If you encounter any sort of problem, the Taichung City Government is just one dial away!
On a hot summer afternoon, the Taichung City Government call center was busy as usual. Among the incoming calls was one from a Mrs. Lin in Tainan city. As she explained, the only hobby enjoyed by her daughter—who had been ill and confined to bed for a long time—was collecting dolls offered by various government agencies. To fulfill her daughter's wishes, Mrs. Lin often called the government to ask for such dolls, but the results were not always satisfying. However, on that day, she decided to give it another shot and dialed 1999. The call center staff member immediately notified related agencies and, a few days later, Mrs. Lin's daughter received a set of dolls offered by the Taichung City Government, making her very happy and helping to provide some relief from her illness. A couple of days after that, her mother called 1999 once again to thank Taichung City Government for giving her family a measure of happiness and satisfaction.
The story recounted above is a true one that occurred after the city government launched its 1999 hotline service, and there have been many similar accounts involving a variety of callers, locations and needs. Inaugurated in 2009, Taichung city's 1999 hotline received only 2,882 calls per month in the beginning, but has seen that number grow 10 times to 28,361 calls in a single recent month. This growth is a clear indicator that the hotline has become the most immediate and convenient channel for services and inquiries among Taichung residents.
In the past, city residents often had to be connected to the Taichung City Government switchboard, or search online, to get city-related information and updates or report a public-facility malfunction or breakdown. This was time-consuming and rather inconvenient. Today, however, callers only need to dial the 24-hour 1999 hotline, and the operators will do their best to solve any problem, whether it is a malfunction, complaint or inquiry about government policy.
The hotline can solve almost any situation regarding public matters. For example, when it comes to reporting a public-facility related problem, among the 8,921 reported cases from April to June, 2011, "illegal parking or occupancy on streets" was the most frequent problem (1,972 cases, 22.1%). The second and third most-common problems were "reporting malfunctioning street lights” (1,417 cases, 15.9%) and "repairing traffic lights and signs” (857 cases, 9.6%). As Mayor Jason Hu has promised, residents can feel free to call 1999 if they encounter any difficulties regarding public affairs and, thanks to the hotline staff, they can enjoy more confidence in city government services.
For those working at the call center, the happiest moments come when they hear compliments for the hotline. Most people calling 1999 tend to be flustered and exasperated, and often yell at the operators who sometimes end up providing counsel to those who are going through tough times. Whatever the situation, the best reward is the appreciation that they get from callers after problems have been solved. In some cases, callers planning to commit suicide have decided to give their lives another try, according to one of the operators, Xiao Hui. This helps explain why the 1999 operators seldom quit their jobs, despite relatively stressful responsibilities.
The 1999 hotline is a free consultation service provided by Taichung City Government and the well-trained operators have a passion for serving residents. Therefore, the government hopes that everyone will make good use of it, and not forget to compliment operators when they do their jobs correctly.
‘Mystery customers’ promote better service quality
Setting up the 1999 hotline means that the city government has another way of hearing residents’ voices. More importantly, people’s problems can be solved in just one phone call, in a step that greatly improves city government service efficiency. In order to maintain service quality, the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission of Taichung City has carried out a variety of initiatives, including a "private service quality evolution", or the so-called "mystery customer".
For this project, the city government hires professional inspectors to secretly evaluate service quality at every public institution, and see if there are any problems. Today, 133 city government organizations, including first-tier and second-tier organizations, district offices, household registration offices and public health centers, are participating in these special evaluations. Mystery customers test and evaluate the levels of etiquette and service quality at these public intuitions, in addition to a "phone etiquette evaluation team" that periodically tests 1999 hotline operators. Operators with good performance are cited in the city government’s monthly magazine, while the ones who don't make the grade will be notified for improvement. These random inspections help encourage city government staff members to work harder and conscientiously provide services, to the point that they even remind each other to be polite when facing those seeking assistance.
Regardless of what means or measures residents use to solve their problems, the city government will utilize special systems for tracking and managing these situations. This system also tracks and analyzes service efficiency and case completion/resolution rates for the 1999 hotline. These results are publicized on the Taichung City Government’s official website, helping ensure that the hotline continues to serve as an efficient, effective channel for addressing the needs of Taichung’s people.