Customer service lacking, says city ombudsman

City of Toronto ombudsman Fiona Crean has identified a problem with customer service that she says has to change.

City of Toronto ombudsman Fiona Crean has identified a problem with customer service that she says has to change.

Crean said her office dealt with more than 1,500 complaints from residents last year — and most of them were linked to poor communication.

In her annual report released Wednesday, the ombudsman pointed to poor customer service and delays.

Without naming any names or releasing any personal information, Crean pointed to a few of the cases that she said are typical of what's wrong with the system. 

One woman who sought the ombudsman's help lives in social housing.

She moved from one apartment to another apartment in the same building but it took 18 months to get her name plate changed to the correct buzzer at the building's front entry.  Several times the mix-up meant she missed her Wheel-Trans rides.

In another complaint, a man called the city about a large sinkhole.

Over the next month, he called the city twice more and still nothing happened. Then he was told it had been fixed when he could clearly see it hadn't been touched.

He went to the ombudsman and the hole was finally fixed eight weeks after his first complaint.

"Toronto Water was fixing it," explained Crean, "then transportation services was fixing it, and neither was communicating with the other."

Crean said the examples are typical of the problems she hears about every day. 

She wants the city to bring in better standards for record keeping and communicating with the public.

For the second year in a row she's calling for an online complaint system, along with customer service standards that are published.

No one from the mayor's office was available to comment.

Mayor Rob Ford has been promising for months that customer service will improve.

But Crean said her "mandate is quite different than customer service. It's a part of it, but I'm appointed by city council [so] my job is to hear grievances from the public and get at bad administration on the part of city hall."

Earlier this year Crean asked council to fund two more positions in her office, but the budget committee turned down the request.

On Wednesday, she said she hopes the full council will reconsider her request.