I know, I know – Government customer service is an oxymoron – I’ve heard the joke often, but I’ve worked with too many local government organizations to believe it’s true. The reasons it’s difficult to deliver great customer service typically fall into 3 buckets:
- The easiest way to change a culture is to change the people, and it’s often very difficult to change staff in local government
- A key to creating a particular desired culture is to have rewards and recognition (i.e., incentives) for staff who exhibit the needed behaviors and attitudes; many governments have policies and budgets that greatly limit such rewards
- Many local government agencies are enforcing code, ordinances, laws, and regulations. It’s hard for the customer to feel great in situations when you’re telling them “no.”
I’m sharing these obstacles to great local government customer service because they’re a reality…but they’re also an excuse.
The Orillia City Government has been working on its continuous improvement strategy, focusing largely on customer service. According to the article City expanding customer-service focus, the City approved a customer service strategy in May that included the following components:
- Continuous monitoring of customer satisfaction and feedback;
- Exploring ways to expand access to services online;
- Exploring opportunities to offer expanded payment options;
- Establishing a dedicated customer-service team, comprised of staff from each city department, to monitor and receive feedback on the city’s customer-service practices;
- Reviewing options to provide general reception on the first floor of the Orillia City Centre;
- The implementation of corporate-wide customer-service standards to ensure consistent levels of service in all departments and locations;
- Expansion of the city’s website to offer more information regarding the appropriate staff contact for all areas of the corporation; and
- Regular customer-service training for staff.
Review your organization’s customer service strategy. Does it include research, broader service delivery vehicles, dedicated customer service resources, facility navigation, standards development, and training?
Review your strategy if you want to move it forward in a more comprehensive way. Learn from Orillia’s strategic orientation toward customer service.
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In the article Hospital shows improved patient satisfaction, the author highlights a hospital that is using key strategies to drive up patient satisfaction. And in hearing Ivision Memorial Hospital leaders describe the approach, one starts to draw conclusions. Here are some quotes:
What we do is we get a group of people from all aspects related to that process, get them in a room for four days and really give them the leeway to fix the problem.
We’re firm believers that the people who know the work are the best ones to fix it.
Next year’s score card goals are set to change, some of which are based on staff suggestions.
What we’re really going to push in this next year is something we call our bright idea program. The idea is that we give staff a way to improve their work.
Did you catch the theme? The CEO and Chief Quality and Strategy Officer are constantly talking about using the voice of the employee to drive improvements. Whether it be on an improvement team or through an employee suggestion system, the best ideas to improve the patient experience are coming from those closest to the patient on a daily basis.
Leaders must chart the vision and set the strategy in most organizations, but the employees are the ones often with the best ideas on how to execute the ideas and improve patient satisfaction.
Create a patient satisfaction improvement strategy where the employee’s voice rises up for the benefit of the patient.
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Millennials. I’ve been in so many meetings lately where they were the main topic of discussion. Why? Because they’re different. How they communicate, how they socialize with each other, why and how they move toward a brand and what could pull them away is different from other generations.
But couldn’t we say that about most of the customer groups out there? Aren’t first-time customers different than those that have been with you for ten years? Aren’t those that transact business with you purely via the web different than those that will only come into the store to make a purchase or get service?
The uniqueness of Millennials is important to note, but it’s important to note because every customer group (every customer) is unique.
To improve the customer’s experience, conduct this exercise with whomever the key 3-5 customer groups are for your business:
- Research – Conduct research – surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc. – to identify what is most important to them about their experience. Is it speed, simplicity, self-service options, self-evident steps, text-based options, face-to-face dialogue, quality, or kindness? Identify just a few key attributes of their experience.
- Journey Map – Use those attributes as guiding principles to redesign your customer’s experience by breaking up the experience into several Macro-process steps; here are six sample steps:
- They identify a need for and inquire about “stuff”
- They find stuff
- They request/order stuff
- They get a status on stuff delivery
- They receive stuff
- They complete/pay for stuff
- Redesign – During evaluation of each step in this customer continuum, how well does the experience in this step address the guiding principles? For example, when they’re requesting/ordering an item, is it “simple, quick, and self-evident?” If not, then that’s where there’s opportunity for a redesign.
The lesson on the laser focus on Millennials is to look at each customer or customer group as unique. Know what’s important to them so you can design your world around theirs. Research. Journey Map. Redesign
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