is reasonable.

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