2023 has been a year of significant improvements and progress in the transformation of every aspect of our operations and services. We are turning the corner from past challenges in our operations, staffing and service levels, and achieved our best service levels in the last five years in the key areas of 9-1-1 and police emergency call taking.
We have also begun to implement improvements, detailed below, in our people and culture supports, as well as technology and corporate capabilities, that will further strengthen our operations for the future.
- Best 9-1-1 service levels in 5 years – Despite a significant 11% increase in 9-1-1 call volumes in 2023, E-Comm’s service level for 9-1-1 call taking exceeded target (95% of calls answered within 5 seconds), at 98% provincewide. We are delivering consistent, reliable 9-1-1 service to the citizens of British Columbia.
- Best Lower Mainland police emergency (ER) service levels in five years – E-Comm’s 2023 service levels for police emergency call-taking were above target (88% of calls answered within 10 seconds) in the Lower Mainland for the first time in five years, at 89%, and on target on Vancouver Island.
- Significantly improved Lower Mainland police non-emergency (NER) service levels – Year-end police NER results remained on target on Vancouver Island (80% of calls answered within 3 minutes), and significantly improved in the Lower Mainland at 63%, up from 44% in 2022.
- Reduction in Lower Mainland NER abandoned call rates – Our 2023 abandoned call rate for police NER calls over 3 minutes was 13% in the Lower Mainland, down from 26% in 2022; and 6% on Vancouver Island, the same as in 2022. Our Lower Mainland average speed to answer improved to 4 minutes from almost 11 minutes in 2022, and we answered 61,000 more calls.
- Best fire emergency (ER) service levels in five years – Likewise, E-Comm’s 2023 service levels for fire emergency call-taking were above target (90% of calls answered within 15 seconds), and the highest in five years.
- Dedicated police NER call takers – Until now, most non-emergency calls were answered by police call takers who also answered emergency calls. Because call takers must prioritize emergency calls when volumes increase, non-emergency service levels deteriorate. In response, E-Comm has created a dedicated non-emergency call-taker role, with recruitment of 36 positions completed in 2023. This role recognizes the different skill-sets required for handling emergency versus non-emergency calls, and opens up a larger pool of potential candidates. These agents now answer over 60% of all NER calls.
- NER Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) harmonization – We collaborated with our police partners to harmonize SOPs across agencies for the 96 different NER “call types” that we answer, reducing call taking complexity, which will help to improve call-handling times, reduce training time, and strengthen quality assurance.
- Enhancements to online alternatives for reporting NER incidents – We have also worked with our police partners to improve websites for reporting of NER crimes, as an alternative to NER calls.
- New NER contact centre technology platform to go live in 2024 – Our new Genesys “Contact Centre as a Service” technology platform will further improve the caller experience by enabling wait-time estimates and call-back options, improved call menus and information, and SMS and call-transfer capabilities. It will also help to provide better data on the reasons for calls. This is part of our strategy to use technology to improve the public’s experience.
- Digital agent pilot – Working with the Vancouver Police Department, E-Comm launched a digital agent pilot in May 2023, using Amelia.ai technology. The intent of this pilot was to gather better data on reasons for calls and help redirect callers to an appropriate agency if the call is not a police non-emergency matter. We will be taking lessons learned from this pilot to develop an overall digital strategy for non-emergency calls, including exploring different ways for the public to report crimes.
- Collective bargaining agreement and compensation review – We concluded a new collective bargaining agreement and compensation review, with market-competitive compensation and benefits to improve our ability to attract and retain great people.
- Employee wellness supports – We have implemented new Resilient Minds training and wellness supports, helping to keep our employees healthy and reduce rates of attrition and sick leave. For example, the leave rate for police call takers decreased last year from 17.3% in 2022 to 14.5% in the Lower Mainland, and from 9.4% to 5.7% on Vancouver Island.
- Performance management framework – We are implementing a new performance management framework, to improve engagement and feedback for employees.
- Improved attrition and retention – The result of these changes is an overall improvement in company-wide attrition rates, to 10.7% in 2023, from 13.6% in 2021. For our Dispatchers, the annual attrition rate was significantly reduced in the past year, from 10.1% in 2022 to 5% in the Lower Mainland, and from 27.6% to 19% on the Island.
- Data centre resiliency and cybersecurity projects on track – We continue work on our new data centre resiliency and cybersecurity projects to strengthen protections against cyber threats and data breaches.
- Improvements to data analytics to better support our agency partners – We are implementing significant improvements to automate and enhance our data analytics and reporting to help identify opportunities to improve operations and provide our partners with better data.
- Comprehensive governance review underway – We have launched a comprehensive review of our corporate and governance structure to identify opportunities for improvement. We are engaging our local government and agency partners in this review, which is to be completed in 2024.
- Ongoing recruitment to improve operations – We hired over 170 external candidates, to address long-standing gaps, and get staffing levels closer to target.
- Dedicated 9-1-1 queue agents – We created a dedicated 9-1-1 operator role to stabilize the 9-1-1 queue, attract more candidates and reduce training time.
- Improved training – We implemented training improvements, to help improve employee success and retention by providing better on-the-job supports. These include an expanded “peer coach” training and mentoring program, as well as new training resources for people leaders.
- Better shift options – We have also developed alternate shift pattern offerings to allow for better work-life balance and better match staffing to call volumes and workload.
While E-Comm has made significant improvements and progress in 2023, we recognize that there is still much work to do, and our transformation has only just begun. Challenges remain, including increased call volumes, aging infrastructure and technology, the need for reasonable and predictable costs, ongoing labour shortages, and staffing levels that are still below what’s needed in key areas.
As we continue enhancements to our police communication operations, we are also improving our corporate infrastructure, upgrading and leveraging new technologies, and improving the efficiencies of our processes, and focusing on the successful implementation of NG9-1-1, a critical, mandated technological and operational change. Finally, and most importantly, we will continue to support our people who play such an important role in public safety communication in BC.