Hamilton Co.: 'Secret shopper' program will test county employees

January 5, 2005
Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County employees will soon begin putting themselves in their customers' shoes as part of a "secret shopper" program.

A social worker might visit the building department to find out how to get a permit for a new deck, or a budget analyst might call Job and Family Services to ask how to become a foster parent.

Hamilton County Commissioner Pat DeWine introduced a resolution today - expected to be approved next week - that directs county staff to set up the secret shopper program by Feb. 14. The aim is to test how helpful county employees are when dealing with the general public.

"Implementing this program starts to change the culture and makes people understand we're serious about customer service," DeWine said.

It's the first of many changes DeWine and Commissioner Phil Heimlich are proposing to make county government not only more responsive but more efficient. Todd Portune, the lone Democratic commissioner, said he supports those goals.

The secret shopper program should cost little because county employees volunteer to "shop" other county departments during their regular workday.

Will the commissioners also send faux shoppers into the Hamilton County sheriff's office?

If they do, they will quickly learn how difficult a restrictive appointment schedule makes it for persons seeking Concealed Handgun Licenses.

Clermont County, which operates a very efficient application operation, has issued 40% more licenses than Hamilton Co., while having only 1/5th the population. Hamilton County offers a limited appointment schedule.

Clermont: Pop 185,799, issued 1,933
Hamilton: Pop 823,472, issued 1,165

Good customer service should certainly extend to Ohioans who choose to exercise their right to bear arms for self-defense, and we hope the Hamilton County Commissioners will take a look at how they can encourage Sheriff Leis deliver the kind of excellent service their much smaller neighbor is doing.

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