City of Vernon staff is looking to put a pre-recorded message on its phone system at city hall, saying disrespectful behaviour will not be tolerated. Council is not in favour of it. (Black Press - file photo)

Vernon council hung up on proposed phone message

Staff looking to implement 14 second voice recording to deal with disrespectful customers

A staff request for a special pre-recorded message on the Vernon city hall phone system to deal with unruly customers has been put on hold by council.

Cindy Barker, manager of revenue services, said in a report to council that over the past few years, city employees have noticed a “significant increase in demands from customers.”

“This is primarily a demand for quicker response times,” said Barker. “It’s believed that is due to the easy availability of information from the internet and social media.”

RELATED: Vernon tax notices issued

The city’s finance department hires temporary workers every year from mid-May to late July to help during peak property tax season. The additional staff are trained to assist with all routine customer inquiries that occur. As Barker pointed out, some customers can become difficult and rude despite the best efforts of staff to address their concerns.

“This creates unneeded stress to the staff person, customers listening and other staff working in the immediate area,” said Barker.

A pilot project utilizing respectful counter signage and voice message has been operational in Finance since July 2018. This pilot project has proven to be very successful, said Barker, as staff has noticed increased customer respect resulting in a less stressful working environment and, ultimately, a safer work environment.

RELATED: Vernon residents likely facing tax hike

Because the pilot was successful, staff wants to roll out a new front-counter safe work procedure policy that would go into effect Friday, March 1 and the initiatives included professional signage throughout city hall’s front counters, lobbies, meeting rooms and public areas.

And the initiative that got council buzzing?

“New messaging on incoming calls at all switchboard locations having a similar respectful workplace message that customers listen to prior to a staff person answering their call. The respectful voice message is a short 14 seconds long to keep customers engaged while getting the respectful workplace message across.”

Hear the message:

“So every person that phones the switchboard gets that message for 14 seconds before they get a ‘hello, how can I help you?” asked Coun. Brian Quiring, to which Barker replied, “That is correct.”

“I get the signage, I’m all for it, but to make it every person that wants to buy a dog licence, or every time I phone I get 14 seconds of that, I don’t know. It seems like we’re trying to communicate something has happened and now we’re reacting.”

Quiring added he has a fundamental problem with customers getting a recording when they call.

“We’re open for business here,” he said. “I appreciate the fact that most of the time someone answers the call and not a robot. “But right out of the gate, telling someone that we’re not going to tolerate disrespectful behaviour, I just don’t think that’s very welcoming. This is pretty over the top. It’s doing our community a disservice.”

“I think this is going to infuriate more people,” added Coun. Scott Anderson. “I think this is going too far.”

Coun. Kelly Fehr likes the idea behind it and asked if it was something that was used in other municipalities.

“There are a couple of other municipalities that we found that do have an initiative like this,” said Barker. “We did a poll throughout B.C. A majority of municipalities are waiting to see what our program is going to be like because they all agree something is needed in a municipal setting.”

Barker said during the pilot project there have been a lot of calls and every customer directed to finance since July 2018 has listened to the message.

“The response has been very positive,” she said.

Coun. Akbal Mund said he would support a shortened message.

“Fourteen seconds is maybe a little long,” he said. “We need it. A lot of people who do call in are yelling and screaming right off the bat and staff doesn’t get the opportunity to say ‘How can I help you?’ I know it happens. I’ve witnessed it. Lots.”

Council voted unanimously to support the policy but reconsider the 14-second phone message. Coun. Dalvir Nahal was absent from meeting.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Vernon tattoo fundraiser draws record support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Electric cars gaining popularity in Vernon

Dealership sells five in one day, EV car show coming to town

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: cloudy

Environment Canada is calling for a similar day tomorrow.

Vernon nature centre fundraiser goes western

Allan Brook’s Nature Centre Wine and Wild West Fundraiser is on July 6

Caravan Farm Theatre holds outlaw themed fundraiser

Caravan Farm Theatre hosts its western outlaw themed fundraiser, Hands Up! June 1

Rescuers finally persuade Eiffel Tower climber to come down

The official said the man was ‘under control and out of danger’ on Monday night

Motorcycle deaths spike 50% since 2017

Riders were most likely fatally crash on the weekends compared with the rest of the week

Family of B.C. pilot killed in Honduras trying to ‘piece together’ tragedy

Patrick Forseth has a number of friends in the area and was loved by everyone

Justin Trudeau credits immigration for Canada’s growing tech sector

Trudeau stressed that Canada has become a major source of talent for tech all over the world

Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

The fund is supposed to back experiences that show off Canada’s strengths

Sister of cancer victim cycles across Canada to raise awareness

Her journey started on May 14 and will end in early August

Column: A solar pioneer in the Okanagan rides among us

This Summerland octogenarian has been producing his own electrical energy for more than 20 years

Should B.C. already be implementing province-wide fire bans?

A petition is calling for B.C. Wildfire Service to issue a ban to reduce risk of human caused wildfires

Most Read