Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Renews Controversial Online Business License Renewal Service but Warns Company to Improve Customer Service

Birmingham City Council (Source: Council’s Facebook livestream)

Birmingham has renewed its contract with Avenu Insights & Analytics LLC, the company in charge of the city’s online business license renewal service. The renewal came despite misgivings from officials about complaints that the company’s customer service is subpar.

Online business license renewal was a priority for Mayor Randall Woodfin’s first term, and a contract with Avenu was approved in 2019. While Avenu’s online service has increased licensing efficiency, Woodfin said, its customer service “has not been the smoothest.”

Talks with the company about improving its “quality control … weren’t necessarily the smoothest” either, Woodfin said, and eventually led to him having a one-on-one call with the company’s president. “I expressed on behalf of our team (that), in its current form, the service doesn’t meet our core values,” he said. “It’s not working for the small business owner. The team in the (city) finance department is not pleased, and there are some trust issues, etc.”

But because the current contract with Avenu expires Sept. 11, Woodfin said, a “short-term” solution was needed. Tuesday’s vote extends that contract for two years, for an amount not to exceed $1,450,000 per year, but adds a 90-day termination clause.

“We have high expectations and if those expectations are not met, then we will come back before this council,” Woodfin added.

District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, who said he’d received multiple complaints from small business owners about Avenu’s service, said Tuesday’s vote puts the company “on notice.”

“That’s the way I view this,” he said. “I’m very happy to see the 90-day termination clause included in this contract because I think the business community, although they appreciate the ability to take care of their business online, they definitely want to see some improvements.”