“info@vancouver.ca” e-mail address discontinued as City shifts to icon-based screen online

cov-online-search-function-30-sep-2016(Updated) Until recently, anyone could e-mail any question to Vancouver City Hall by writing info@vancouver.ca, and responses were usually quite quick and helpful. But that system has been discontinued and replaced with an online search (pictured at left).

The City is seeking feedback. To provide your thoughts, go to: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-the-city-of-vancouver.aspx

This version appears to be a fundamental change from user-friendly e-mail. You could ask anything and the City would figure how to answer standard questions, or refer you to the department or person in charge. Now YOU have to search to see if one of the 21 icons applies to your question. Click one, and your choices are then refined.

But there appears to be no way to ask a question and get a response. No where on the page does there appear any way to type a question. The word “ask” or “question” do not appear anywhere.

Footnote – on the top page of Vancouver.ca is a pop up for users to take a survey to provide feedback on the City website. There’s a link on the main page below the primary graphic to the right of the latest news (to another external survey site). We encourage helpful citizens to provide useful feedback.

**********

Below is the message you will receive if you write to info@vancouver.ca today.

********

Thank you for your email. We have recently streamlined our customer service to manage your request in a more efficient way. This email address has been discontinued; we are excited to share with you the following ways to connect with us:

Contact us

* We invite you to visit our website for information on City online services and tools; go to: http://vancouver.ca/online-services

* We appreciate your feedback! To provide your thoughts, go to: http://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-the-city-of-vancouver.aspx

Download our smart phone apps and take us with you

* Connect with us on the go – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – by downloading the City’s VanConnect app: http://vancouver.ca/vanconnect

* Visit http://vancouver.ca/collectionschedule to download our VanCollect app; find out about your garbage and recycling schedules; learn how to sort your items using the Waste Wizard; or take a break and play VanSort, our waste sorting game.

City of Vancouver

 

9 thoughts on ““info@vancouver.ca” e-mail address discontinued as City shifts to icon-based screen online

  1. So what about the blind user?
    Does this violate the Disabled Access Policy?
    How about a readable Pull-Down for category?

    And what does the Chinese page say?

  2. Looks like you can still send a message directly to the Mayor 🙂
    http://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-mayor-robertson.aspx

    And I guess we can always revert to sending in letters on paper! The app may be more convenient for staff or in the Green imagination be more environment-friendly, but we don’t have to use it.

    On the positive side, I will say that the 311 [phone] line is good: the people answering are knowledgeable, responsive, patient, and courteous.

    But email is so ubiquitous and convenient – including for users who face barriers – that it is absurd for the City not to have an email address. Replacing it with an app sounds like someone’s vanity project.

  3. This change is even more fundamentally annoying because the Contact Us page “http://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-the-city-of-vancouver.aspx” actually processes the information using an external third-party website “https://vancouver.fluidsurveys.com/s/tell-us-online/”. Many privacy blocker tools block code from these sites because of its tracking and privacy concerns. If you block the site the form simply does not appear.

    Interestingly, as of October 1, 2016, fluidsurveys.com will no longer accept new customers and suggests you move to SurveyMonkey.com – the parent of Fluid Surveys.

    There is absolutely no reason a contact form need use a third-party site.

  4. I don’t know if things have changed since I last submitted both “Ask a Question” and “report an Issue”, it turns out they both went to the same inbox. And both replies came from info@vancouver.ca. The “Ask a Question” related directly to that form. I have posted the thread for reference below.

    The summary is: the form is dumb, does not allow for proper tracking, basic automation or even confirmations and all information has to be re-entered into an actual tracking system. One suggestion was to use the overburdened 3-1-1 system to submit concerns! Can’t see how this is saving anyone any time or money!

    On 14 July 2016 at 10:56, wrote:

    Dear :

    Thank you for contacting the City of Vancouver.

    You are correct in that the form found on Vancouver.ca is a “Dumb form” and requires that the information be processed by staff at 3-1-1. Because of the nature of the form reference numbers and confirmations cannot be provided beyond the “Success” text until they are received and processed, normally within 12-24 hours. Reference numbers are provided by staff once the correct service request or feedback forms are created. All requests made through this online form that trigger a service request or feedback form generate tracking or reference numbers which are tracked by 3-1-1.

    Until recently the technology utilized by the City has not allowed for greater automation. With the creation of VanConnect, this has changed and many citizens have chosen to report issues through the app. With this new application of this the online “Dumb Forms” are due to be replaced by an online VanConnect web portal for those not able to or unwilling to download the app. This portal will assign citizen requests directly to departments well generating 3-1-1 tracking numbers automatically. This will allow direct communication with the departments, a confirmation/reference number immediately, the ability to follow your case through VanConnect but also utilize 3-1-1 when necessary to provide updates and request status updates.

    You will most likely see these changes within the next few weeks, perhaps a month. Well we understand your concerns they are currently being address by our Digital Services team.

    If you require further assistance, please contact us at: 3-1-1 (within Vancouver) 604.873.7000 (outside Vancouver)

    We are open to take your call from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm, 7 days/week, 365 days/year (including holidays). We also offer interpretation services in over 170 languages.

    We invite you to visit our website for information on City online services, tools and mobile apps at: http://vancouver.ca/online-services

    You can also report an issue or request a service online at: http://vancouver.ca/vanconnect-desktop.aspx

    Regards,

    Andrew
    City of Vancouver
    3-1-1 Contact Centre

    —– Original Message —–
    From:
    Sent: 2016-07-13 17:04:05.0
    To: info@vancouver.ca
    Subject: Re: Ask a question : this submission form

    HI,

    The previous issue was sent using the same form – vancouver.ca/your-government/tell-us-online.aspx. It was a “report an issue” submission.

    I am attaching a printout of both the original and “successful” form.

    I now received both an email back on this message and the other one. The issue is multi-fold. When I clicked “Send your message”, the entire section of the page which is the submission form becomes a large blank area. There is no visual feedback to the user of a confirmation the submission worked. Upon closer observation, if I scroll up the “blank space”, I eventually do see a line after the “Do you need immediate help?” that is does say, “Success! Your message was received”. But since the page did not scroll back to the top of the white space, there’s no feedback. Keep in mind that there is almost an entire screen’s height of blank space below the “send your message” button to the “Find Us” footer (which did not print). Once clicked, you are now left in a sea of blank space and no idea you need to scroll back up to find anything out!

    It would appear the form is also a rather “dumb form” which based on the replies merely generates an email to a queue at info@vancouver.ca, regardless of the option chosen. So if that’s the case, why does it not also email me immediately (if email supplied) with a confirmation email as well? I only got the above human generated response the next day.

    Further, why is there no tracking number or other identifiable piece of information we can use as a reference?

    When we hear in the media complaints that staff is overwhelmed at the 3-1-1 centre, how much of that is people wondering if their online submission was received or processed. If there were a tracking #, then with the tracking # and say the submitting email address (for identity confirmation), you could have a second page that allowed people to directly check on the status of their submission without bothering people. Even better if it directly linked into the trouble ticket system.

    Easy-peasy and less work for everyone! Hard to have much sympathy for a bureaucracy that evidently uses technology to create more “paperwork”, not less.

    Please forward this conversation to the “developers” of the form and “the process” for consideration and review.

    .

    On 13 July 2016 at 12:16, wrote:

    Hi ,

    Thank you for contacting the City of Vancouver.

    Can you please advise what this form was for? All we have received in here is this email. If you can please advise what form you were trying to send, including the link to it, we should be able to look further into it for you.

    If you require further assistance, please contact us at:

    3-1-1 (within Vancouver)
    604.873.7000 (outside Vancouver)

    We are open to take your call from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm, 7 days/week, 365 days/year (including holidays). We also offer interpretation services in over 170 languages.

    We invite you to visit our website for information on City online services, tools and mobile apps at: http://vancouver.ca/online-services

    You can also report an issue or request a service online at: http://vancouver.ca/vanconnect-desktop.aspx

    Regards,

    Cassie
    City of Vancouver
    3-1-1 Contact Centre

    —– Original Message —–
    From: info@vancouver.ca
    Sent: 2016-07-12 20:52:03.0
    To: info@vancouver.ca
    Subject: Ask a question : this submission form

    [q1.0] Part 1: Your message | I want to: Ask a question
    [q1.1] Part 1: Your message | About: this submission form
    [q1.2] Part 1: Your message | Share details:
    Just reported an issue using this form, I think. There was no confirmation, no OK and no reference #. Hard to tell what happened.

    Form should provide confirmation of some sort. Submitted using Chrome 42.0 on Android 5.1.1

  5. Thanks, Ian. (Posting was delayed a bit for moderation on the weekend.) It looks like some experimentation is going on with the City website, but hopefully, with feedback like yours, they will get it sorted out and satisfactory for users. Your communication was in July and this is now nearly three months later. Is it improving?

    • Thanks for the clarification on “where’d the post go?”.

      I never heard back again from infor@vancouver.ca nor the Digital Services team. I haven’t submitted anything since then so can’t say if it’s improving, but I have my doubts.

      The actual issue submitted at the same time related to an Electronic Message Board placed in an unreadable location ( RH shoulder past 2nd Narrows re: Wall Central Park closures on Boundary).

      Submitted July 12, autoreply July 12. Emailed asking if there’s an actual response coming on July 25, Aug 2, and Aug 5 (escalating to Eng Svcs, Scollard, Dobrovolny, Mayor and Council). Got a reply later from an EIT that day indicating signs were wrongly located by applicant and would be fixed immediately. On Aug 12 I emailed all again indicating signs were still in same place and if they’d be moved before the road would reopen. They were finally relocated on Aug 15.

      The closure period was from ~July 15 to Sept 5. Wall Group in fact continued to block 2 lanes through Sep 8. Signs still said Sep 5 until removed Sep 12.

      • Sooo… in summary, as a helpful citizen you let the City know there was a problem with a road sign on July 12, and action was finally taken on August 15, or 34 days later, after which the sign was only relevant for a couple more weeks, and even then the content was incorrect. This looks like systemic dysfunction, which is a big concern, especially since it relates to traffic safety. Someone at the City and Wall Group should be doing a performance review. This is not rocket science.

  6. urbanizta, re:”systemic dysfunction” at City Hall – whaaa ? Here ? Really ?

    First, we must be grateful that my follow up emails eventually gathered a response other than “Our records search reveal no emails pertinent to your inquiry”.

    We must also be grateful the CoV eventually took action and got the developer to comply – unlike the myriad of complaints against other developer violations, including the well documented Westbank – 2220 Kingsway problems. Perhaps the difference here was the there was no actual violation; the sign was there, just not terribly visible or accurate, so do something.

    The latest irony is a new EMB was placed in the exact same useless location last week, though there’s no message on it yet!

    Finally, if you visit vancouver.ca today, there is a big icon on the main page for a survey to “Help us improve our website”, click link to provide your feedback: https://78ez5ac2.optimalworkshop.com/treejack/4t0d3xe8-0-0-0-0 . Hopefully, the main article can be updated with the website feedback details.

  7. I noticed this from a meeting with Lon Leclair at a Grandview Woodlands meeting, in response to a traffic question:

    “The city is undertaking studies: license plate tracking, parking density counts, to collect data in order to understand the impact of any changes”

    Licence plate tracking.

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