Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Don Davies Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks.
I joke with people that I don't have a constituency office, but an immigration law practice in Vancouver.
Another source of frustration for my constituents is that there's never anybody whom the applicant or the sponsor can talk to. It's very anonymous. You just get a case number. If someone has a pending application in Australia, is there anybody whom an applicant or a sponsor can actually talk to within your immigration structure to find out about the status of the case, or to discuss where it's at?
David Arnold
View David Arnold Profile
David Arnold
2017-02-01 16:51
Absolutely. As I said in my introduction, we're looking to push those types of inquiries to our online ImmiAccount, where clients can get an update of where their application is at. But again, if we use the region that I belong to, which is the Americas from Chile up, we offer a five-day call centre based here in Ottawa. We provide service in four languages between the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those immigration officers can access exactly the same system as the decision-maker. So an applicant who has a spouse in our pipeline can ring that number for the cost of a Canadian call, and we'll give them as much information as we can.
Dory Jade
View Dory Jade Profile
Dory Jade
2016-12-13 15:32
Hello. Good afternoon, Madam Chair, respected members of the committee, and ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for inviting me today to present on the modernization of client service delivery. I'm the chief executive officer of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, CAPIC. We are the association that represents immigration consultants in Canada. Across Canada, we have four chapters and about 1,500 members.
Thank you for inviting us to appear before the committee today.
I'm pleased to be here and to give you a presentation on the modernization of IRCC's client service and other services.
The presentation was submitted to you in English; however, it's a pleasure for me to answer your questions in French or English.
As an introduction, I would like to start by mentioning that IRCC processes millions of applications. These include temporary residency applications, PR applications, eTAs, and ATIP applications. I'm using acronyms to make things fast. I believe we are all familiar with these acronyms.
Throughout the years, we've made improvements throughout the system. However, in an era of technology, today it is time for IRCC to be on top of the technology and to offer adequate and respectful—excuse me; respectable—service to the clients.
I'll start with the communication offered by IRCC. In fact, this is split into three categories.
The first one is personalized messages. These are mainly the letters that the candidates and the immigration consultants who are their representatives receive, in the name of their client, to advise them about the status of the case, the decision, and/or other required documentation.
The second category of communication is automated messages. Under the new system and with electronic services, IRCC has been starting to send what we call massive communication to its clients, advising them about an issue, etc. The point here is that so far we have been struggling with the fact that IRCC has been sending some messages that really are not personalized. Therefore, these messages are missing the names, file numbers, and contact information of the authorized representative. This is a point that we would like to raise today.
The third category is the call centre. Here I would like to commend the move that it made. I'm not sure if you have tried the call centre recently, but the message, way, and approach are completely different. We are happy to see this kind of approach from IRCC. To give you an example, the previous message used to start by saying something like, “If you are offensive to our staff and to the people on the call, then we will take measures, and we will hang up.” The new message says something more like, “Welcome. Thanks for calling Immigration and Citizenship Canada.” This is a big change.
We also would like to recommend that our centre agents be split into categories so that some of them would be more senior. Then we would have the option that they would speak to immigration consultants who represent clients on specific files. We believe that in this way—by asking immigration officers to make changes and by sending them emails, and so on—we can save a lot down the road. We could call a specific phone line to ask for minor changes on the file.
Now I'll move to the processing times. We all know that the processing times have reached unacceptable levels.
I think Minister McCallum is to be highly commended on the final decision he has taken. We know how many resources and how much funds it would take to lower the family class processing time to 12 months. However, that is in comparison to an express entry application. For express entry, the candidate is invited to apply, and it is a process of six months or less. We are still putting our humanitarian and non-economic classes behind. These are 50% slower than the economic class.
Another aspect I would like to touch on is what is known as GCMS, the global case management system that is running the whole operation in IRCC, in CBSA, and, of course, other agencies. With this system, there is something called the APR portal, the authorized paid representatives’ portal, which allows us and authorized representatives to have access to their clients securely. It also allows us to send applications to Immigration Canada and submit applications of all types, except family class, so far.
It allows also the department to move files in crisis zones. For example, you may have a crisis in one zone, so now electronically and securely, without diplomatic bags, they can transfer complete office files to another file or retrieve them from Canadian processing centres and so on, electronically and securely.
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
2016-12-13 16:22
Okay. Thank you.
The next question is to both of you.
I'm interested in language at the call centre. When I talk about language, it's not just the different languages and the availability of people to respond, which I don't think we have. I see this with my own mother. She's been here for almost 40 years. Her English is excellent, but she won't understand what someone has said to her.
As quickly as you can, I would love to get your thoughts on your experience with the call centre and the level of how we respond to the questions and the information that we receive, because there are different levels of English.
I'll start with you, Ms. Rico.
Loly Rico
View Loly Rico Profile
Loly Rico
2016-12-13 16:23
Yes, I think one of the elements is that first of all, the officers at the call centre should be nice and should have customer service training and be able to simplify. I know we are dealing with the law, but there is a way that we can understand and interpret the law and simplify the answers.
Also, facilitation is a challenge. We don't expect that in the call centre everybody will speak different languages, but right now we have a challenge that when they speak and we have an interpreter to help, they do not facilitate it. You need to use a representative and you need to fill out all those forms. That limits the access to the information for the client at the call centre, and sometimes it's frustrating for them.
If they simplify the English, it would be best. That's what we are recommending. Also, if they don't speak the client's language, they should focus on refugees and accept interpreters, because most of us in the community have interpretation, we have interpreters, and we can facilitate that communication.
Dory Jade
View Dory Jade Profile
Dory Jade
2016-12-13 16:24
Just in short, as we said, it's about law. In my opinion, plain English is used; however, what makes it more complex is when you get one of those words that mean so many things.
I will give you a very simple example. A person can say, “Which status am I?”, or the person doesn't know where they stand because they only know about PR or temporary, and then you say, “You're on implicit status”, and they ask, “What is all this about?”
How can you make this simple?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
To both of the witnesses, I expect that one of the themes we're going to hear over and over again in the testimony in this study is that we need more resources, but the people who have offered that so far have not been particularly specific in that. I'm just wondering if you feel that is the issue. If so, what does “resources” mean, and is there any pedantry in the process that could be eliminated to provide better access or better efficiency with the resources that we already have in place? That's question number one.
Question number two, Mr. Nurse, is about your comment around the process being very faceless. I would agree with you, given that when people contact my office, it's because they feel as though they haven't reached a human being. When you made that comment, I was wondering, in the context of what I just asked in terms of resources and process, how can we humanize the process? Are there key choke points with service delivery where that could be fixed?
I can let you go first. Go ahead.
David Nurse
View David Nurse Profile
David Nurse
2016-12-13 16:56
Sure. Thank you for the question.
I don't necessarily think it's a question of resources. I don't have an encyclopedic understanding of IRCC's budget. In many places, it's a question of tone, responsiveness, and attitude. I guess that's one thing about that humanizing experience with the call centre. It's so much attitude, in my clients' and my own experience, in what we get.
I think that there are efficiencies, and my colleague spoke about the online system and what's been automated and what more could be automated. Obviously, having paperless applications offers huge potential savings, which I think are being realized. I don't have any other.... In terms of choke points, perhaps CIO Sydney, which I referred to earlier, where there are paper applications still being processed, could be moved online so that there's equivalency with express entry applications that we now do online.
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
Both of you were here in the last hour as well. If you listened to the whole thing, you know it's a human factor. People, clients, come to the MP's office because we treat them as humans, we sympathize with them, we listen to them, and we act and react.
Do you think we have a disconnect at the call centre? The clients would look like something like this, for example, while the management and the call centre people may be different. They don't understand that side of the equation. What can be done to take some of the burden away from the MP's office?
Richard Kurland
View Richard Kurland Profile
Richard Kurland
2016-12-13 17:14
I monitor the call centre quality assurance reports year after year. I can say if lawyers had that quality assurance outcome, that monthly disbarment list would be significantly lengthier. The call centre is sensitive, culturally and linguistically, and they are now patient. That's not the issue.
The key issue is that the members of Parliament have been pushed into a corner, under-resourced, and placed as goalie to IRCC's problem. The only advice that I can offer, as I have offered in the past—20 years in the past—is to review a British television series called Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.
Voices: Oh, oh!
View Bob Saroya Profile
CPC (ON)
With regard to the cost analysis, the IRCC spends huge money out there.
If both of you were the immigration minister for the day, the week, or the month, what changes would you bring to the table for call centres or.... You understand things from both sides.
What would you do, David? Let's start with you.
David Nurse
View David Nurse Profile
David Nurse
2016-12-13 17:16
First of all, I think you talked about humanizing the experience. Too often, although people haven't been hung up on, they come away feeling as though they have been. Maybe they asked one question, they got an unsatisfactory answer, and then there was sort of silence from the other side, indicating that it was time to go.
I've spoken to this already. That's an issue of tone, training, and script. Especially when you consider that people are maybe interacting with the Canadian government for the first time, that should not be their first experience. That's my first point.
Richard Kurland
View Richard Kurland Profile
Richard Kurland
2016-12-13 17:17
Well, I would adopt the Quebec model for immigrant investor immigration. The challenge is bad apples on the ground in case-specific immigrant investments. The Quebec government doesn't have the time and resources to micromanage; instead it manages the dealers. It allows quota to dealers based on the quality level of those investor files. It motivates the dealers to motivate their agents to select good cases. By “good cases”, I mean legitimate.
The same could happen if the minister were to say to the regulatory authorities, “Okay, we're going to hive off some service delivery” to your members. “You, regulator, are going to ensure that quality assurance is positive.” Alternatively, IRCC could, via computer, monitor the quality assurance of specific practitioners and cut access when something's loopy, pending resolution of an investigation.
That's how you do it at the lowest cost.
Robert Orr
View Robert Orr Profile
Robert Orr
2016-12-08 15:30
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for this opportunity to address this committee.
I can say right from the start that the subject of this study is something that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada takes very seriously. Indeed, it is one where the minister is determined to make considerable headway.
Over the last number of years, the department has made significant strides in laying the groundwork for a modernized client experience that maintains the integrity of our immigration system.
To this end, we have implemented a global case management system for almost all of our major lines of business. Building on this system capacity, we've improved the flexibility of our processing network. We can now shift less complex client applications from temporarily overloaded offices to those with the available capacity to help out. Among other things, this approach has helped us deal with an enormous increase of more than 40% in applications for temporary residence over the past few years.
We have also put in place across the world a visa application centre network—132 centres in 94 countries—to support those clients who want personalized help in filling out their forms. As an example of the results, today a client in Beijing who wants to visit Canada can go to a local visa application centre and get help in Mandarin, have their information sent electronically to the operations support centre in Ottawa overnight for uploading into the global case management system, and then have their file ready for a decision-maker back in Beijing by the time the visa office opens for business the next day.
At the same time, today a client who needs an electronic travel authorization to come to Canada can quickly apply from their smart phone and, for the vast majority of applicants, get a decision right back to their phone within three minutes.
These types of client interactions are possible because of our sustained focus on and investment in a modernized processing infrastructure that supports our ability to be vigilant with respect to the integrity of our programs, which is in fact the foundation of good client service.
We recognize that while we've made significant progress in certain lines of business, there remain considerable opportunities for further improvement. IRCC offers clients over 75 services, but while temporary and economic permanent resident clients can apply online, not all of our clients currently have access to these service delivery channels, and we don't have processing times down to where we want them to be. Further rollout of online applications and reduction of processing times remain a key priority for us.
But we also know that the client experience is not just about online applications and reduced processing times. And so we are committed to listening to and learning from the clients who use our services. We do this in a number of different ways.
For example, we conduct a client satisfaction survey every two years, which gives us information about what clients like and what they want more of. In our last survey, clients told us that overall 85% of them were satisfied with their immigration and citizenship experience. But they also told us that they would like to get more information about their case status.
We also have a client service feedback web form online, and receive approximately 150 emails a week from people telling us about their service experience. These messages not only help to give us instant feedback when things aren't working, but also have helped us to identify parts of our instructions which are not clear.
We are trying new methods of gathering client insights as well. For example, this year the department experimented with using human-centred design techniques to better understand the client experience. We went out and talked directly to clients, NGOs, immigration consultants, academics, and others to better understand the whole experience from the client's perspective. This initiative was hugely worthwhile and has helped us to refocus much of our work on client service.
All of this information from surveys, direct client feedback, and design challenges has led us to establish three new client experience priorities for the department: first, innovating our processes so that they make better sense to clients; second, finding new ways to provide clients greater assurance that their cases are moving forward; and third, making sure that we are listening when clients need to talk to us.
While our work in gathering client insights remains important and continues, we've already launched a number of initiatives in these three areas. For example, just yesterday our minister announced changes to the processing of family class applications, which will go a long way in improving the ease of the process for those clients. We're also making improvements to how easy it is to upload documents and pay fees online.
To provide clients with greater assurance as to the status of their applications, IRCC rolled out “link my application” functionality earlier this year. It's an online tool that lets many clients who submitted paper applications get access to the same online account information as those who applied electronically.
We'll also be adding more case status information into the online account to give clients who are waiting more frequent and meaningful updates. In addition, we're also looking at new ways to reduce the amount of time it takes to let clients know we've received their application, and we will be experimenting with sending text messages to clients when their applications reach our mailroom. This will help to close the gap that exists for clients between mailing an application and getting an official acknowledgement of receipt letter.
Listening to clients and building trust is also a priority. We have piloted a new approach at the IRCC national call centre, enabling agents to provide clients with detailed case information even if regular processing times have not elapsed. We also log all calls right in the case management system so that if a client calls back we know right away what their concern was the last time and can follow up as necessary.
While this approach is taking more time upfront, it is significantly reducing same day repeat callers, and demonstrating that an upfront investment can reduce client anxiety without necessarily reducing productivity. In other words, good client service also adds business value.
Mr. Chair, I can assure this committee once again that innovating and improving service is at the very top of IRCC's agenda. Through incremental innovation and risk-based analysis, IRCC can achieve service excellence and meet client needs while continuing to uphold confidence in the integrity of the immigration, settlement, citizenship, and passport programs.
Thank you for the invitation to be here today.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2016-12-08 15:54
Mr. Chair, I think it would be very useful and helpful for the information they have with respect to complaints to be passed on to the committee. Then we can actually go through the details of it, as opposed to going through it bit by bit at committee within my seven minutes. It would be helpful if we could get a confirmation that we could receive that information.
With respect to complaints, I have one issue that my office often gets. People phone the call centre and cannot get informative information. It's an ongoing cycle of not getting information, and the level of frustration is beyond measure. I've tried it myself. You phone the hotline, and the information you get is so generalized that it is hopeless and, frankly, useless.
I then phone the minister's office. I've experienced this myself. I get the information from the minister's office and it's contradictory to what the government had announced within the time frame that the application would be processed, for example. I'm sort of left standing there and thinking, who do I believe? I don't know what is the real information anymore, and I hardly know what to tell my constituents. No wonder they're so frustrated.
How can we improve on this? How is it that people phone the hotline and get such general information that it's basically rendered useless?
Michelle Lattimore
View Michelle Lattimore Profile
Michelle Lattimore
2016-12-08 15:56
Perhaps what would help is that I'll take this opportunity to tell you about a project that we worked on this year with the Privy Council Office's innovation hub and the Treasury Board Secretariat, as well as OCAD University in Toronto. It was to work on what we called the family class design challenge. For us, the family class design challenge was an opportunity to document the service experience for the first time from a client perspective and to then identify new and innovative approaches to changing the way we address client concerns.
One of the things that was really significant for us that came out of that study was that clients were really unhappy with our call centre. They found that the language we used wasn't helpful and, for those 50% of clients who were contacting us to get case status information, we weren't giving it to them. We were redirecting them to our website.
Based on this insight that we received from clients during the design challenge process, we've actually changed things very significantly at the call centre since the middle of August of this year. In August 2016, we started piloting new work at the call centre, where, for family class clients only—because we really wanted to track results and see if this meant something to clients—we changed a few things. We changed the language we used. We started using more welcoming language. We started actually going into client files for those clients who were looking for case status information in order to deliver to them the assurance they were looking for.
This, of course, has had an impact on business. It's taking us a little longer to deal with those calls, about 16% longer, but one of the other pieces we've actually seen is a significant 30% decrease in same day repeat calls at our call centre. That, to us, indicates that things are working well. We've also received positive feedback from clients who are telling us that they feel more assured, and that they don't feel the need to call back multiple times. We've never seen results like that before.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Going back to my colleague Jacques Gourde's line of questioning, just so you know, for all of us around the table here it is an enormous amount of work in our constituency offices to deal with immigration casework. Again, just to re-emphasize what some of my Liberal colleagues have said, this is a non-partisan thing. We have very small operating budgets, and I also will say that I have a full-time employee in my office who deals just with client service delivery issues.
I'll preface this by saying that the decision made earlier this year to take away MP access from embassies, as well as the ministerial advisory office, was very poor. It was a terrible decision. It really affected service delivery within our office. I'm glad to see that it has been semi-reversed.
I'm not sure what some of my colleagues would say, but certainly for me and my office, one of the biggest complaints we get from people is the reporting of failures in customer service by the call centre in Montreal. I would say that's probably, by an order of magnitude, the number one complaint that I get. People experience very long wait times on the phone, as well as very onerous automated call menus, especially for people whose English or French is their second language. The number one thing I have to respond to in my office is that they don't understand the information that was given to them or that it's confusing, or the charge is that it's unhelpful.
Do you track the call centre usage at all? We are going to write up a report here. Is there anything that you think could be done to overcome this? It's such a burden on our offices right now.
Robert Orr
View Robert Orr Profile
Robert Orr
2016-12-08 16:39
I'll let Ms. Lattimore speak about the call centre in a little more detail, but I think we have made major changes there since August, and they're starting to pay off. They're not for all lines of business. We started off with the family class and the success there is being rolled out to other areas, but a couple of things are happening. One is the change in the attitude, which I suppose is the best way to put it. Giving a bit more scope for our agents to respond to things has, I think, helped our clients dramatically. It's also helped morale within the office itself, and then—
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
What would be.... I'm sorry. Go ahead. I was just going to say in terms of attitude, what are the critical success factors in performance evaluation that you use for a front-line call centre worker in Montreal? What are they tasked with managing? What would their supervisor be looking at in terms of an employment review framework or a performance review framework?
Robert Orr
View Robert Orr Profile
Robert Orr
2016-12-08 16:40
First of all, we're looking at the number of calls they're handling and at how long they're handling them. All case calls are taped so we can do a playback on them. We do quality assurance on all calls that come into the call centre and so on. I think there are very stringent controls on the agents and what's going on there.
Ms. Lattimore can speak to that more, but—
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Would you be willing to table with the committee information on what the key critical success factors or performance review metrics would be for front-line call centre workers in terms of documentation?
To me, it seems a little off that quantity would be what their performance evaluation would be.
Robert Orr
View Robert Orr Profile
Robert Orr
2016-12-08 16:41
I did not say that. I said that's one of the factors, and there's a number of factors that we're looking at.
Michelle Lattimore
View Michelle Lattimore Profile
Michelle Lattimore
2016-12-08 16:41
Absolutely, Madam Vice-Chair, we can provide information around quality assurance with our agents at the call centre.
As Mr. Orr mentioned, we do record 100% of the calls, and we are able to track not only the sort of quantitative pieces of that, but we are also able to provide agents with feedback on the tone that they use with callers, and their capacity to provide helpful and respectful advice.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Great.
One of the complaints that I get in my office is that when people phone the call centre, it seems that the algorithm the agents are driving to is to get an email address so that template information can be provided. Where my office gets burdened with it is: “They didn't answer my question; they just provided me with a template.”
Can you tell us a bit more on why that process is there as part of your service delivery algorithm?
Michelle Lattimore
View Michelle Lattimore Profile
Michelle Lattimore
2016-12-08 16:42
Yes, Madam Vice-Chair, that process is there because a decision was made at one point that in order to deal with a very, very high volume of calls and our desire to help those clients who were really in a difficult situation and had applications that were beyond processing times and needed the attention of agents, we would try to use our website to provide those clients who were looking for standard case status information the ability to do that via the web.
What we have found though, and certainly the work that we did on the design challenge this year has led us to insights in this manner and to change our approach completely with those clients, was that it wasn't at all helpful for them to go to the web to get that information. In fact, they were calling us back again and again. So, we were speaking with a client three or four times instead of investing that extra minute the first time to really give them the assurance and the information that they were looking for. So—
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
I guess I'll just close with this, and it's more of something to explore with my colleagues around the table. I think it would be really useful. I've been doing this for five years now. We want to be your allies, and we want you to be our allies because immigration processing works when we're all giving the same information and messaging and it's arm's-length and it's not politicized. I think there's often a disconnect in terms of what MP office staff, especially new MP office staff, understand as your service delivery algorithms, and there's really no feedback in terms of saying, “Hey, this isn't working”, because what we're getting are the complaints all the time.
I would just suggest that if the department, as part of this survey, would be willing to provide greater information on where your algorithms are right now, we could provide feedback as well in terms of where we see the friction points on that, and then hopefully have some sort of continuous feedback mechanisms with MP office staff as well, too.
I think that, for me, would have been the first step, before changing the call centre process, because at the end of the day, we want to be on the same team here. I'm not sure if there's been any thought given to that sort of thing, but certainly I would offer this up in the time I have, and as a QA process as well.
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2016-12-08 16:46
If training is the issue, then I would get on to that forthwith, because we do often get information and complaints back at our office about people not being able to get information. There have been times in our own office when we have phoned in and have experienced delays as well, or they haven't provided us the information and we have had to phone back and they've said that they'll get back to us, and on and on it has gone.
Imagine what that would be like if someone phoned in and the information was right there and because of your digital system you could actually tell them that they were not required to contact us again to provide that information, to add that extra step. Often when they provide us the information, there's something else missing and then we have to phone back to get the information, and on and on the cycle goes. If they could get that information forthwith right on the first call, it would make life so much easier for everybody. If training is the issue, I would really urge you to make that your first priority, to get everybody up to speed to make sure they provide that information accordingly.
I also want to ask about quality control. Every phone call is recorded, so how do you do the quality control? How often do you do it, so that you can sort of figure out where the situation is going awry?
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