CRA Hires New Chief Service Officer. (It wasn’t me, but it should have been me!)

On November 1st, 2018, the CRA announced that as a result of complaints from the public related to “significant service delays”, they have launched a national consultation tour and on this tour will be promoting the appointment of a new Chief Service Officer (CSO).

That position should have been mine, but they never asked, so instead of helping the masses while working at the CRA, I’ll have to continue helping Taxpayers as inTAXicating.

While noting the introduction of a “new suite of services … leading to real results for Canadians”, or a return to the service that the CRA used to give Taxpayers, the CRA is admitting that it has a long way to go in the eyes of Canadians when it comes to providing anything related to “Customer Service”.

In March of 2018, the CRA appointed its first CSO, Mireille Laroche who happens to be a bilingual career public servant with a background in and who previously worked at the Department of Finance.

So much for the CSO helping Taxpayers with Collections issues related to the CRA because for that to happen, the CSO would need actual time working in, you know, Collections.

That being said, the CSO be classified as an Assistant Commissioner of the Service, Innovation and Integration Branch, as well as Chief Data Officer.

The Minister of National Revenue, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, has visited a number of remote locations over the past year to discuss service issues promising solutions, but none have come from the CRA.

Stated “improvements” coming from the CRA include; the opening of the Northern Service Centres in territorial capitals, an enhancement of the CRA’s digital services, and the implementation of a new call centre platform because the one they currently use doesn’t meet the needs of Canadians.

A CRA spokeperson stated that, “these service enhancements will address many of the frustrations Canadians have experienced when they interact with the CRA [and] while they will be of significant benefit to Canadians, they are really just the beginning of the CRA’s client-focused approach to service.”

To that statement, I disagree!  I think the public wants to be able to sit down with their Collections representative face-to-face and that the CRA’s insistence of moving collections files to these “hubs” has created additional confusion, unnecessary stress and assessment which would have been resolved in person previously.

In addition to launching both online and in-person public consultations, the CRA is holding a series of “design jams,” which, according to the CRA spokesperson, is “a collaborative brainstorming activity used to solve design problems. It is part of the ‘design thinking toolkit.’ Design jams produce prototypes, pitches, or proposals; it is the equivalent of a ‘hackathon’ but for designers. The focus is on stakeholder and participant empowerment. Rapid ideation is done with all stakeholders involved.”

Time will tell if there will be actual changes being made to the way the CRA interacts with Taxpayers, or if this is just another way for the Federal Liberal government to spend taxpayer money while touting all the “progress” that has been / will be made.

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How to start conference call meetings on time!

If you work in an environment where the majority of your meetings are via conference call, you find there is always a delay in getting the meeting started because there is a reminder sent out via email 5 minutes before the meeting and then if that reminder is snoozed, the next reminder comes at the time the meeting is scheduled to begin.  Leaving to call in at that point would make you late.  So if you are chairing the meeting, you wind up penalizing those who came prepared to start at the start time while waiting for the stragglers.

Here are some of my suggestions for starting meetings on time!

1) Plan for it. Put the arrival time on the agenda. For example, for a meeting scheduled to start at 9:00 AM, you could put “8:50 AM – – – Arrive at the Meeting” at the top of the agenda. An arrival time is useful because it allows everyone time to socialize, obtain coffee, or organize materials before the meeting. It also ensures everyone is present at the scheduled starting time.

2) Set an example. Dial in to meetings you schedule before they are scheduled to start.  Use this time to chat with the early birds and allow them to ask questions prior to the meeting that thy may be afraid to ask in a big group.  And you can greet the attendees as they arrive. This helps you appear in control of the meeting process from the beginning. And of course, arrive at everyone else’s meetings on time.

3) Make it easy. Schedule your meetings to begin at odd times, such as 9:10 AM. This allows everyone who was in a one-hour meeting that began at 8:00 AM to run to the bathroom, check their email and put out any fires before jumping on your call.  Similarly, end your meetings at least ten minutes before the next hour so that the attendees have time to do the same before their next meeting.

4) Promote punctuality. Send a memo or an email stressing the importance of arriving on time. Call key attendees to remind them about the starting time for the meeting.  Try to find some reason to be on time, such as asking a senior level executive to make an opening remark, then allowing them to drop off the call, because they are busy, and it sets the tone from the top.

5) Expect promptness. If the meeting is for your team only, you can tell people that they are expected to be on time and tie it into their performance appraisls, or ask your manager to stress it from one level above.  Similarly, arrive on time to demonstrate your commitment.

6) Be realistic. Realize that some people are beyond coaching because of their attitude or relationship with you. Also, recognize that it is impossible to guarantee that everyone will always arrive on time at every meeting. There will always be emergencies, surprises, and those few who refuse to cooperate.

To make this approach the norm you need buy-in from senior management. 

Good luck!