Columbia city staff says resident survey helps identify areas of need

Columbia city staff say resident...

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Since 2003, city staff members have been measuring progress in Columbia by putting out a resident survey. At first, they put it out every two years but, recently, it's been going out annually.

The city works with a consultant for the basic framework of the survey, but also puts in questions specific to Columbia.

"We have special questions that are aligned with the city's strategic plan for 2016 through 2019," said civic relations officer Toni Messina. "That part is really important to us, to see if we can measure progress through citizens' perceptions."

Messina has been involved in the survey process since 2007. She said surveys go out to about 1,000 random households, either through the mail or online.

This year, residents identified police services and infrastructure as top priorities for improvement. In fact, satisfaction with public services decreased by 6 percent from 2016.

"One thing that jumps out is a downward trend. Nobody likes to see that," Messina said. "Just looking at the general trends is not going to provide deep enough knowledge."

Messina said she would like to get more specific and take a deeper dive into the demographics. 

"To me, that's really the essence of customer service -- seeing how different groups in the community feel about things and then you can start making a decision about where we need further investigation. That should reveal where we should make additional investments," she said.

Speaking of customer service, in the past few years, residents have reported dissatisfaction with the availability of city staff and the ease with which they could reach the right employee.

For 2017, residents reported a 9 percent increase in that satisfaction. Messina said that was something staff has been focused on.

"We made a conscious effort to establish a city contact center with people who can respond to questions from citizens, who can make referrals to city services and kind of make sure those services get delivered," she said. 

Messina said, going forward, she hopes that people can become better users of the information.

The consultant will present the findings to city staff in June, but they are currently available to anyone interested in them. 

For the full results of the survey, click here.

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