a new electronic system for dealing with queries from members of Wexford Municipal District was outlined at last Monday's meeting of the body.
County secretary Pat Collins outlined the processes involved which will see councillors directing their queries through a dedicated electronic form specifying the district involved, the issue and details of the issue. Members also have the option of attaching relevant forms, documents or pictures.
Mr Collins said that the system would have three layers in the initial stage - a councillor would send in a query; the query would be received by the customer service desk and finally the councillor would receive an acknowledgment email with reference number.
At that stage then the customer service desk would direct the query to the relevant contact person in the relevant department depending on the nature of the query. From there the nominated contact person in the relevant department will distribute the query to a staff member in that department for their response.
Once the reply is ready the customer service desk will then be notified.
Mr Collins said that queries from the councillors which are submitted via this process will be treated as priority adding that the target response time is between three to five days. However if no response is received after ten days the customer service desk will issue a reminder to the nominated contact in the relevant department.
Mr Collins said that once the customer service desk receives the response they will forward it on to the councillor who raised the matter.
He said that the system had been rolled out in Gorey in June 2016 and to New Ross in July 2016 saying 'this allowed for some teething problems to be resolved'.
Mr Collins said that weekly reports will be produced which will be reviewed by members of the corporate staff to see how the system is working. He said that these reports will be analysed to identify top tasks which will provide useful data to see improvements in customer service.
Cllr Davy Hynes said that it was good that councillors would now have a record of the queries they raised and that they would receive an answer within a specified time frame. He said that at the moment sometimes they had to go up to the council to get a query answered.
'It can be very hard to get people to return phone calls and emails particularly in the housing department.
Cllr Deirdre Wadding said that while she recommended the intention of the new system she was concerned that a reminder wouldn't be issued until ten days had elapsed and she felt that was too long.
She also expressed concerns that the system could potentially create a distance between the members and the council.
'At the moment we have a good working relationship with staff and this could potentially create another layer of bureacy. I see our role as a bridge or a liasion between the officials and the public an this is potentially creating another layer.'
She also wondered what teething problem had been encountered in Gorey and New Ross.
Mr Collins said that initially the quality of answers hadn't been great but this had now improved.
Cllr Ger Carthy wondered if the new system was compulsory for members. Mr Collins said it wasn't but it provided a quick response time.
Cllr Carthy said that regardless of people's opinions of Irish Water they have an excellent customer support system with the majority of queries answered by the end of the day. He said he felt that three to five days was too long to wait for a response.
Mr Collins said that staff numbers had dropped by 25 per cent since 2009 and Cllr Carthy said that he 'didn't think we should start a system if we haven't the numbers in place to man it. We can't do it piecemeal'.
He also said that the answers received needed to be 'decent answers' and not that the matter is being looked into.
Cllr Anthony Kelly asked for a progress report on the new system once it was implemented.
Cllr Jim Moore said that he felt the system could be useful in a lot of areas but said he was curious to see how it would be monitored.