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 recent WTOC story City Council discusses budget, customer service, the City of Savannah is highlighted for their initiative to change the culture of the organization. They plan to setup rate-your-service kiosks and put everyone through customer service training. While these are positive actions to take, there has to be more, right?
When you think about a culture, you think about “how things work around here,” you think about how decisions are made, how relationships work, how communications flow, what it’s really like to work at the City of Savannah. So what impacts that?
The organization’s Mission, Vision, and Core Values impact that; leadership has the biggest impact on that culture. Reward/recognition systems, accountability based on well-documented and well-communicated customer service standards impact that culture. The organizational structure, workflow processes, who and how they hire, and internal and external communications impact culture. And yes, measurement is important, but how are they creating a consistent dialogue with residents to truly know and act on the “Voice of the Customer?”
Too many organizations take an approach to changing culture that is like putting new tires on your car; the new tires make the car look a little fresher and shinier, but they haven’t impacted what truly makes the car go.
When you are looking to change culture, realize that you’re about to undertake something important, something big!
Take a comprehensive approach to culture change.
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In the article North Peace Economic Development Commission to launch a regional Business Retention and Expansion, the NPEDC says that it’s creating a BRE program – in short – to convey it cares about local business – those that aren’t being recruited like royalty and yet still provide well over 70%-80% of job growth in most communities. But as you read further in the article, there is a key statement: The NPEDC says the information gathered through the program provides live business intelligence to attract new investment, foster and support growth of the existing investment, and identifies key challenges facing the business sector of the region.
This is the 21st century – information travels at the speed of a click, a tweet, a post, or a like. It’s vital that local BRE programs have the intelligence on your local businesses (and FOR your local businesses) that identifies opportunities for growth, risk of job loss or facility closure, needs for improving aspects of the local business climate or technology infrastructure, opportunities to address development-constricting processes or policies, challenges in workforce development or excessive permitting fees, etc.
When we work with clients outside of the BRE world in local government, healthcare, pro sports, and education, we often suggest that they need to have a Voice of the Customer (VOC) strategy. Likewise, for BRE organizations to have “live business intelligence,” they must be intentional about that VOC strategy. Take and use these quick VOC tips that we’ve shared with clients in other industries:
- Have a quantifiable component (i.e., surveys) to evaluate multiple aspects of the local industry’s experience in working with municipal processes, policies, code/ordinances, and people.
- Utilize predictive characteristics about retention/growth likelihood based on key factors (e.g., Leadership Change, Economic Concerns, Alternative Locations/Recruitment Efforts, Business Performance, etc.) or historical risk factors locally.
- Gather information from more Passive means on a daily basis about the company, other company facilities, organizational performance, etc. – See http://brebuzz.com/ – this defines “live business intelligence.”
- Include Focus Groups and 1-on-1 interviews for deep dives on specific issues or about consideration of future changes/improvements.
- Include Local Industry Advisory Boards that provide some consistent feedback mechanism as ideas are developed, refined, and moved toward implementation.
- Use multiple platforms (face-to-face, web, social media, e-mail, telephone, etc.) to ensure breadth of responses to/from clients and the community.
- Share results in actionable formats with deadlines and timetables – ensure customers know what you’re doing or planning to do with the information they provide to you.
Make “live business intelligence” a part of your Voice of the Customer strategy.
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See more on Business Retention & Expansion business intelligence at: http://brebuzz.com/