2008-10-23 / From The Mayor...

From The Mayor's Desk ...

Improving City Services Even In Tough Economic Times

Ever heard of 'secret shoppers?' A lot of businesses use them to monitor and improve customer service. Secret shoppers patronize stores, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses, then evaluate the quality of service they received. That gives business managers valuable feedback about how they can do an even better job.

At City Hall, we're also committed to making sure that New Yorkers get the top-quality services you need, and pay for. Even though falling tax revenues mean that city agencies have to tighten their belts, it's more important now than ever that government be effec-tive, efficient and responsive. That's key to keeping New York City a place where people want to live and businesses want to locate and expand.

So for the first time, we recently sent 'secret shoppers' to recreation centers, health care clinics, and hundreds of other city facilities across the city. This 'Cus-tomer Observing and Researching Ex-perience,' or 'CORE,' program was the biggest one that any city government has ever undertaken. CORE evaluators scored their experiences on a 1-to-4 scale. For example, they rated how clean and well-maintained the facilities they went to were, if signs and directions were clear and understandable, and if they could get help from City workers in the languages that they prefer to speak.

In terms of the overall experience, agencies averaged a score of 2.7. While that's not bad - it's sort of like getting a 'B-minus' — it leaves plenty of room for improvement. What we learned from our secret shoppers was so valuable that we're going to send them out again - and in the future, we're going to publicize CORE findings in the annual May-or's Management Report.

From the 3-1-1 citizen service hotline to the mobile SCOUT inspectors who comb the streets to find and re-port quality-of-life problems, improving citizen service, and city services, has been a hallmark of our Adminis-tration. And you can count on this: Despite the current economic downturn, we're going to keep improving the services that you depend on.

I also want to remind parents and guardians of youngsters who will turn four-years-old by the end of this year that between now and October 31, you can sign your youngsters up for free, full- or half-day 'pre-kindergarten' programs in public schools, child care centers, and other facilities. There are still 6,000 of these 'pre-k' seats open for this school year. Call 311 or log on to the city's website at nyc.gov to find out what's available in your community.

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