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City to axe 311 email option in effort to improve wait times

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Starting next year, Winnipeg residents will no longer be able to email 311, after staff identified it as one of the least effective ways to contact the city service.

The email option to contact 311 is set to be phased out in 2024, Felicia Wiltshire, the city's director of customer service and communications, told CTV News.

Right now, if residents want to contact 311, they can use social media, call, meet a 311 representative in person, mail by post, or send an email.

"As we look at 311 agencies across Canada, the trend is moving away from email because it just simply is inefficient and it takes a lot of time," Wiltshire said, adding the city has found the email option to be one of the least effective ways to reach 311.

"It takes quite a lot of time because we will get emails with incomplete information and it takes a lot of back and forth between 311 and a resident to get all the information that we need, especially when it's a service request."

Instead, Wiltshire said the email option will be replaced with an online form that residents can fill out for a service request. She said this would be faster for residents and provide all the required information to 311.

Wiltshire said she also hopes it will cut down on the 311 wait times. A report to the city found in 2021 and 2022, the average wait time for 311 was about 11 minutes. That was nearly cut in half as of October 2023, when the wait time was just under six minutes.

"If we have less folks that need to spend time on email and less time dedicated on email, hopefully, it will actually free up some of our resources that exist to answer more phone calls," Wiltshire said.

Winnipeg Mayor Scott Gillingham said he supports the change.

"I support whatever changes we need to enhance customer service. And part of enhancing customer service is about simplifying the processes for residents," he said. "So if these changes are going to result in better customer service, I'm certainly supportive of it."

Wiltshire said the email will not be shut off immediately. She said there will be lots of time for residents to adjust to the new online form system.

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