Category Archives: Business Processes

Using Lean Management & Human-centered Design to Improve Government Customer Experience

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Lean Management is a customer-centric methodology used to improve the current business process by using the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) technique. Following the DMAIC blueprint will provide organizations insight into what the actual root cause problem is by measuring and analyzing various data sets, and developing process flow maps to understand the “as is” state.

• Define: Understanding the problem through the outputs of the human-centered design research

• Measure: Measure data pulled from the contact centers

• Analyze: Analyze and determine the cause(s) of the defects (understanding the waste).

• Improve: Improve the process by eliminating defects (unnecessary steps, decreased wait times, and shorter scripts)

• Control: Control future process performance (governance through new policies and procedures)

The lean approach focuses on increasing taxpayer value by improving the processes associated with delivering high customer value. Using the problems defined through the human center design research will point government in the right direction to which processes it needs to begin to hone it on. The problems government thinks are pertinent, may not be relevant in the eyes of the taxpayer. The contact center, being one of the first touch points for a taxpayer, can be reengineered to run more effectively and efficiently by making the internal workflow of calls leaner. The “as is” process map is the starting point to improving services because it visualizes the current process allowing for a clear picture of evident breakdowns in the process.

Defining the problem with the contact center and understanding the process is one piece to the puzzle, the ability to measure, analyze and improve based on the data collected is a critical component to developing sustainable, scalable solutions. Analyzing the various data sets will allow designers to identify areas of waste in the process, ultimately improving the experience of the taxpayer while simultaneously decreasing internal costs for government. Often than not, the government will tack on more employees and additional resources to a problem that can be easily solved by redesigning the process to work more efficiently. The desired outcome is to develop a solution that will be sustainable for government and taxpayers in the future and not a stop-gap solution for today.

Improving how calls are routed, improving the verbiage in the scripts, shortening wait times, and upgrading data collection platforms are all interlocked in improving the taxpayer’s experience when interacting with the contact centers. The one common denominator for all this to be successful is data. Data will allow leadership to understand the pain points in the process and begin to take a proactive approach in improving the taxpayer’s experience. Lean methodologies break down each component of the process to ensure the internal value stream is being utilized effectively to increase customer satisfaction. Human center design thinking is instrumental in providing lean management with accurate taxpayer problems to lay the framework for business process improvements across all facets of the contact center.

Return on Investment (ROI) Model in Government – Does It Really Exists? Maybe…

The question of how government can track the success of profitless projects comes into question on a regular basis. It is easy to follow a dollar. Money leaves tracks, but how does local government leverage private practice metrics to better inform future projects and practices?

Non-profits use a different measure of value to reflect a more impact-centric formula to measuring ROI. Monetizable outcome and value have taken command of the popular imagination, yet motivation, beliefs, and ethical practice are equally important, and have defined value in the public sector. Regardless, the bottom line is investment creates more investment.

According to a 2008 report from the ROI Institute, and comprehensive measurement and evaluation process data from over 200 organizations, “Global trends in measurement and evaluation” indicate “increased focus is driven by clients and sponsors,” and “ROI is the fastest growing metric.” These two factors demonstrate that increased focus for an organization is directly impacted by the return. Impact can easily be interchanged with the public sector’s definition of value.

The relationship between return, and exterior financial support, points to an across the board paradigm shift between all sectors. Activity is no longer sufficient evidence to justify activity. Activity–whether it is a program, a project, an initiative, or the creation of a product–must be result based. In this there is a need to abandon ambiguous performance measurements, forge more social partnerships, and use efficient CRM systems that capture data. With this paradigm shift, we see government adapting to result based processes.

Dr. Jack Phillips and Patricia Pulliam Phillips note in their review, “Using ROI to Demonstrate HR Value in the Public Sector: A Review of Best Practices,” that ROI methodology is currently being used in the public sector in a multitude of ways by entities like the USA Veterans Administration, Australian Department of Defense, and U.S federal government agency. These entities are using ROI to “demonstrate program success and impact of training on educational programs,” “measure the impact of a new human resources information systems,” and to “measure the cost benefit of a master’s degree program conducted on site by a prestigious government.”

The emphasis on managing data isn’t simply a sporadic interest in government, or a trend that the public sector is suddenly jumping on board with. From a federal level the 2002 President’s Management Agenda (PMA) pinpointed five government wide goals that have influenced this contemporary line of thinking. The goals speak to the need for strategic management of human capital, competitive sourcing, improved financial performance, expanded e-government, and budget and performance integration. The PMA’s goals indicate a need to find a comprehensive formula for combining ROI metrics and analytics that support social impact, program evaluation, and quantitative data to measure both a monetary and a non-monetary return. The outcome of finding this formula would result in more than just saving a few bucks, and could potentially result in productivity and quality increases.

In an earlier document from the ROI Institute, Dr. Phillips provides an example of what this would look like:

“In a government setting, cost savings measures are available from every work group. For example, if a government agency implements a program to improve forms processing–a productivity measure is number of forms processed; the quality measure is the error rate on processing forms; a time measure is the time it takes to process the forms; and a cost measure is the cost of processing forms on a per-unit basis. Improvements in work unit performance in a government setting have many opportunities for program benefits that can be converted to monetary value.”

One of the ways that the Third Sector Organization (TSO), in the United Kingdom, has attempted to qualify social value of their sector is through developing a methodology: Social Return on Investment (SROI). The goal of SROI is to translate social, economic, and environmental benefits into monetary value. Yet the SROI isn’t necessarily applicable to individual programs and initiatives, and still prioritizes financial measurements over, say, what a social audit would result in: qualitative information combined with financial data that informs internal performance.

Ultimately, even with the strides that the TSO has made, there is still a global gap in knowledge when it comes to gauging impact on smaller scale profit-less items. A 2013, working paper from the Tellurid Science Research Center concluded on a similar note, stating:

“There is an extensive body of grey literature on impact measurement practice, however this has tended to be small-scale and boosterist in nature. The field has also suffered from a lack of theorisation of key concepts and critical appraisal of previous research, with a few exceptions. A number of studies are emerging which attempt to address this theoretical and empirical gap, but in general empirical research on impact measurement practice in the UK third sector, particularly which organizations and subsectors are undertaking impact measurement and the practices and tools they are using, is limited.”

Though there are limitations, the potential remains there for the public sector to find an all encompassing return on investment model, however no formula or practice standard exists at the moment. BUT there is still hope!

How are you measuring the ROI or SROI in the public sector? I would love to hear your feedback and suggestions.

Talk the Talk: 9 Government Customer Service Terms You Should Know

It may seem like basic information, or at least something that Google could solve, but you would be surprised how often undefined terminology gets the better of people in the work place. We’ve all been in similar circumstances; perhaps your boss asks you to complete a task, but includes a phrase or two that you are unfamiliar with. A lot of the times, people are afraid to ask for the definition of a word, which can result in general misunderstandings and unfinished tasks. I’ve personally faced situations like these.

As a member and founder of several initiatives and programs, I’ve run into this problem. I’ve experienced moments in meetings when a group has had to stop and clarify. Language consistency is a critical element of working efficiently and effectively. Below are a few terms that have become part of my every day as a Chief Customer Service Officer.

Citizen Engagement

According to the United Nations Public Administration Country Studies, “Citizen engagement in public administration implies the involvement of citizens in decision-making process of the State through measures and/or institutional arrangements – so as to increase their influence on public policies and programmes ensuring a more positive impact on their social and economic lives.” Citizen engagement is what we rely on when it comes to operations and it is reflected in the City of Philadelphia’s many initiatives, like the Citizen Engagement Academy, Neighborhood Liaison Program, and the Youth Neighborhood Liaison Program.

City Services

City services, also known as municipal services, are services that city government offers and provides, like trash clean up or graffiti removal.

Customer

Within the call center community, “customer” and “citizen” are often synonymous. Our customers, those who are calling for city information and city services, are citizens.

Customer Experience

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.

CRM

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management: a system that manages customer interactions. The system tracks, manages, records, and stores pertinent data. For a contact center, a high functioning CRM is imperative for maintaining internal and external customer relations.

Emergency

As a non-emergency contact center, knowing when to call 911, opposed to 311, is important. An emergency is classified by something that needs immediate attention, and something that may be dangerous or life-threatening.

External Customer

For the private sector, external customers are those that sign the check, so to say, but for the public sector these are our citizens.

Internal Customer

Internal customers are on the inside. They are your employees, stakeholders, and people who are directly connected with the organization. In many ways internal customers differ from external customers. Both internal and external customers should receive equal attention for the best overall outcome.

Service Requests

Service requests are requests from customers asking for specific services to be completed. A good example of a service request is a request to clean up a vacant lot. A citizen calls in, provides the location of a dirty vacant lot, an agent then puts in a service request with the Community Life Improvement Program, (CLIP) and the lot is cleaned within a timely manner.

Do you have any tips about language consistency? Are there any terms that confuse you? Leave a comment!

Photo credit:  Martin Cathrae