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PR- 379-08
September 25, 2008


New Yorkers Can Track SCOUT Inspectors and See What Has Been Done to Fix Conditions Found

New Mayor's Office Secret Shopper Program Visits Hundreds of Walk-in Locations; Shows City Can Improve Customer Experience for New Yorkers

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today unveiled a new online tool that tracks the work of the Mayor's Office of Operations' Street Conditions Observation Unit (SCOUT) team and will be available to New Yorkers on the City's website, The SCOUT team, in operation since October 2007, is a group of inspectors whose mission is to drive every City street once per month and report conditions that negatively impact quality of life to 311. As a result of SCOUT reporting, agencies have addressed thousands of conditions - such as litter, potholes, damaged signs, graffiti, and defective traffic signals - they may not have known about otherwise. With SCOUT on the web, each pothole and street defect catalogued by SCOUT inspectors, and what has been done about it, will be available for public review. The Mayor also announced the results of a Mayor's Office of Operations-administered "secret shopper" program that visited 308 agency walk-in facilities for 25 City agencies in all five boroughs. The shoppers used the same technology used by SCOUT inspectors to record quantitative findings in key customer service areas. They found The Mayor was joined by Mayor's Office of Operations Director Jeffrey A. Kay and Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Paul J. Cosgrave.

"An intense focus on customer service combined with the smart use of new technology has helped us make City government more efficient and more responsive," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Not only is technology helping to speed up the delivery of services, it's also helping to make City government more accountable. With SCOUT on the Web, New Yorkers will know the last time SCOUT was on their block, what conditions the team found, and what has been done about it. In the private sector, it's common practice for companies to send 'secret shoppers,' into restaurants, stores, and hotels so they can assess the quality of service they are providing, now we are doing the same for City government."

SCOUT on the web allows users to see the how long it has been since SCOUT last visited their communities. In addition, New Yorkers can search any location in the City and view a map marked with specific locations where conditions were found. Users can search by street address, intersection, community district, council district or zip code. SCOUT on the web data will be updated on most business days and displays SCOUT findings for the past 45 days of data collection.

"With the addition of SCOUT on the web, communities will see exactly where inspectors reported conditions in their community and what agencies have done to address them," said Operations Director Jeffrey A. Kay. "SCOUT on the web promises to further the transparency, accountability and accessibility of City government."

SCOUT inspectors have identified over 46,000 conditions since the program began. The top five conditions found by SCOUT over the past 10 months were: defective street-cuts (11,880), potholes (11,258), graffiti clean-up requests (5,685), defective street hardware (5,582), and sunken catch-basins (3,685),

"The SCOUT data that comes into the 311 Customer Call Center has already improved the way agencies respond to customers," said Commissioner Cosgrave. "This is the latest in a host of technology initiatives aimed at bettering the lives of New Yorkers, and we are proud to be a part of developing this website."

Mayors Office Pilots Secret Shopper Program at Agency Walk-in Facilities

The Mayor also announced the Customers Observing and Researching Experiences (CORE) program developed by the Customer Service Group of the Mayor's Office of Operations.  CORE is the largest municipal program of its kind and the first comprehensive secret shopper program of all City agencies that interact with the public. Excluding precincts and fire houses, the CORE program was able to visit 68 percent of all City agency service centers. CORE shoppers used the same technology used by SCOUT inspectors to record quantitative findings in five key customer service areas: language access, service & accessibility, facility conditions, queuing experience & service transparency, and staff customer service.

The CORE program found that agencies are generally providing high levels of customer service to New Yorkers. Facility conditions and staff customer service had the highest scores in the five customer service areas that were measured. Language access had the lowest average score. Challenges identified by the survey include inadequate interpretation services for limited speakers of English, difficult to locate service locations, poorly maintained facilities, long wait-times and in some cases, discourteous staff. The results of this survey will be used to draft new customer service standards that agencies will be held accountable for meeting.

"The CORE program findings will allow the Mayor's Office of Operations to create Citywide customer service standards that agencies will be required to meet," said Operations Director Jeffrey A. Kay. "Measurements of customer satisfaction, wait-times and facility conditions will be part of next year's Mayor's Management Report (MMR). I look forward to working with City Agencies to prioritize those areas that can make the biggest impression on City customers."


Stu Loeser / Jason Post   (212) 788-2958

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