Monthly Archives: January 2015

Getting to the Core: Government Customer Service Competencies

core-competencies

Every company, business, and government agency/department should have a set of core values. These core values stand as an ethical code for your work place, and a set of values that your office culture evolves from. For me, and the City of Philadelphia, specifically Managing Director, Richard Negrin, we aim for excellence, passion, engagement, integrity, and encourage strategic and smart risk taking. In this, core values are not merely an ideal, but a set of attitudes and behaviors to strive for. It is with our core values in mind that we assess what we need in terms of competencies.

The way you do your work is just as important as what you accomplish. That’s the importance of competencies. Competencies are realistic, observable behaviors that relate to your goals. In other words, they are the skills you need to fulfill the responsibilities of your job. Core competencies are branches of your organization’s core values in the sense that the strengths of those values are extended and, eventually, complemented by the technical skills and capabilities of your team. While core values are the backbone, creating a foundation for a company, core competencies are what determine the advantage. Having a clear idea of what your organization’s core competencies are, result in going above and beyond average profits.

Adapting this model–one that’s often applied to the world of finance and product based corporations–to customer service, leaves us with a unique challenge. When we adjust our concept of profit to mean customer/citizen satisfaction, the elements that contribute to that satisfaction become our core competencies. In a government contact center, excellent customer satisfaction is what brings us to that number. We must ask, on behalf of our internal or external customers:

What does the customers need?
How can we assist in meeting those needs?
How can we assist in meeting those needs more effectively and efficiently?
These questions, in sum, point to what the U.S Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has defined as customer service core competencies; a commitment “to satisfying internal and external customers.” In appropriating HHS’s definition, we discover the cyclical nature of the core competencies and core value relationship within government. Our values become our key behaviors in customer service that, in return, establish government’s effectiveness which generates an above average service levels. For example, when you have a leadership team driving their work with values like excellence, passion, engagement, and integrity, government’s overall improved service delivery excellence reflects that.

City of Philadelphia & a Local Tech Startup Commonality? Great Customer Service!

In the past, the City of Philadelphia’s Philly311 TV has focused on the inside of City government; interviewing City employees and officials from behind the scenes. However, in an effort to depart from the traditional idea of customer service excellence in government, I am looking outside of City government for efficient strategies. With this in mind, I have divided the third season into two parts, and have included a customer service series where I can highlight citizens of Philadelphia who excel at customer service excellence.

In this first episode the City of Philadelphia’s Philly311 TV, the team met Jason Rappaport (CEO) and Raheem Ghouse (CFO) of Squareknot. For Squareknot–a local Philadelphia start-up that creates step-by-step guides–the customer experience determines whether or not their product is utilized. Check out the episode to learn more about Squareknot and how private and public sectors are collaborating and sharing practices to better engage customers.

Are you interested in being in one of our Customer Service Excellence episodes? Please contact me or Amanda Wagner, Philly311 TV Executive Director at amanda.v.wagner@phila.gov.

Implementing a Government CRM? Toss Out the Playbook!

As the City of Philadelphia Chief Customer Service Officer, I was responsible to led a project team to procure and implement a new city wide CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform for nearly three years now. The platform will improve the City’s ability to communicate with citizens and internal departments, increase employee productivity, as well as, create a social platform around 311. The CRM will facilitate collaborations between neighbors and stakeholders encourage them to share practices, and organize events to better their communities.

Like any project, we have experienced ups and downs. I would be lying if I said that the journey hasn’t had unanticipated hiccups. Inevitably with a project of this magnitude, there are bumps in the road. Some of these challenges are foreseeable, and accounted for in the very beginning, and others reveal themselves in the process.

In February 2014 the City of Philadelphia kicked off the CRM implementation and a new era of citizen engagement. Before we were able to introduce the project throughout the City, we spent months planning, collecting data, and journey-mapping to ensure that the customers’ needs would be met and their expectations exceeded. Yet in that mission there were some obvious challenges. Anytime you, or a company, are implementing new technology, managing change for a new environment should not be underestimated. Also new and refresher training for your various stakeholders have to be a high priority. However, who needs to be trained, and when they need to be trained, often fluxes in relation to a number of factors. When schedules, resources, and strategies change in the process, you have to remember to be proactive and not reactive.

Embrace and face change. This isn’t to say that you should spend all your time planning for the unexpected, but to rely on your greater objective as a source to keep from getting discouraged. Part of being a project executive means establishing a strategy to confront the unexpected opposed to simply reacting to them as they come along. Don’t spend too much time planning for what cannot be planned.

Good news! The City successfully launched full implementation of the new CRM on December 8, 2014 to serve 1.5 million residents, businesses, and visitors in addition to 28,000 employees. The procurement and implementation journey has been long, but certainly worthwhile. With every mention of the new CRM I can’t help but to thank the people who have supported this process. A big thank you to Mayor Nutter, Executive Sponsor and City Managing Director Richard Negrin, Chief Innovation Officer Adel Ebeid, Philly311 staff, Unisys, Salesforce, ICMA and all internal and external partners.

Regardless of the inevitable challenges we’ve faced, the ultimate outcome: a transparent government that prioritizes its citizens, is what makes bumps in the road, simply that.

Stay tuned for news of our PhillyInnovates summit on February 18, 2015 in partnership with Salesforce and the local tech community. This will be a huge opportunity for the community and other key stakeholders to learn about the whos, whats, whys, and hows behind how the City of Philadelphia is connecting with its customers.

10 Things Revolutionizing Customer Experience in City Government

As the year 2014 closed, I can’t help but to reflect on all that the City of Philadelphia has accomplished in the past year. With the implementation of a new Salesforce customer relationship management system (CRM), new partnerships, and program expansion, it has been a long year. It has also been a year that has brought us at the City’s 311 Contact Center closer to fully realizing our big goals. We are on the cusp of a movement. We are aggressively steering away from what traditional government has been, revamping our customer service strategy, and leading the nation with an innovative approach. By incorporating private sector methods, and platforms, to better our customer experience, we have been working to revolutionize the way government operates.

Here are a few things that are changing city government, and in a very big way.

1. The Customer. Understanding that the citizen is our customer, and using those terms as synonyms, has reoriented our general framework. Our customers are unique because they are citizens! The citizens’ customer experience expands beyond providing city services. Every improvement we make for our customer affects their quality of life.

2. Executive sponsorship from the City’s Mayor and Administration. Having people who share your desire to create a city environment of customer excellence, has been imperative to the process.

3. Citywide Senior Leadership follows suit in understanding and supporting our movement towards a progressive and transparent city government. Support from senior leadership influences and facilitates change in every step of the journey. These folks are more than okaying improvements, they are standing by them, and pushing them to the next level.

4. The City’s Customer Experience strategic goal: “Government Efficiency and Effectiveness.” A focus on efficiency and effectiveness is imperative for city government, and the Mayor’s goal is a constant reminder of what type of experience we should be crafting for our customers. Keeping this in mind, sets a mindset of progress.

5. The Innovation Lab meeting space. The Innovation Lab encourages creativity and gives us a designated space for our citizens to generate new ideas. The Lab is another extension of how the city is bringing the customer further into the conversation, and also helping them lead the conversation.

6. The Neighborhood Liaison Community Engagement Program. A community engagement program is just one example of programming that we have implemented to give our customers self sustainable tools. In the last year the program has doubled in size from 600 to 1,200 contributors. This increase demonstrates an increase in trust towards city government. Citizens are seeing results and relying on us more and more.

7. Having a Staff that Cares. Public servants should always there for the citizens, and realize that they are a direct reflection of the city they work for and love. Understanding our common objective, fosters a motivated and caring internal environment.

8. Customer Service Officers. Customer service is no longer limited to City Hall. With people like Customer Service Officers, we are out in the internal city agencies and departments and impacting people where it counts.

9. Partnering In and outside of the City. Especially with the implementation of the new customer relationship management system (CRM), private partners have played a significant role in helping us move towards our goals this year.

10. Taking Notes from business and tech communities. Paying attention to what private sector companies are doing, and translating them into our own practices, sets us a head of the curve.

The list could easily go on, and will as 2015 unfolds. I am excited about the future and so are the citizens.

Tell me what’s changing your industry and what you look forward to in the New Year.