4 Tips on How Government Uses Social Media During a Crisis

Crisis or catastrophes like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and the current pandemic, Coronavirus, pose a unique challenge for government contact centers. Each day, government contact centers have a duty to provide citizens with factual information and critical answers about government services, but when facing a crisis, the importance of that information is magnified. Customers look to the government for guidance, and we provide it. One of the most efficient ways to do this is through our social media channels.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned through multiple experiences leading government contact center operations during a crisis or catastrophic events:

Prepare Ahead of Time

Government contact center leaders must remember, like the crisis or catastrophic event itself, the best way to handle an emergency is to prepare for it ahead of time. So, during a crisis or catastrophic events, this means, using our resources and collecting data before the panic, and staying up to date on the pandemic’s progress.

Have a Practice in Place

In order to be effective during a crisis or catastrophic event, you have to have a strategy in place. Social media strategies are not born overnight, and they certainly are not created on-the-fly during emergencies. Strategies take time and practice to develop. Know your administration’s or department’s goals, identity, objectives, and customers before jumping into an all-around high-risk situation.

Keep Your Message Consistent

When people are panicked there tends to be a lot of miscommunication and inaccurate information circulating. As a source of data and a connection to government services, government contact center leaders can’t risk communicating out false information. False information during times of crisis can lead to people getting hurt. Refrain from reposting information from unknown sources.

Stay Calm

It is easy to get overwhelmed during a crisis, especially when you have an influx of people contacting you and reporting the same issues. However, panicking doesn’t help anyone. Find effective ways to save time, don’t let customers get lost in the shuffle, and treat everyone with care and consideration. Customer service should not get lost during these moments; it should shine!

Social media platforms are crucial in a crisis or catastrophic event and help extend a government contact center’s reach. Customers use the internet to connect with social media and not just to search for information. The goal of the government contact center is to provide customers with a single, real-time, and responsive platform to receive the information that they needed most in order to guarantee their safety.

5 Crisis Management Strategies for Contact Centers

I recently created a post noting government leaders are increasing the inclusion of the 311 non-emergency contact center operations into their crisis emergency communications strategy and reaching out to the media to advise the public to call the 311 contact center operations during catastrophic events.

The benefits of driving the public to contact 311 for customer support allow the city’s 911 centers to focus on active emergencies, ensures consistency and accuracy of messaging and provides real-time data and stakeholder reports identifying the public’s concerns or complaints trends.

Stephanie Thum, the founder of Practical CX, reached out to me to for an in-depth interview on best practices guidelines for leaders to incorporate in preparation for or during a crisis.

Here’s the link to the interview: Contact centers during crisis: An action plan from experts

Crisis Event? Government 311 Contact Center to the Rescue!

Hurricanes? Mass electrical outages? Coronavirus testing sites? How can city leaders coordinate the centralization of emergency content for the public? It’s 311 contact centers to the rescue!

City leaders are increasing the inclusion of the 311 non-emergency contact center operations into their crisis emergency communications strategy and reaching out to the media to advise the public to call the 311 contact center operations during catastrophic events. The benefits of driving the public to contact 311 for customer support allow the city’s 911 centers to focus on active emergencies, ensures consistency and accuracy of messaging and provides real-time data and stakeholder reports identifying the public’s concerns or complaints trends.

The local government 311 contact center model has been in existence for over 20 years and helps the public to separate 911 emergency calls from 311 non-emergency inquiries. Previously, calls to 911 systems in U.S. cities were overwhelmed by costly and time-consuming non-emergency calls. They ranged from frivolous (my cat won’t come down from the tree) to legitimate concerns that didn’t require an immediate emergency response, such as potholes, illegally parked cars or missed trash.

In 1996, the City of Baltimore decided to do something about the problem. The city launched the country’s first 311 non-emergency phone hotline, a pilot project supported by a $300,000 Department of Justice grant. Since the first launch of 311, there are over 200 similar local/state operations across North America.

Please remember to leverage your City’s 311 contact center operations so residents, businesses, or visitors can receive fast, consistent, and accurate information and support during a crisis event (i.e. weather, public safety, and public health).

Here’s What No One Tells You About Many Local 311 Contact Centers

Meet Todd Jones. Todd proudly bought his family’s rowhome in a large urban community 30 years ago after he left military service. After raising four children, Todd and his wife are empty nesters and active volunteers in local community activities. Todd is concerned about maintaining the value of his home and began attending community neighborhood beautification programs meetings sponsored by the City Council offices a few years ago. Although he voices his concerns at the community meetings, he still feels frustrated City government workers are not doing their jobs to resolve recurring neighborhood service complaints, such as demolishing abandoned homes, removing wall graffiti, picking up missed trash, etc. As such, his frustration has led him to compile and store “evidence and proof” of notes from conversations with city officials about his concerns in what he called his “City Complaints Black Binder”.

As the new Deputy Managing Director of the City of Philadelphia’s 311 Contact Center, , I would often attend various neighborhood community meeting after community meeting where I would run into the same types of residents. Residents who were frustrated, who’d been long-established fixtures in their neighborhoods, and were seeking answers and change from the City.

More than a few occasions, I was presented with thick “black binders” full of personal meeting reports and general community issues by neighborhood residents. Sitting down, listening to the resident’s frustrations, and flipping through these binders, I became frustrated but also motivated because, in most cases, the residents never called the 311 contact center to report their complaint about various reasons (i.e. didn’t know about 311, didn’t trust department processes, etc.). Behind every concern in those “Black Binders” was a community member who was ready to transform their neighborhood into a better place, and City leadership needed to partner with them to make that a possibility.

At some point, government leaders overseeing 311 contact centers and their service department partners should ask themselves, “what can we do to improve the services we are currently providing?” Unhappy customers cost more to serve and sometimes the answers are not about requesting huge budgets and resources to fix the problem. Fortunately, applying innovation principles using existing resources and processes would be the key to successfully address the problem.

I always think of the Maimonides quote, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed a man for a lifetime.” In this particular scenario, the answer was to create a neighborhood platform for change and provide those who wanted to create that change with the tools to do so. This was how the 311 Neighborhood Liaison Program was designed and implemented.

The program was created to eliminate the middleman and have stand-out community leaders who brought their neighbors’ concerns straight to Philly311. In short, a 311 Neighborhood Liaison is someone who records items discussed during community meetings and contacts Philly 311 for action and answers. Today we have a community engagement in play that:`

• Recruit, identify, train, and engage neighborhood residents into the 311 Neighborhood Liaison program,

• Makes it easy for trained 311 Neighborhood Liaison to report 311 service complaints 24/7/365 using their mobile phone or laptop

• Provide status updates that a City service complaint was accepted and action is being taken by the applicable partner agency using CRM technology,

• Centralizes all concerns, and issues of the community using data, by creating an account for any neighborhood,

• Provides access to the status of issues or concerns at any time by checking the status of the issue through the Philly311 website or contacting or by contacting a local Neighborhood Liaison (neighbor to neighbor engagement),

• Use 311datasets to improve city services and personalize interactions using data analytics and artificial intelligence,

• Builds trust in the community by getting people involved in reporting issues to the 311-contact center and view transparency in government in real-time.

Looking back, I’m happy to report that I did not face any angry residents with black binders at community meetings once we launched the 311 Neighborhood Liaison Program. The program is self-sustainable in many ways that other government services are not. After training, community members are equipped with the necessary tools to create the change they desire.

I like to think that the amount of growth we saw in the program was indicative of its success.  In the first two years since launch, the program doubled from 600 participants to over 1,200.  Residents will fight for positive service delivery transformation and it is the government leaders’ responsibility to fight along with them.

Author Rosetta Carrington Lue is the CEO of RCL Customer Experience Solutions, LLC and is a Senior Advisor & Government Contact Center Experience Management Consultant, 311 Pioneer & Futurist, 2015 White House Presidential Executive Fellow and former Veteran Experience Office SES and City of Philadelphia Chief Customer Service Officer.

Why Do You Need a Government Chief Customer Experience Officer?

In the past few years, we’ve seen the emergence of Government Chief Customer Experience Officers, a new kind of executive in the Mayor, City Manager, or Secretary’s cabinet. While this role is growing more and more popular, there are still lingering questions about where it is necessary for a government agency.  As a former Chief Customer Experience Officer for the City of Philadelphia and Senior Contact Center Advisor for the Veteran Administration, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I agree with the role’s necessity.

While it can be argued that government agencies are relatively concerned with customers to want and needs, efforts can become fragmented across an agency through its departments or leaders over time. The financial department, for instance, could be modeled to provide an excellent customer experience but limited resources, staffing changes or other department-specific events could shift priorities. Now take this example and multiply it across each and every department or leader within an agency, each with an equal chance to lose sight of the customer due to unique circumstances. This is why a Chief Customer Experience Officer is essential, to drive customer-centric initiatives and to coordinate efforts across departments so that these initiatives stay intact.

Marchai Bruchey, the Chief Customer Officer of Thunderhead describes the need for coordinated efforts for successful customer experience strategy:

“It is really important to look at the customer from across the organization, because as a customer if I am calling my bank and have a conversation with a call center agent after having just finished a web transaction, I would like that agent to know about this activity. If they know about all the conversations I have had then they will have a different dialogue with me than just having insight into one channel. Customer service doesn’t own the customer. The customer owns the company. And that means we touch them across it.”

In the public sector, like a major city government, such coordination is vital to maintaining a high level of customer experience. We have tried to facilitate this coordination through the Administration’s Department Customer Experience Officers  Program, naming specific DCXO’s for each department. While this effort helps to keep customer experience as a priority across the administration, the Chief Customer Experience Officer guides the actual effort, making sure that it too stays completely customer-centric and does not waiver.

The most important takeaway is that there absolutely cannot be silos for customer experience and service throughout an agency. Customer experience needs to be “silo-less.” A Chief Customer Experience Officer can help, initiate and coordinate to create the absolute best experience for customers, across an agency, whatever their experience might be.

What have your experiences been with having (or not having) a designated executive for customer experience?

A Best Kept Government Culture CX Transformation Secret

C62DDEAF-89F9-41A8-8C1B-0C6ADE18727A-2862-000001F129B41E38The Secret? Implement an Organization-wide Department Customer Experience Officers (DCXO) Program

When trying to implement a customer experience transformational strategy across an organization, you can expect many hurdles to arise which could slow down its implementation at various levels within the organization. Some examples of these hurdles are departmental processes, individual leaders or a change-averse culture. Thus, for a strategy to be completely adopted, you need to elicit key stakeholders to drive it forward.

Government leaders should consider creating an innovative Department Customer Experience Officers (DCXO) program within the organization to help drive customer experience management strategies and activities. The program should be centralized, managed, and budgeted out of the Administration’s Customer Experience Office (CXO).
The Department Customer Experience Officer (DCXO) program should align perfectly with the Administrative Customer Experience Office, led by the Chief Customer Experience Officer, based on their managerial responsibilities and oversight since the primary duties of the Chief Customer Experience Officer role are to:
  • Provide a single vision and a consistent customer experience across all methods of access is required by customers

  • Design and support key activities and projects to support the customer experience throughout the organization

Launching a departmental Customer Experience Officers (DCXO) program as a customer-focused strategic initiative allows a Department Head to select and appoint the employee to act as a liaison between the Chief Customer Experience Officer and the Department Heads. Over time, participation in the program will provide each Department Head with a trained “customer experience expert” to work directly with their staff on customer and employee engagement activities, such as development and validation of key performance indicators, implementation of customer journey mapped process re-engineering projects, or enhancement of the employee engagement programs.
During the Department Customer Experience Officers Training Program, the Department Customer Experience Officers (DCXO) will learn, research, and create documentations which are unique to their department or function:
  • Customer Experience Vision and Mission Statements

  • “Voice of the Customer Program” Process to Identify and Prioritize Customers’ Needs and Wants to Improve Service Quality

  • Customer Experience & Customer Service Training Program

  • Customer Feedback and Engagement

With this model, each trained Department Customer Experience Officer (DCXO) can provide department-specific customer/employee insights and articulate evidence-based recommendations to help the Administration’s customer experience transformation strategy survive and succeed throughout the organization.
While it might seem that this approach might create a fragmented customer experience initiative across the organization, it is the responsibility of the Chief Customer Experience Officer to make sure their deliverables are consistent and aligns with the Administrative strategic level plan.
What’s noteworthy are the Department Customer Experience Officers (DCXO) can be involved in the yearly Customer Experience Office customer experience strategic plan review and give valued feedback throughout the customer experience transformation implementation journey.

What programs do you currently have in place to ensure the organization is executing your customer experience plans and initiatives?

Is Your Government Contact Center ISO Certified? Why Not!

CX is critical for customer and employee engagement so knowing the current state of CX is important. Many organizations don’t do this, don’t know how or cannot afford to do so for time and cost reasons.  How can this be resolved?  Get your government contact center a prestigious designation with the ISO 18295 certification.

What is ISO?  International Standards for Organizations (ISO) International Organization for Standardization develop and publish International Standards. International Standards make things work. They give world-class specifications for products, services, and systems, to ensure quality, safety, and efficiency.

Why an ISO 18295 certified is important for government contact centers? 

  • Measure productivity in service delivery across all of the government.
  • Apply consistency of benchmarking data, performance metrics, digital engagement, staff training, and technology to access customer experience results with other government customer contact centers.
  • Create value for the customer, the community, the employee, and customer contact centers.
  • Deploy strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors and increasing productivity.
  • Improving the efficiency of the service and the client or customer contact center relationship.
  • Demonstrates that you have an effective quality management system in place and firm control over your processes and procedures.

Zainuddin Hussein, Chair of ISO/PC 273, the project committee in charge of ISO 18295 (Requirements for Customer Contact Centers), said it considered and addressed many customer concerns when developing the standards, such as waiting times, means of contacting the company and customer experience expectations.

“The committee established that there are already some regulations and national standards present in some countries,” he said, “and our research showed that where they were implemented, customer satisfaction improved.

“The new standards bring together international best practices that can improve the service offering and customer experience even more, while also providing a framework on which future national standards can be based.”

ISO 18925 International Organization for Standardization specifies requirements and gives guidance for in-house contact centers and outsourced contact centers. It is intended to be used for any customer interaction with a Customer Contact Center (CCC).

This standard can be applied by organizations both in-house (captive) and outsourced (third party operator) Customer Contact Centers of all sizes, across all sectors and all interaction channels, including inbound and outbound. It specifies performance metrics (KPIs) as and where required.

Key global principles in standard development for contact centers:

1. ISO standards respond to a need in the market
ISO does not decide when to develop a new standard but responds to a request from industry or other stakeholders such as consumer groups. Typically, an industry sector or group communicates the need for a standard to its national member who then contacts ISO.

2. ISO standards are based on global expert opinion
ISO standards are developed by groups of experts from all over the world, that are part of larger groups called technical committees.

3. ISO standards are developed through a multi-stakeholder process
The technical committees are made up of experts from the relevant industry, but also from consumer associations, academia, NGOs and government.

4. ISO standards are based on a consensus
Developing ISO standards is a consensus-based approach and comments from all stakeholders are taken into account.

How do you get started to become certified and accredited to meet the ISO 18295 contact center requirements?

Many companies hire a consultant to get outside help to manage the certification process. With the right preparation and a good understanding of what is required for ISO 18295:2017 certification, most organizations can expect to achieve certification within 3 to 6 months depending on their size and complexity.

IMPORTANCE OF AN OPERATIONAL AUDIT IN A GOVERNMENT CONTACT CENTER

government customer experience clsss

Why are government contact center operational audits important?  According to the Institute of Internal Auditor, an operational audit is a systematic process of assessing an organization’s effectiveness, efficiency, and economy of operations under the influence of the management and giving details of the evaluation and recommendations to suitable persons. An operational audit has a number of objectives that define the importance attributed to conducting it on a government contact center. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Influence a positive change: Conducting operations audit for government contact centers assists its management to understand how future processes and policies will bring about maximum efficiency. An operations audit assists in developing clearly defined aims and strategies that will make the contact center a high performing one. An operations audit entails verifying written policies and procedures for operations.

For instance, the procedure by which employees are placed on shift sessions is evaluated. Assessing each process to determine if any of them should be combined or scrapped is also important. When these instances have been sufficiently sorted out by the operations audit, the path to positive change isn’t a lengthy and difficult journey any longer.

The employee turnover is another measure to demonstrate a positive change in a contact center. Fortunately, an operations audit evaluates this factor. When an employee has a high turnover, it may be that the manager has inadequate supervisory skills. Organizing seminars and workshops for these supervisors may help in improving the employee’s turnover.

  1. Review Internal Controls: In the accounting department, internal control is a term used to describe the processes that ensure organizational aims have a positive impact on operational efficiency, reliability of financial reporting and is in compliance with rules and policies. Internal controls provide an avenue by which organizational resources are allocated, monitored, and assessed. Internal controls help in protecting organizational resources and identifying fraudulent schemes.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of 1977 and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 posted that there is a need to improve internal controls in public corporations including government contact centers. Truly, many a time the internal controls need improvement. However, these internal controls are key elements of the operational audit. Hence, getting to assess those internal controls helps the organization improve its performance.

  1. Understand Risks: There are several risks that are susceptible to occurring during operational hours. These risks may include errors committed by personnel, IT system failure, network interruption, safety and health matters, fraud, and litigation amongst others. There may not be a definite stop to these risks, but operational audit gives us an insight into how these could happen. When a government contact center employs agents, they are given access to sensitive information about the citizens.

Contact centers often have a high turnover and average attrition which is put at about 30% in the United States. Additionally, the employees at government call centers are mostly entry-level workers. An operational audit helps the management to understand how all these threats to the security of citizen’s information may be mitigated and avoided.

Discover areas that need improvement Opportunities: A consequence of understanding risk is the recognition of faulty areas where improvement is needed. There are various forms of risk – financial risk, operational risk, environmental risk, and reputational risk. Operational audits allow the auditors to determine these risks and thus, discover opportunities to do forestall them. Conducting a regular operations audit on government contact centers allows auditors to determine how these centers can improve their services and prevent risks such as network interruption, fraud, and theft of information from happening. Every operational audit brings with it an opportunity to make positive changes and improvements, no matter how small. Thus, the role of operational audits in a high performing government contact center cannot be overlooked.

Government Contact Center Customer Experiences First Step

Who needs to conduct an annual contact center audit and assessments?  Anyone who needs to understand how to improve their customer’s digital experience and the organization’s service delivery performance. Whether they manage a team, offer organizational help to team managers or are an industry body in search of industry benchmarking, an assessment tool can help you figure out how to improve your government customer experience delivery, reduce operational costs and increase employee engagement.

Through the completion of the contact center audit, you can ensure that the organization has a good understanding of the current state of the operation. The audit allows you to examine the contact center maturity and performance in contrast to ‘best practice’ centers globally.

This creates the baseline and context against which the contact center operations can be viewed and assessed. The execution of the audit by surfacing issues and/or concerns is an essential step in ensuring the success of the contact center operations.

Audit categories include:

1. Technology Review – All digital channels, operating technology (i.e. CRM) and telephony within the center, the effectiveness of technology, it’s utilization, scalability, interoperability, new technology opportunities including specifically any required telephony upgrade and ROI calculations. 

2. Operations Management – Process improvement opportunities, workflow process opportunities, automation opportunities, change management, employee and customer satisfaction, measurement and reporting. 

3. Compliance Management – Awareness and understanding of applicable rules, regulations, and standards. Policies, processes, and procedures for ensuring the operation is and can document compliance. 

4. Operational Alignment of the contact center to the business goals, especially related to desired patient journey both within and outside of the normal center operating hours, and presenting suggested approaches and results. 

5. Human Capital Management – Recruiting, Hiring, Job Descriptions, Skills Mapping, Workforce Management, and Optimization, Forecasting, Scheduling, Training, Coaching, Succession Planning, and Quality Assurance.

Outcome:  After the completion of the audit and assessment, you should expect a clear direction, in the shape of detailed reports to empower you to deliver better customer experience and give you a precise idea of where your organization stands in the world map if you also include a benchmarking tool.

Author Rosetta Carrington Lue is a pioneer in the field of Government Customer Experience Management and has devoted an entire career to bettering the lives of everyone around her through her work. She is right at home as the CEO of GovCX Professionals (www.govcxprofessionals).

How To Exceed Your Government CX Contact Center via Benchmarking

Background story: 

I recently met with Cynthia, a Senior Government Contact Center Leader, who was at her wits end trying to manage the agency’s initiative to transform and modernize the contact center as part of her performance expectations.  Cynthia was familiar with the buzz words around “customer experience” but was struggling to decide how to prioritize and build a business case for change.  She didn’t know what “specific problem she was trying to solve” but knew she had to show she was doing something to improve the customer experience.  “Journey mapping, multi or omnichannel communications, CRM, IVR, data visualization, AI, knowledge management, etc. What should I do?”

My Response:  Step back and begin with a Contact Center Audit, Assessment, and Benchmarking initiative to roadmap where you should start the contact center’s transformation and modernization journey,

I explained to Cynthia that it’s critical to understand the current contact center customer experience environment and the future (vision) environment to identify gaps in the operations.  In addition to understanding customer experience operational gaps in the contact center, benchmarking other government operations to improve their customer’s digital experience and agency’s service delivery performance.

Let’s discuss why benchmarking is important

For an agency contact center to transform and modernize, there is a need to evaluate the performance against that of other government contact center establishments. Although a government may not be in competition with regards to the citizens it cares for, there is a need to benchmark the performance of a contact center against another.

As such, government contact centers can quantitatively evaluate the difference in performance level with other reputable call center agencies. Consequently, government contact centers can set customer experience goals and objectives which can serve as motivation for employees to work to the highest standard.

The importance of benchmarking government contact centers includes:

  1. Evaluate the success of your customer experience improvement initiatives: What is the point of making improvements in certain areas and not having to know whether it was successful? Benchmarking helps to create a status quo towards which the success of a government contact center is measured against customer service standards and to understand your position against world best practice.
  2. Gain an insight into other government contact center standard practices: A government contact center trying to compare its success with that of a corporate contact center is futile. It is a lot more beneficial to know what other governments are doing, especially those setting the pace. The failures and successes of a government contact center may help others learn and improve their policies and procedures.
  3. Rate customer experience channels performance objectively: Conducting customer surveys and using certain operational metrics speaks volumes about the performance of an organization. However, it is not enough since a government contact center may not be performing up to international standards. Hence, benchmarking leads government contact centers to rate their performance about similar organizations, rather than having the performance score based on internal assessment tools alone.  The findings from a study indicate that institutions that pay more attention to great customer experience will have a 30-50% more chance to get recommended by its customers. This metric is subjective and it is derived by requesting that customers complete a survey where answers have scores ranging from 1-5, 1-10 or Very Satisfied – Not satisfied.

I also recommended for Cynthia to work independently certified government customer experience professional.  They bring industry experience and knowledge to the table, enabling her to navigate the assessment process in record time by supporting management. They are experts at identifying and anticipating opportunities for growth, staff development, cost reductions, increased productivity and technology improvement within your organization. Ultimately leading to cohesion within teams and customer service delivery support, they add tangible value to the assessment process.

Next Blog:  What’s Included In A Government Audit and Assessment Report

Author Rosetta Carrington Lue is a pioneer in the field of Government Customer Experience Management and has devoted an entire career to bettering the lives of everyone around her through her work. She is right at home as the CEO of GovCX Professionals (www.govcxprofessionals) where she spends her time focused on building a welcoming, innovative, and engaging government customer experience.