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

Argyle Executive Forum Journal article. Published: APRIL 1, 2015

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.

What is your organization doing to create connected customers in today’s ever evolving world? I would love to hear your feedback on this topic.

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.

Day in the Life of 311 Director Rosetta Carrington Lue

Dr. Stephen Covey, in his prequel to the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness,” outlines the four steps to finding your voice:

1.What are you good at?

2.What do you love doing?

3.What need can you serve?

4. And finally, what is life asking of you?

For me, the answers to these questions overlapped, and lead to my current position as the Chief Customer Service Officer of the City of Philadelphia. Check out my “Day in the Life” episode, created by Philly311 TV, and learn about how I found my voice.

“Day In the Life” series is a way to show our constituents the human side of government. By highlighting the day to day of government workers, “Day in the Life” series transparently, and artfully, demonstrates individuals connection to the communities they serve.

Planning for the Future of Digital Services in Government

blog picI was recently asked in an interview with Govloop, a government focused social network and online publication, about how the City of Philadelphia is engaging citizens through digital services. Government is changing, and the conversation is no longer about why we need digital services for engagement initiatives, but how we can use them. The key to engaging citizens through digital services relies on getting to know your audience, having a strategic plan, using a wide range of channels to communicate with your customers, and listening to feedback.

The design of our digital service platform is entirely informed by customers. Both our internal and external customers’ wants and needs determine the service we will provide. Having a clear definition of your stakeholders, and framing your relationship around the question of, “how can we make you successful,” is pivotal.

In government, we have to be cautious about spending; as a result, the voice of the community must define what we prioritize in service. Like I mentioned in my interview, “We look at everything in order to define what we want to design…you have to bring the customer’s feedback to the table, not just the internal people. You need everyone’s ideas, but specifically you need to know what your customers want and then design something around meeting their needs.”

Data trends become more crucial when determining citizen needs. As citizens adapt to mobile lives, we see a need to meet the citizens where they are. Forty percent of Philadelphians do not have access to Internet in their homes; however, most have access to mobile devices. Knowing that we have to meet our customers, social media becomes an influential tool. For example, the City of Philadelphia Philly311’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, are able to connect with communities on an inherently social platform. Social media also offers us an opportunity to observe trends; what people are talking about, and what topics generate the most conversations. Being the 5th largest City in the US, means that individual communities have needs that are specific to that neighborhood. Monitoring social media is an excellent way to manage the various voices throughout the city.

In addition to social media, surveys are crucial in getting to know one’s audience. By taking surveys, we collect data that speaks specifically to issues. However, noticing trends, leveraging social media, and collecting data, means nothing if that information isn’t being put into action. Planning a communication strategy is imperative to creating a mainframe for the dialogue. Once you know what is working, creating a blueprint of how you got there, you can apply that template to other initiatives.

Find out more about what’s trending in government digital services, here:https://www.govloop.com/resources/future-digital-services-five-trends-transforming-government/

8 Tips to Get Your Team Using CRM in 2015 by Michael Hanna

A CRM implementation is more of a cultural change than a technological change. That’s because adopting a new system requires changing habits, and changing habits is hard. It’s hard for those who want to change, let alone those who do not.

Most people demand change, but resist it when it comes. Resistance to change is natural, so it’s crucial to help CRM users through the process of embracing change. When it comes to CRM adoption, users need your help, they need your reinforcement, and they
need that culture of accountability.

Here are four practical, actionable steps before, during and after the CRM launch.

1. Be Aware of Data Integrity

System-to-system consistency, or the integration of multiple systems, is crucial for a strong cadence and user adoption. If you’re migrating from one CRM to another, or merging CRMs, or changing CRM providers, ensuring the data is successfully merged and consistent is crucial to having data integrity. Without data integrity, this process often results in duplicate data, unstandardized or inconsistent data, and missing data. Preparing for these data mishaps in advance, as well as having tools in place to clean and prevent them from happening, will ensure CRM system integrity.

2. Be Clear About the Goal of CRM

Your CRM users are looking for the why behind the CRM system. If you’re not sharing this insight, you’re wasting your CRM investment because users simply won’t adopt it. Deliver clear rationale and a cause for your CRM. As a sales example, CRM gives users visibility that enables continuous sales improvement.

3. Hold CRM Users Accountable

It’s important to empower your CRM users, and CRM adoption should focus on that. However, empowerment without ownership is going to lead to neglect. You can give your users the most pristine, high-end CRM, but if they don’t care, they’re not going to use it. Establish the CRM users as the owners of the CRM, and then, in the context of ownership, empower them to use it. Otherwise, they’ll be negligent and passive.

4. Manage Detractors

If you’ve got ten sales reps using your new CRM, and eight of them are adopting it beautifully while two of them are struggling, you must work hard to get the two back on track. Stay strong and don’t lower your standard, or else the other eight are going to start to slack as well. By not diminishing your expectations, holding users accountable, and providing help and assistance, all 10 sales reps will be completely on board.

5. Demonstrate Real Results

Look for opportunities to showcase the relationship between CRM adoption and the positive sales performance that results from it. Explicitly call these results out when they happen. Here are three examples of these opportunities.

Sales reps quickly follow up on leads delivered in real-time via the CRM resulting in higher lead conversion. Call it out!

6. Provide Ongoing Support

Be extremely responsive to the sales reps’ questions and challenges, and try to support them in real-time. Refer them to your documentation and add their questions to your feedback list if you haven’t addressed it in your documentation.

7. Be Mobile

Reps do not want to have to go back to their desk and spend an hour everyday updating a CRM. This creates detractors. Allow users to update the CRM system in real-time, including while they’re in transit, when they’re coming out of a meeting, and so on. Mobile CRM enables users to access their CRM without pulling out a laptop and connecting to WiFi. Mobile deployment is a critical part of CRM user adoption.

8. Keep the User in Mind

Don’t introduce so much change that users can’t swallow it, and they can’t adopt it even if they wanted to. Pushing too hard or too much will deepen the mindset of existing detractors and create new ones. Your CRM success will only be as strong as the rate at which it can be adopted, not the rate at which it can be implemented.

The CRM adoption process is a journey, not a destination. When asked if the CRM adoption process is ever done, the answer is simply, “No, it’s not.”


Read more at http://www.business2community.com/customer-experience/8-tips-get-team-using-crm-2015-01135865#roodxkOyQwshISmO.99

6 Trends Shaping Government/Citizen Relationships by Timothy McCormick

I found Salesforce Timothy McCormick’s blog post on the citizen engagement initiatives within the City of Philadelphia, including the launch of the new 311 non emergency Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, was on point as it pertains to the growth of excellence citizen engagement and experience in the public sector.

Below is an excerpt from the blog and link to the entire blog post for your review.

Citizen engagement is less than desirable–with long lines, lots of paperwork, and the confusion of a bureaucracy make it hard for citizens to access the right information. How often are citizens reporting issues vs. commenting (or complaining) on a soap box over social? How many elected positions ran with uncontested candidates in your last election?

Timely responses. How many times have you thought, “What more can we do to make this move faster? Why does progress on XYZ project seem to move so slow compared to everything else in life? How can we possibly do more with stricter budget and fewer resources all around?” Not only does this make it hard to motivate teams, but also it causes citizens to lose faith as they see responses lag and vague delivery commitments, impacting the government’s respectability from the perspective of their customers.

Transparency is difficult to deliver. Without transparency into the decision making process, progress against a request, or delivery impactors, citizens are left to make assumptions, that when paired with a lack of trust, tend to have a negative impact on relations with their governing bodies. Do you feel like this has impacted citizen relationships with your organization(s), such as relations with local politicians, or the police department?

So why all of the sudden are these pain points more prevalent? Why is citizen engagement stagnant, or in some cases dropping? Why does the gap between timely delivery and citizen expectation seem to be growing, no matter what? Why is providing transparency so much more difficult today?

The answer is easy: impact of technology trends and transformation. Here are some trends to consider:

Mobile

Mobile gives citizens the power to connect to their government anywhere, anytime–and they have come to expect that level of engagement now that mobile is commonplace. This is good for government, as always-on citizens give organizations the ability to collect more data in context, enabling leaders to prioritize with more accuracy and be more aligned with what citizens care about all around.

Social

Anywhere, anytime citizens tend to be anytime, anywhere customers. This means they have come to expect social interfaces as the user interface as much as they expect mobile accessibility, giving them an always-on receptacle for comments, inquiries, and request status. Social Platforms help governments meet these demands in a scalable, cost conscious way by supplying a transparent and collaborative platform for engagement that is friendly to Q&A at the pace of conversation.

Apps

With technology expanding an organization’s potential reach, apps are becoming more and more popular as an internal asset. They are easily adapted to the next big mobile or tech trend (think apps for the Apple watch), helping organizations modernize/rationalize dated infrastructure at the pace of their citizens.

Connected Products

More and more devices are coming online, revealing data that could never before be captured. While many organizations we talk to see this as a daunting, overwhelming force to be reckoned with, it’s not! By connecting ordinary objects, such as busses, trains, or stoplights to the internet, (made easier to service with apps on a common platform!) citizens will start to expose behavioral patterns that…

Data

Unlock all kinds of data never before detectable. With increased data availability, variety, and context around everyday activities and citizen behavior patterns, officials can better inform government strategy and resource planning. If you are interested in learning more about how to apply and benefit from a data strategy, join us for Philly Innovates. Mayor Michael Nutter and his team are hosting the first-ever Innovation Summit live in the city, and will share how they addressed these tech trends to realize bottom-line benefits.

1:1 Journeys

Customer experience–and therefore citizen experience–is the new differentiator, as new technologies enable customized, personal, more meaningful experiences with a given organization. Just look at how taxi services have morphed so quickly with companies like Lyft and Uber breaking down barriers between private and public sectors, changing the competitive landscape like government has never before seen. There is no reason why agencies can’t take this same approach to citizen services.

Click here to read the entire blog post: http://blogs.salesforce.com/company/2015/01/6-trends-shaping-governmentcitizen-relationships-.html

Process Trumps Innovation in Business Analytics by Tony Consentino

I wanted to reblog this post by Tony Consentino, Ventana Research VP and Research Director,  because it was very insightful and thought provoking. In summary, when using or talking about big data, one should think of terms “What, So what, Now what & Then what”.

Read originally post by clicking this link: Process Trumps Innovation in Business Analytics

The idea of not focusing on innovation is heretical in today’s business culture and media. Yet a recent article in The New Yorker suggests that today’s society and organizations focus too much on innovation and technology. The same may be true for technology in business organizations. Our research provides evidence for my claim.

My analysis on our benchmark research into information optimization shows that organizations perform better in technology and information than in the people and process dimensions. vr_Info_Optim_Maturity_06_oraganization_maturity_by_dimensionsThey face a flood of information that continues to increase in volume and frequency and must use technology to manage and analyze it in the hope of improving their decision-making and competitiveness. It is understandable that many see this as foremost an IT issue. But proficiency in use of technology and even statistical knowledge are not the only capabilities needed to optimize an organization’s use of information and analytics. They also need a framework that complements the usual analytical modeling to ensure that analytics are used correctly and deliver the desired results. Without a process for getting to the right question, users can go off in the wrong direction, producing results that cannot solve the problem.

In terms of business analytics strategy, getting to the right question is a matter of defining goals and terms; when this is done properly, the “noise” of differing meanings is reduced and people can work together efficiently. As we all know, many vr_Big_Data_Analytics_05_terminology_for_big_data_analyticsterms, especially new ones, mean different things to different people, and this can be an impediment to teamwork and achieving of business goals. Our research into big data analytics shows a significant gap in understanding here: Fewer than half of organizations have internal agreement on what big data analytics is. This lack of agreement is a barrier to building a strong analytic process. The best practice is to take time to discover what people really want to know; describing something in detail ensures that everyone is on the same page. Strategic listening is a critical skill, and done right it enables analysts to identify, craft and focus the questions that the organization needs answered through the analytic process.

To develop an effective process and create an adaptive mindset, organizations should instill a Bayesian sensibility. Bayesian analysis, also called posterior probability analysis, starts with assuming an end probability and works backward to determine prior probabilities. In a practical sense, it’s about updating a hypothesis when given new information; it’s about taking all available information and finding where it converges. This is a flexible approach in which beliefs are updated as new information is presented; it values both data and intuition. This mindset also instills strategic listening into the team and into the organization.

For business analytics, the more you know about the category you’re dealing with, the easier it is to separate what is valuable information and hypothesis from what is not. Category knowledge allows you to look at the data from a different perspective and add complex existing knowledge. This in and of itself is a Bayesian approach, and it allows the analyst to iteratively take the investigation in the right direction. This is not to say that intuition should be the analytic starting point. Data is the starting point, but a hypothesis is needed to make sense of the data. Physicist Enrico Fermi pointed out that measurement is the reduction of uncertainty. Analysts should start with a hypothesis and try to disprove it rather than to prove it. From there, iteration is needed to come as close to the truth as possible. Starting with a gut feel and trying to prove it is the wrong approach. The results are rarely surprising and the analysis is likely to add nothing new. Let the data guide the analysis rather than allowing predetermined beliefs to guide the analysis. Technological innovations in exploratory analytics and machine learning support this idea and encourage a data-driven approach.

Bayesian analysis has had a great impact not only on statistics and market insights in recent years, but it has impacted how we view important historical events as well. It is consistent with modern thinking in the fields of technology and machine learning, as well as behavioral economics. For those interested in how the Bayesian philosophy is taking hold in many different disciplines, I recommend a book entitled The Theory That Would Not Die by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne.

A good analytic process, however, needs more than a sensibility for how to derive and think about questions; it needs a tangible method to address the questions and derive business value from the answers. The method I propose can be framed in four steps: what, so what, now what and then what. Moving beyond the “what” (i.e., measurement and data) to the “so what” (i.e., insights) should be a goal of any analysis, yet many organizations are still turning out analysis that does nothing more than state the facts. Maybe 54 percent of people in a study prefer white houses, but why does anyone care? Analysis must move beyond mere findings to answer critical business questions and provide informed insights, implications and ideally full recommendations. That said, if organizations cannot get the instrumentation and the data right, findings and recommendations are subject to scrutiny.

The analytics professional should make sure that the findings, implications and recommendations of the analysis are heard by strategic and operational decision-makers. This is the “now what” step and includes business planning and implementation decisions that are driven by the analytic insights. If those insights do not lead to decision-making or action, the analytic effort has no value. There are a number of things that the analyst can do to make the information heard. A compelling story line that incorporates storytelling techniques, animation and dynamic presentation is a good start. Depending on the size of the initiative, professional videography, implementation of learning systems and change management tools also may be used.

The “then what” represents a closed-loop process in which insights and new data are fed back into the organization’s operational systems. This can be from the perspective of institutional knowledge and learning in the usual human sense which is an imperative in organizations. Our benchmark research into big data and business analytics shows a need for this: Skills and training are substantial obstacles to using big data (for 79%) and analytics (77%) in organizations. This process is similar to machine learning. That is, as new information is brought into the organization, the organization as a whole learns and adapts to current business conditions. This is the goal of the closed-loop analytic process.

Our business technology innovation research finds analytics in the top three priorities in three out of four (74%) organizations; collaboration is a top-three priority in 59 percent. vr_bti_br_technology_innovation_prioritiesBoth analytics and collaboration have a process orientation that uses technology as an enabler of the process. The sooner organizations implement a process framework, the sooner they can achieve success in their analytic efforts. To implement a successful framework such as the one described above, organizations must realize that innovation is not the top priority; rather they need the ability to use innovation to support an adaptable analytic process. The benefits will be wide-ranging, including better understanding of objectives, more targeted analysis, analytical depth and analytical initiatives that have a real impact on decision-making.

Regards,

Tony Cosentino

VP and Research Director

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.

Toss Out the Government CRMPlaybook!

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.