I’m ashamed at having let a whole month go by without writing. Hopefully August was as busy for you as it was for me, so maybe you didn’t notice. After a family holiday with my in-laws, Labor Day brought a shocking turn with one sister evacuated in an Oregon wildfire and a niece hunkered down in Tampa last night waiting for Irma. I guess I’m making excuses, but there really has been more than enough to keep me occupied recently.
I actually spent a good part of August in dialogue with DDS about my son’s ISP – if you can call it a dialogue when one side asks and the other mostly ignores. Really, truly, the past few weeks have made me feel that customer service in DDS is on the decline, not on the upswing. But rather than carry you through all the details, I’ll just paste in here the main elements of an email I sent to a senior DDS manager on August 29 (names are blocked):
- (My son)’s service coordinator just changed, but we received no advance notice even though I had been in regular communication with his prior coordinator, xxx, as well as with her supervisors, about completion of his annual ISP (see below). When I reached out again on August 11 I got a brief note from xxx saying he now has a different service coordinator, and shortly after that I got an email from the new coordinator. As I mentioned to one of the supervisors, when a service coordinator is about to change I believe it’s appropriate to be notified in advance, especially when there’s an ongoing dialogue on important support issues.
- (My son)’s ISP effective date was July 19 but the ISP is still incomplete, and more importantly the most recent draft xxx shared still contains a lot of outdated information from 2014-15 that has not been updated to reflect new events, progress and challenges. (It really does seem to me that the previous coordinator had time to complete this before the transfer to the new one.) If leaving outdated information in the ISP is normal practice in DDA, then I hope you’ll encourage changes in standard operating procedure. Because the new coordinator does not yet know our son, and because we need to get the ISP completed, I simply provided appropriate information, but it really shouldn’t be up to me to do that. It’s in the whole team’s interest to have a clear picture of the person they’re supporting.
- Finally, in the midst of all this, the secure ZixCorp email system rolled out this month. There was no advance notice of any kind, but suddenly the most routine emails from DDA began arriving through ZixCorp rather than as normal emails. I have already signed up for the system and assume I’ll figure out how to save emails (as currently configured they disappear after a month), but many people who interact with DDA will have difficulty sorting through the new interface. I think it would have been the right thing for people to know in advance that this was going to happen and for DDS to have offered some guidance to outsiders on the new interface. As you know, I’ve long been in favor of ensuring privacy of personal information, but the new system should not be a barrier to routine interactions as is currently the case.
I'm still waiting to receive any sort of answer to my email – not even the simplest one saying folks are looking into these issues. And we’re still waiting to see our son’s updated ISP, two months into the service year.
I worked in the federal government for over thirty years, and the concept of customer service was drilled into us. DDS is a local agency with direct and personal responsibility for supporting people and their families move forward in life and achieve their personal aspirations, but my recent experience suggests the agency still has considerable work to do on the customer-service front. This doesn’t mean the courts are the answer – certainly not - but those of us interacting with and counting on DDS should be able to expect a higher level of responsiveness than we’re getting.