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/

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

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

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

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

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

Implementing a Government CRM? Toss Out the Playbook!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Things Revolutionizing Customer Experience in City Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#1 Key to Government Customer Service: Hire People with Passion

I’m excited to introduce a new series from City of Philadelphia 311 TV, “Day in the Life.”

It has always been a priority for the City to communicate its core values, and initiatives through creative and effective means. What folks do at the City matters. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, citizens don’t get to choose their city services, so it is the job of those of us who work in government to ensure the best possible experience. In an effort to realize this goal, we look for burning passion in our employees. It is easy to find people who are qualified, have the skill sets, and can take on the necessary responsibilities included in a role. However, it is that extra something, a genuine passion for the work, that truly delineates a person in their field.

For example, Daniel Ramos has always been an employee with a ton of passion for what he does. As the Community Engagement Coordinator for the City of Philadelphia, responsible for connecting City services and the Neighborhood Liaison Program to community stakeholders, Daniel is passionate about working in the community. Being from a neighborhood that continues to face adversity, Daniel knows what people in the community need, and actively works towards connecting citizens to city resources.

As a leader, have you identified the “Daniel Ramos” within your organization? How are you applauding and recognizing his/her commitment within the organization?

What Can You Learn From Government Customer Service?

government

Many of us are acutely aware of the quality of customer service in the private sector, whether it’s in retail or B2B. However, one area that people often don’t think of themselves as customers is in their relationship with local government. Yet that is exactly what we are.

“Customers’ experience in government should be the same or even better than what they’re getting in the private sector,” says Rosetta Carrington Lue, chief customer service officer for the city of Philadelphia. “We shouldn’t treat them any differently because they’re dealing with a government entity.”

Lue says the relationship is actually deeper than in the private sector because these customers are more invested over a longer period of time — they own homes in the community and work and send their kids to school there. This presents a challenge, however, as it’s not easy for customers who don’t like the service they’re getting to “switch” to another provider (at least, not without moving out of town). Historically, government agencies have moved slowly in addressing customer service. “There was no urgency to get the ball moving when it came to making customer experience better,” says Lue.

Digital Age Holds Governments Accountable

The digital age is helping local governments improve. For one, new tools hold bureaucrats accountable. Like any business, the government has a brand to protect — with the goal of creating a happy community viewed as an attractive place to live. But one negative tweet could harm a city’s image.

“Back in the day when you had a complaint it would just stay within that community or department or person,” says Lue. “Now that same complaint can be spread internationally. Many public sector entities are seeing that they have to change. They have to be proactive when it comes to connecting with their customers.”

Social media has been instrumental in improving government customer service, especially for important announcements during emergencies. The key now is for local governments to have a presence on multiple channels. (The city of Philadelphia is on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and has a mobile app.) This not only helps officials reach a greater number of people, but also allows for better engagement. For example, The Philly311 Show on YouTube introduces citizens to the government employees who deliver the city’s services. Videos also highlight new tools for customer service, such as city-specific apps.

Social Media, Web Forums Coordinate Collaboration

One other area that digital communication makes an impact is in helping governments coordinate customer collaboration. Through social media and Web forums, citizens can now easily find like-minded people to work on projects, such as cleaning alleyways, planting trees in parks, and starting mentorship programs. This method of organizing generates faster and longer lasting results when compared with relying solely on government to make fixes.

“We’re working with communities so they have a vested interest in sustaining those changes,” says Lue. “We’re really targeting folks to come together and help solve a problem.

“The traditional way of governing is changing because customers are demanding that change,” she adds. “The days of one communication channel and 9 to 5 service is gone. We’re seeing that from federal to local government.”

Interview from Real Business Online Magazine dated December 1, 2014 written by Sachin Shenolikar and sponsored Xerox Corporation.

Reference: http://www.realbusiness.com/2014/12/customer-connection/what-can-you-learn-from-government-customer-service