The Ontario government is looking into various options for relocating and reconfiguring some of the privately run ServiceOntario outlets across the province. The move is part of a broader review of the provincial service provider that aims to improve customer convenience and save taxpayer money.
Staples Canada to host nine ServiceOntario kiosks
One of the pilot projects that the government is launching involves moving nine ServiceOntario outlets into Staples Canada stores. Six of them will open on Feb. 1, while three others will follow later this year. The locations are:
The government says that using Staples locations will save about $900,000 over three years by reducing leasing costs. The three-year deal with Staples is worth $10.2 million for operating, labour and one-time retrofit costs.
The Staples outlets will also offer longer hours and Saturday service, as well as the opportunity for customers to shop while they wait for their turn at the ServiceOntario kiosk. Customers will be able to access a range of services, such as driver’s licence renewal, health card renewal, vehicle registration and plate sticker renewal.
Other models under consideration
The Staples pilot project is not the only option that the government is considering for the future of ServiceOntario. The minister of public and business service delivery, Todd McCarthy, said that the government will review all of the 134 remaining privately operated ServiceOntario locations as their contracts approach expiry.
“We have to look at Ontario, as a province of 15.4 million people, as a whole and how different the communities are … It’s not one size fits all,” he said.
The government will explore various models for relocating and reconfiguring the ServiceOntario outlets, such as:
- Moving them into retail outlets, such as Walmart or Canadian Tire
- Moving them into libraries, community centres or municipal offices
- Keeping them as stand-alone locations, but with improved technology and customer service
The government says that no changes are being planned for the more than 80 government-run ServiceOntario locations, and that some of the stand-alone locations will continue to be part of the mix.
Customer feedback and privacy concerns
The government says that it will seek customer feedback and monitor the performance of the pilot projects to determine the best way forward for ServiceOntario. It also says that it will ensure that customer privacy and security are protected at all times.
Some critics have raised concerns about the potential for Staples to use the ServiceOntario traffic to boost its sales and profits. A Staples job posting for a ServiceOntario regional services manager said that successful applicants will be expected to “drive sales and profitability by converting ServiceOntario traffic.”
McCarthy said that the government has a strict agreement with Staples that prohibits any cross-selling or upselling of products or services to ServiceOntario customers. He also said that the government will audit the Staples locations to ensure compliance.
The government says that its goal is to provide Ontarians with the best possible service at the lowest possible cost, and that it is open to innovative and creative solutions for ServiceOntario.