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This report contains the results of an evaluation of the Quebec segment of the Canada Business Service Centres (CBSC) Network, conducted in accordance with Industry Canada's National Evaluation Framework for the Canada Business Service Centres. In Quebec, Info-entrepreneurs (Montreal) acts as the CBSC, while Ressources Entreprises (Quebec) is the regional satellite centre, regional access partner and office for Eastern Quebec.
Info-entrepreneurs has 22 employees who delivered 304,000 transactions (including Web site visits) in 2001-2002 (down 16% from 2000-2001, when demand increased by 40% over the previous year). Info-entrepreneurs is the product of a partnership between Canada Economic Development and the Metropolitan Montreal Chamber of Commerce.
Ressources Entreprises, another partner of the Agency, is a non-profit organization with a history predating its presence in the CBSC Network. Its ten permanent employees delivered 39 000 transactions in 2001-2002, up 40% from 2000-2001. In accordance with its mission, Ressources Entreprises has other mandates beyond the CBSC Network.
The evaluation process is based on the following:
- A survey of 600 CBSC clients.
- A survey of 400 potential clients.
- An analysis of a consultant's report on the status of Info-entrepreneurs at the time of renewal of the agreement with CED.
- Complementary interviews with representatives of CED, Info-entrepreneurs and Ressources Entreprises.
- Conversations with Info-entrepreneurs employees.
- Qualitative interviews with a small group of clients of the documentation and research services.
- An analysis of the centres' operational reports.
- In general, 90% of clients said they were satisfied or very satisfied with CBSC services.
- 60% of potential clients said they needed business information during the past year, and 24% of them (12% of the businesses) experienced difficulties obtaining the information in question. Thus a market exists for the service rendered by the centres.
- Eight clients out of ten indicated that their needs were met in their most recent contact with one of the two centres. Eight clients out of ten also indicated that the information was somewhat useful or very useful. Half of the clients were referred to other resources. Among clients who followed up on the referral, 85% found the information obtained from the second source somewhat useful or very useful. Thus the service provided by the centres is generally meeting the needs.
- CED feels that the centres are doing a good job as intermediaries transmitting government information to entrepreneurs. However, to satisfy CED, Info-entrepreneurs must promote their services more effectively and diversify their funding sources.
Effects of CBSC activities
- General recognition of the centres ranges from 15% for Info-entrepreneurs to 22% for Ressources Entreprises. CED is generally satisfied with the products and services available from the centres within the assigned budget envelope.
Alternative to the current service delivery model
- The CBSC services for client businesses are free, with the exception of certain research services which are often paid for by a service agreement type of association.
- The research services have the benefit of being able to finance themselves in part by charging fees. However, they are not part of the core business determined by the national bodies including the National CBSC Secretariat and the management partners, namely access to information on the programs and services of the Canada and Quebec governments.
- Clients indicated a certain willingness to pay fees for products or services customized to a degree, but not for generic products or services.
Implementation of national service standards
- The centres aim at and generally achieve the national service standards, although the unilingual Ressources Entreprises Web site is an exception.
Assessment of CBSC staff
- Info-entrepreneurs plans to adopt a new staff assessment model over the coming year in order to better meet the needs of employees and management. Info-entrepreneurs employees are generally satisfied with the amount of training available to them.
Regional access to service centres
- The most popular services (Web sites and telephone information) are also accessible throughout Quebec. The Info-entrepreneurs research services are provided by a better equipped library and a more specialized team than those of Ressources Entreprises. The information regionalization activities seem to be experiencing great success.
- The severe budget cuts planned for the centres in Quebec for 2003-2004 could jeopardize their ability to ensure the delivery of the basic service called for the CBSC program.
- The centres might be wise to develop research services for a relatively mature business clientele more willing to pay for them.
- The centres would be wise to continue investing in updating their Web sites and to plan to add regionalized information. Ressources Entreprises should plan to provide an English version of its Web site.
- Steps could be taken to have Ressources Entreprises offer "Talk to us" from its own Web site.
- The centres must provide the most up-to-date information possible and let the clients know this.
- Since referrals to other organizations is an important added value for clients, the centres should provide such referrals wherever possible.
- Info-entrepreneurs could initiate steps to obtain the support and participation of a permanent resource in the Canadian Technology Network.
Links with the community
- Info-entrepreneurs should focus on gaining a foothold in significant communities. This could help to diversify its funding sources.
- The centres need a structured promotion/communication plan to become better known and to generate more business.
- The centres should improve their analyses of Web journals for accountability purposes and plan a study of the use of their Web sites in order to gain a better understanding of how they might improve.
- Specific statistics should be kept on use of the "Talk to Us" service and submitted in the periodic reports to CED by the centres.
- The centres should devise a way of measuring the intrinsic quality of their activities this normally takes the form of inquiries by mystery clients.
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