Canada’s Immigration Department Opens the Door to Better Customer Service

Canada’s immigration department has announced a change in the way it will deal with applicants, moving the focus away from enforcement and towards good customer service.

So far subtle but nonetheless positive changes to their operations have been made, such as a new automated message at their support centre in Montreal which now presents a less defensive attitude towards callers. When ringing the support centre callers are no longer confronted with a cold recorded voice warning them against verbally abusing staff.

The department have also stated that people wishing to enquire about their applications will no longer be turned away before the minimum processing time. While relatively minor, both of these steps signify a new attitude towards clients at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

January 2017 saw the launch of their customer experience division headed by life-long civil servant Michelle Lattimore, as a result of continuing complaints regarding their agents’ poor attitude towards customers, extended processing times and administrative mistakes. The division’s aim is to make immigration applications more pleasant to deal with for both agents and customers alike, in the hope of improving human experience and departmental efficiency.

Despite these positive steps it is expected to be some time before new policies are fully implemented and a significant positive result can be measured.

An annual report by the department claimed an 85 per cent customer satisfaction rate, though this is clearly not an accurate representation of the department’s performance level as there were also a reported 5.2 million enquiries by customers seeking information on overdue applications and over 5,000 complaints.

A customer survey conducted last year highlighted a chief concern for applicants, namely the department’s unwillingness to share information on the progress of applications before a final decision had been made. This survey established that customer experience could be greatly improved by more consistent communication from immigration agents and updates from the department throughout the application process.

The new customer experience division seem to have acknowledged that for clients, awaiting the results of visa applications can be stressful enough in its own right, without also having to worry about being lost in the system, not having supplied the correct documentation or missing vital correspondence.

These results seem to show that transparency is a fundamental part of a positive experience for applicants, so last year the department began to implement a policy of answering caller’s questions even before the minimum waiting period. As would be expected, this did increase the handling time of each call, but decreased the number of repeat calls by a staggering 30 per cent, indicating that customer needs where being met more successfully.

Department head Lattimore says: “It’s not new for us to view immigration as a service. What’s new is we are looking at service from a client’s perspective.” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will continue to implement trial tactics to establish a more effective, client-based service. Their next customer survey is due to be conducted in 2018.