Category Archives: 311

Creating a Connected City in Today’s Ever-Evolving World

Rosetta Lue, Chief Customer Service Officer & 311 Contact Center Operations Director, City of Philadelphia sat down with Argyle to discuss the in’s and out’s of running customer service for a city.

In today’s society, how do you create a connected city?

There are multiple levels to creating a truly connected city. We are working through public private partnerships to leverage technology and all available resources to make our services innovative, accessible, more efficient, and adaptable based on customer needs.

Another element of a connected city is that city departments can talk to each other easily and effectively to provide high quality service to our citizens. In our newly upgraded Customer Relationship Management solution, City agencies are better able to work together, with real-time information updates, creating more accountability and increasing the completion rate of service requests and customer satisfaction.

How have you expanded customer service into the community?

The design of our digital service platform is entirely based on our customers. In order to improve customer service in the City of Philadelphia we identify and engage with our target audience, establish a strategic plan, listen to the community’s feedback, and adjust our process accordingly.

In the same spirit, we have community engagement programs that operate in the community, like the Neighborhood Liaison Program. The Neighborhood Liaison Program, a community empowerment program within Philly311, we are able to encourage citizens to utilize 311’s services while educating them on how to get the most out of our system they in turn share that information with their neighbors, family and friends. With this program, we can connect influencers with each other through trainings and workshops. The Neighborhood Liaison program empowers citizens with tools to interact with their government and get problems resolved.

“We are working through public private partnerships to leverage technology and all available resources to make our services innovative, accessible, more efficient, and adaptable based on customer needs.”

When it comes to customer service initiatives, why it is important to have them?

In city government, we understand that the citizen is our customer, and using those terms as synonyms, have reoriented our overall framework. The citizens’ customer experience expands beyond providing city services, it is about how they feel from the time they submit a request to the time that request has been completed.

Customer experience is frequently lumped in with customer service; (though it is the foundation of it) customer experience is the long game. Customer experience is the total experience, and every interaction the customer has with the supplier. As a city contact center, customer experience becomes all encompassing. The citizen’s experience often goes hand in hand with their experience with all city services and not just the call center itself. Every improvement we make for our customer affects their quality of life.

What are important things to consider when building partnerships?

Especially with the implementation of the new customer management system, our partners have played a significant role in helping us move towards our goals this year. Government has limited resources, which is why partnerships are so important. When working with external organizations it is important to keep in mind that organizations mission and goals and make sure it aligns with our own. We try to identify and respond to the needs of the groups we work with and value its input in planning and decision-making.

For both partners and customers, we focus on transparency, efficiency and effectiveness – a top priority of Mayor Nutter and his administration. It is an important aspect of why we want to provide the highest quality customer experience possible.

“Customer experience is frequently lumped in with customer service; (though it is the foundation of it) customer experience is the long game. “

How has the government effectively used social media in emergencies?

Every day we at Philly 311 have a duty to provide citizens with factual information and critical answers about City services, but when the City is facing a crisis, the importance of that information is magnified. Citizens look to the City for guidance, and we provide it. One of the most efficient ways to do this is through our social media channels.

One example is snow emergencies. During major snow events the contact center often remains open 24-7 to handle in high call volume. 311 uses social media to answer frequently asked questions, providing citizens with relevant information before they ask for it. We know the information citizens need during these types of emergencies, for example, we have seen from experience that they want to know about parking, street cleaning, and trash collection. This information is easy to share on our social media, and through our social media working groups we are able to multiply the potential audience reached with this information by coordinating strategic and intentional messages so citizens know how to react in these situations without submitting information requests.

Hurricane Sandy is another example of an emergency situation that we were able to respond to effectively. In Philadelphia during Hurricane Sandy, public transportation was shut down, Philadelphia International airport suspended flights, and all major highways were closed. At Philly311, we had a plan ahead of time. Working with city departments, such as the Office of Emergency Management, we were able to collect data and stay up-to-date on the progress of the storm. We established a strategy ahead of time and were prepared to deliver accurate information through multiple channels, including our social media accounts.

Do you have any last thoughts that you would like to share?

One of our goals is to reach and engage our citizens on channels they are comfortable using. The Philly311 app makes our services more accessible to diverse audiences. Research by the PEW Foundation and others, suggests that many low income citizens do not have internet access in their home but do have internet on their smart phones. We want everyone to be able to use 311, which is why we have so many channels, including the call-in and walk-in centers for more tradition communications. We also provide language services in 17 different languages on the app, which increases accessibility. We want to make sure that all citizens have positive and productive interactions with local government.

 

Originally published in 2015 by Argyle Journal – http://www.argylejournal.com/customer-care/creating-a-connected-city-in-todays-ever-evolving-world/

 

Bringing Government Agency Contact Centers and the Internet Together for a Seamless Customer Experience

call-center-website

Taxpayers often turn to the government when they are overwhelmed and stressed out by personal circumstances. A fragmented experience across government websites compounds their distress both increasing the burden on call center staff and the cost of meeting taxpayers needs. A consistent, thoughtfully designed experience (starting with websites and contact centers) will make a tremendous difference in the lives of taxpayers and government employees.

The government agency will better serve all stakeholders by establishing a focus to oversee the design and implementation of a human-centered design centric strategy that:

  • identifies and responds to key touchpoints in a stakeholder’s journey
  • streamlines, integrates, and scales websites and call centers consistently over time
  • takes a holistic, iterative approach to prioritizing improvements across channels
  • maintains a mobile experience first philosophy (people seeking information often
  • use mobile devices first because they want information immediately, or rely on mobile exclusively because it is what they can afford)
  • uses clear, concise, and consistent language and messaging across all channels
  • establishes a feeling of trust by providing consistent experiences across channels to different stakeholders firmly focuses on the future by laying the groundwork to
  • integrate social media and emerging technologies in later phases of the project

Leading a human-centered design change initiative requires vision and broad oversight to bring stakeholders, products, technical processes, and communication into alignment.

Picture Jane, a retiree who needs help. She goes to one website on her phone to get information fast, but it doesn’t help. Later she visits another site on her laptop and can see it better, but finds additional information, organized in a new way, and described with different language.

Jane doesn’t know what to do or trust, so she tries a call center looking for a person to talk to instead. The wait times are long because so many others are having the same problems. When she finally gets through, the call center staff wants to help but they talk about services and options in yet another way.

Jane is distressed by her experience across siloed channels. She encounters disconnected technologies, has to translate between different language use, and finds that information is inconsistently organized or even offered — leaving her frustrated and miserable. The call center staff who takes her call can hear that misery as it overflows into their conversation making the staffer’s job harder, the call longer, and both the financial and emotional costs higher for both.

Each time Jane’s journey plays out for another taxpayer or call center staffer, taxpayers lose confidence in the government agency and increase the costs of call center operations.

A single focus and oversight for government Contact Centers and the internet presence is a logical first step towards an improved Customer experience. Needed research must be conducted across channels and changes prioritized coherently across all platforms to maximize results. If the system is not treated as a whole, customer experience will continue to be fragmented and frustrating no matter how many isolated improvements are made over time.

A seamless experience requires a consistent approach to technological solutions, human needs, and organizational responses. The goal is to inspire taxpayer confidence and government efficiency by making it easy to start with a website, reach out to a call center if needed, and then complete tasks on the web when they are ready. In the future, integrating social media will increase responsiveness and better serve millennials and future generations.

A robust online database of Frequently Asked Questions can enhance customer experience based on insights from web analytics and call center topics. Web analytics and the call center knowledge management technology can be used to identify frequently accessed data, searches that come up empty, and how often users access particular information. In depth interviews with call center personnel can shape resource allocation and better prepare them to address complex situations since the basics are covered in a searchable database.

Starting with aggregated website and call center data creates a solid foundation for human-centered research to address persistent pain points across channels then effectively design and deliver satisfying stakeholder experiences.

What if Jane went to a central website and found the basic information she needed quickly and easily? If she still wasn’t sure what to do in her situation, she could reach out to a call center. When she did, her wait time would be shorter since more people were finding what they needed on a streamlined easily searchable site that highlights frequently asked questions. Jane wouldn’t be so upset when she connected with a staff member, her questions could be answered more quickly, costs would go down, and Jane would regain confidence in the government agency. Later when it worked for her schedule, she could fill out any required forms on the website and get immediate confirmation that they were submitted. Now when Jane talks about the government agency she shares her experience — I get help when I need it, I get things done on my schedule, and I trust that the government agency has my back.

Integrating processes, products, services, and content in an organization like a government agency takes time, vision, and leadership. Consolidating oversight with the right vision offers the best possible chance to successfully transition the taxpayers to a coherent seamless experience.

Using Human-Centered Design (HCD) Approach to Improve Your Government Contact Center’s Experience

Every interaction the taxpayer has with the government is a touch point that shapes their impression on the quality of service received based on a positive or negative experience. The contact centers for government are an integrated platform that provides taxpayers and their family members with accurate information about services and information that can provide taxpayers with their desired requests. Rather than government leaders improving solutions that seem accurate to taxpayers, there has been a commitment to creating ideas that better meet taxpayer’s needs by developing processes and tools tailored to their specific needs. To understand the needs of taxpayers, contact center leaders are standardizing the approach by using the human-centered design (HDC) technique. To best serve the taxpayers and create that emotional connection immediately, government leaders must understand the needs of the taxpayers by hearing about the good and bad experiences occurring with every single touch point occurring.

Human-centered design thinkers use a tool called a design artifact (physical model) to aid in communicating, exploring, and defining solutions. Government leaders have created a unique design artifact, the customer journey map, to allow leadership and employees to gain a deeper perspective of what the taxpayer is experiencing and feeling at each stage of their life journey. The results of honing in on the needs of the taxpayers will provide seamless, emotionally connected interactions to events that have been identified (by using HCD), as “moments that matter.” The “moments that matter” are moments that can have a significant impact on the taxpayer’s experience that directly connects to government’s contact centers. Creating that immediate emotional connection with the caller is essential in ensuring the experience is a not only positive but meets the needs of the taxpayer.

Government contact centers have historically struggled with gaining positive taxpayer’s satisfaction due to long wait times, inability to get connected, and inaccurate information all contributing to the lack of trust in government’s ability to care for them. To build confidence, make a connection, and provide accurate information, government leaders must understand thoroughly what makes a taxpayers tick and ensure the communication is clear in the minds of the taxpayers and the service rendered yields a positive experience. When looking through the lens of the human-centered design approach, government leaders can gain insight through direct observation or surveys of what the taxpayer likes or dislikes, what was confusing or what was clear, and figure out how to develop an internal process that can meet their needs. Improving the process, also known as lean management, is a critical output to the problems defined when taking the perspective of taxpayers into consideration.

Why You Should Celebrate 2016 National Customer Service Week Oct 3rd – 9th!

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In the words of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin, “Well done is better than well said.” The idea of customer service is often reserved to describe interaction with stores, restaurants, and other organizations in the private sector. Rarely do we hear people say “Wow, I had a great experience dealing with the staff at any government agency!” Fortunately, those outside of government might be surprised at how seriously excellence in service delivery is taken in the public sector.

Let’s take a look at national Customer Service Week which was created by 1992 by the President of the United States, citing the value of service excellence in a free market economy.

The President’s proclamation said:

A business will do a better job of providing high-quality goods and services by listening to its employees and by empowering them with opportunities to make a difference. Customer service professionals work in the front lines where a firm meets its customers; where supply meets demand. With responsive policies and procedures and with simple courtesy, customer service professionals can go a long way toward ensuring customer satisfaction and eliciting the next round of orders and purchases. The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 166, has designated the week of October 4 through October 10, 1992, as “National Customer Service Week” and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this week.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the week of October 4 through October 10, 1992, and the first week of October in subsequent years, as National Customer Service Week. I invite all Americans to observe this week with appropriate programs and activities.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventeenth.

George H. Bush

Across the country, including the federal government agencies, there is a movement to improve the delivery of information and service to those in need.

During the first week of October 2016, they are making Benjamin Franklin proud by not just talking about customer service but actually doing something (many things actually) to make sure our customers are properly “served.”

Creating a Welcoming & Connected City – @Philly311 Youth Engagement Program Graduation

Saying Goodbye

The final session and Philly311 YEP graduation ceremony was an emotional but enjoyable day. For the staff who created and implemented this program and worked with the participants ever week, it was bittersweet. It was incredible to review the program with the students and hear all the information the children had learned during the program and see how much their interest in local government had increased, but it was sad to say goodbye to our first YEP cohort.

The Impact

Overall, this program had a tremendous impact. For example, the interest in and awareness of the Junior Block Captain program increased. According to the survey we took after the final YEP session 35% of our participants showed interest in becoming a Junior Block Captain, in the pre-program survey we took on week one, only 29% were interested in this program. Additionally, after YEP, 96% of our students knew about Junior Block Captains, compared to 29% before the Philly311 youth program. One of our participants has already submitted his application to be a Junior Block Captain. This is only one example of how we have seen a real impact on the lives of these talented young people who want to make a difference in their community.

Another statistic that speaks to the success of YEP is that before our program only two students, 7% of participants, reported knowing what Philly311 was, and after YEP 96% of the students not only knew about the program but felt comfortable using our mobile app to submit requests.

The Final Session

We started off our last day on a light note. We knew that it was going to be a long day for the kids so we ate lunch together; pizza was provided by Philly311.

After the pizza party, we moved into the auditorium for the final presentations. The Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism (MOCEV) began the presentations, talking about the many benefits of volunteering. MOCEV explained the Waste Watchers initiative, which is when volunteers work big events in the city, such as the Philadelphia Marathon, to help attendees sort their trash into recycle, compost, and landfill. The students were able to sign-up for Waste Watchers on-site if they were interested.

The Philadelphia Youth Commission presented next. Explaining their history and what they do. The Youth Commission had an activity that demonstrated how some people naturally want to lead the group and others instinctively remain silent. They emphasized the importance of using your voice and informed the students that the Youth Commission was a great way to do that. The YEP participants could become Youth Commissioners as a way to use their voice to influence local political leaders. Both of the presentations were about empowering Philadelphia youth and encouraging civic pride and participation.

The Graduation Ceremony

Following the presentations, we moved on to formal remarks. I spoke about the importance of this program, thanking the students and all of our fantastic partners: Education Works, Police Explorers, Junior Block Captains, Urban Affairs Coalition, ASAP, Fun Safe Philly Summer, Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, and the Youth Commission, who were presenters and volunteered at almost all of the five sessions to help supervise and facilitate the program. I am so appreciative of my staff and to our partners for making this program a reality.

I then introduced Daniel Ramos, Community Engagement Coordinator. He presented before and after pictures of the issues that the students submitted on the first day of YEP and talked about how they were completed and how much better it looks now. His presentation reminded the students what a real difference the students made in this neighborhood. He encouraged them to keep it up, if someone does graffiti on that wall again, report it, if another storm blows down a large tree, submit a request – this is how we keep our city beautiful.

Gabriela Raczka, Communications Director for Customer Service, spoke about how she was honored to participate and get to know these bright young people. She worked on organizing the speakers and attended each session. She felt that it was a very meaningful experience for everyone involved. Gabriela hoped the students learned valuable information from the program. Daniel Ramos spoke again briefly, about how the program came together and how wonderful the students were. He also spoke briefly about his experience growing up in difficult circumstances and how he was able to turn his life around to help make this city a better place.

Councilwoman Maria Quinonez Sanchez joined us for the graduation ceremony. She delivered remarks about how pleased she was this program took place in her district. She told the students how she is deeply invested in the wellbeing of the community and really appreciates all the issues the YEP participants helped to resolve. After Councilwoman Sanchez spoke, we presented the students with their certificates of achievement, signed by the Mayor and myself, and took photos of each YEP student holding their certificate with the Councilwoman, myself, and the Education Works Site Coordinator, Jasmine Council.

Miles Wilson,Executive Director of Education Works, also joined us for the day. He delivered touching remarks about how the program clearly meant a lot to the children and how they were very engaged. He was particularly impressed with how the students interacted with him immediately, even though it was his first day meeting most of them. He told the students he was proud of them and encouraged them to take the information they learned and put it to good use, to keep in touch with the many connections they made from different organizations, and to stay focused.

The graduation closed with remarks from Laiya, radio personality from 107.9, who told the children how great it was that they learned how to report issues to 311 and what a great job they did helping to improve their community.

The entire day was celebratory and inspirational. I am thrilled at what we accomplished with this program and am looking to the future hoping we can continue this great work to empower and educate young Philadelphians.

Stay tuned for more updates about the Youth Engagement Program and contact Gabriela Raczka, Gabriela.raczka@phila.gov if you would like to be involved in future Philly311 YEP programming or activities.

Rosetta Carrington Lue is the City of Philadelphia first Chief Customer Officer. She is a dynamic leader in the fields of Customer Experience Management, Strategy and Technology, Social Media and Community Engagement in both public and private sectors.

Philly311 Youth Engagement Program – Government Making a Difference

I’m happy to report that we have officially hosted two very successful sessions of our Youth Engagement Program (YEP). On Thursday, July 16, 2015, we launched our first session. The session was dedicated to what Philly311 is and how young people can use it as tool to better their communities. Daniel Ramos, our Community Engagement Coordinator, focused on teaching the students about Philly311’s mobile app. After Daniel’s lesson students were able to take our mobile app into the field and report issues.

Prior to the session we passed around a survey asking students if they were familiar with Philly311 and what they knew about City government. It was important for us to gauge their understanding. What we could learn about what they know is just as important as the information we are teaching. Asking for their input, and what they wanted to learn, will be an asset when we consider future youth programming.

As you can imagine, the responses to our survey questions were all over the board, but for the most part mentioned education, trash collection, and snow removal as City services. Some of the students had no idea what local government did, and wrote on our survey that they would like to know what city government is. The most common response, when we asked what the children would like to learn from this program, was how they can make a difference in their community.

That’s a powerful question: How can I make a difference in my community? The mobile app is one of the many ways anyone can directly influence their surroundings. Using the mobile app, they were able to their report pertinent information about their neighborhood. After our first session, the students submitted a total of 25 service requests. The issue reported the most was graffiti, followed by illegal dumping. It goes to show how educating youth about municipal services can inspire younger citizens.

Yesterday, at the second YEP session, the Police Explorers Cadet Program presented their program to the YEP students. Twelve Cadets and three officers came to Harding Middle School and talked about how the Explores program works to get young people ready for the academy. Through hard work, including 300 hours of community service and 700 hours of training, the Police Explorers program helps prepare young people who want to go into any kind of law enforcement or paramilitary career. The Police Officers talked to the YEP students about how an officers job is more than just catching a bad guy, and includes helping people, educating them about the law, and preventing crime from happening.

The Cadets each spoke about why they joined this program and what they have received from it. During one particularly moving moment, all of the YEP children stood up and talked with the cadets. It was great to see them all interacting. There is a great need across the country to build stronger, trusting relationships between the community and the police. This presentation was incredibly valuable for the youth. We hope that series and our partners continue to bring value to our students.

Want to know more about who we are partnering with? Follow us on Facebook for photos and updates from the program each week. Please visit, like, and share the Philly311 Youth Engagement page with your networks. We want to get the word out about the great work we are doing with the Education Works Summer Program.
I hope that you will stay tuned and keep up with this program as it progresses. This program will continue to grow and we are observing where we have room to improve in the future. But, so far, I am very pleased with its progress.

Rosetta Carrington Lue is the City of Philadelphia first Chief Customer Officer. She is a dynamic leader in the fields of Customer Experience Management, Strategy and Technology, Social Media and Community Engagement in both public and private sectors.

Getting kids involved in local government – Philly311 Youth Engagement Program Kick-off

I am happy to report that we have officially hosted two very successful sessions of our Youth Engagement Program (Y.E.P). On Thursday, July 16, 2015, we launched our first session. The session was dedicated to what Philly311 is and how young people can use it as tool to better their communities. Daniel Ramos, our Community Engagement Coordinator, focused on teaching the students about Philly311’s mobile app. After Daniel’s lesson students were able to take our mobile app into the field and report issues.

Prior to the session we passed around a survey asking students if they were familiar with Philly311, and what they knew about City government. It was important for us to gauge their understanding. What we could learn about what they know is just as important as the information we are teaching. Asking for their input, and what they wanted to learn, will be an asset when we consider future youth programming.

As you can imagine, the responses to our survey questions were all over the board, but for the most part mentioned education, trash collection, and snow removal. Some of the students had no idea what local government did, and wrote on our survey that they would like to know what city government is. The most common response, when we asked what the children would like to learn from this program, was how they can make a difference in their community.

That’s a powerful question: How can I make a difference in my community? The mobile app is one of the many ways anyone can directly influence their surroundings. Using the mobile app, they were able to their report pertinent information about their neighborhood. After our first session, the students submitted a total of 25 service requests. The issue reported the most was graffiti, followed by illegal dumping. It goes to show how educating youth about municipal services can inspire younger citizens.

Last Thursday, at the second Y.E.P session, the Police Explorers Cadet Program presented their program to the Y.E.P students. Twelve Cadets and three officers came to Harding Middle School and talked about how the Explores program works to get young people ready for the academy. Through hard work, including 300 hours of community service and 700 hours of training, the Police Explorers program helps prepare young people who want to go into any kind of law enforcement or paramilitary career. The Police Officers talked to the Y.E.P students about how an officers job is more than just catching a bad guy, and includes helping people, educating them about the law, and preventing crime from happening.

The Cadets each spoke about why they joined this program and what they have received from it. During one particularly moving moment, all of the Y.E.P children stood up and talked with the cadets. It was great to see them all interacting. There is a great need across the country to build stronger, trusting relationships between the community and the police. This presentation was incredibly valuable for the youth. We hope that series and our partners continue to bring value to our students.

Want to know more about who we are partnering with? Follow us on Facebook for photos and updates from the program each week. Please visit, like, and share the Philly311 Youth Engagement page with your networks. We want to get the word out about the great work we are doing with the Education Works Summer Program.

I hope that you will stay tuned and keep up with this program as it progresses. This program will continue to grow and we are observing where we have room to improve in the future. But, so far, I am very pleased with its progress.

Rosetta Carrington Lue is the City of Philadelphia first Chief Customer Service Officer. She is a dynamic leader in the fields of Customer Experience, Contact Center Operations, Social Media, and Community Engagement management in both public and private sectors.