Tag Archives: customer service

VA Contact Center Modernization Initiative – MyVA311 Launched!

VA Enterprise Contact Center Modernization Initiative

With approximately 272 national VA Contact Centers that receives almost 140 million annual calls and services 9 million Veterans, VA has had no consistent approach to customer service. VA studied the best practices of America’s top customer service organizations to learn how they excel at delighting customers. Based on that information and appointing a Responsible Officer to oversee the VA Secretary’s Contact Center Modernization transformation breakthrough initiative, we create a holistic frontline customer service program to make access to the care and services Veterans have earned predictable, consistent, and easy.

On Veteran’s Day 2016, VA launched the MyVA311 telephone platform: A unified and centralized enterprise wide approach that Veterans can use to easily find information via telephone.

VA introduced 1-844-MyVA311 (1-844-698-2311) as a go-to source for Veterans and their families who don’t know what number to call. This new national toll-free number will help eliminate the feeling of frustration and confusion that Veterans and their families have expressed when navigating the 1000-plus phone numbers that currently exist.

Veteran feedback has been instrumental helping us streamline the way we get callers routed to the right place at VA. With 1-844-MyVA311, Veterans, families, and caregivers can access information about VA services like disability, pension, healthcare eligibility, enrollment, and burial benefits, in addition to a self-service locator to find the nearest VA facility. And if they’re looking for immediate assistance with housing or are having a mental health crisis, MyVA311 will route callers to the Homeless Veteran help line and the Veterans Crisis Line.

VA is also making improvements to the overall Veteran experience eliminating blocked calls, leveraging new or existing call center technologies and hiring more people to reduce wait times and improve Veterans experience. We will continue to gather feedback from our Veterans to ensure VA is meeting their needs. The new MyVA311 phone number is just one step in a larger effort to modernize VA contact centers so Veterans have a seamless, positive experience.

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

call-center-website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5663483_keep_calm_and_celebrate_customer_service_week

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

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

The President’s proclamation said:

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

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

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

George H. Bush

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

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

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

lean-scope-project-management-3-638

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

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

• Measure: Measure data pulled from the contact centers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customer Service Versus Customer Experience: What’s The Difference…And Why It Matters

Reblog article: September 24, 2015 by Bruce Jones, Programming Director, Disney Institute

In case you’ve missed it, the term “customer experience” is everywhere in business these days. In fact, some experts have declared that focusing on the customer experience has become the single most important factor for an organization to achieve business success—creating a significant point of differentiation and competitive advantage.

But, what exactly is customer experience? How does it differ from customer service? And, how focused or concerned should your business or organization be about it? These are all great questions we hear from participants in our professional development training courses, so we thought this was a great opportunity to dive a little deeper.

First, let’s start by defining customer experience. According to Harvard Business Review, it can be defined as “the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company.” This can include everything from a customers initial awareness or discovery of a company, product or service, through the purchase and use of that’s company’s products or services. Together, these all add up to the critical moments—what we call touchpoints—that create an organization’s overall customer experience.

Then, to better understand what customer experience is (and isn’t)…consider this story about a car dealership we worked with several years ago. Although sales were solid, management was concerned that their customers and employees were not happy. So, we worked with their team to help them intentionally create, design, and implement an experience that would exceed customer expectations at every key touchpoint. By helping them think differently about aligning the entire organization – the employees, the processes, and the physical plant itself – around the customer experience, the results were dramatic, increasing sales by 26 percent over the past few years.

The key learning, we have found, is that “customer service” is too often thought of as a specific department, rather than as a core value and strategic imperative, owned by the entire organization. Consider that the traditionally defined “service department” could soon be obsolete, because there are so many interactions consumers have with your business before, during, and after any one specific touchpoint.

“Customer experience”, on the other hand, encompasses every aspect of a company’s offerings—from the quality of its customer care to its reputation management, marketing, packaging, product and service features, ease of use, reliability and beyond. As we like to say at Disney, while no one “owns the Guest,” someone, in every case, “owns the moment.”

Today, this distinction is more important than ever, especially if organizations want to continue to differentiate themselves from their competition. Customer experience must be understood and approached holistically, with those responsible for each area of a company’s offerings giving intentional thought and focus on how their decisions will shape and impact the overall customer experience.

So, there you have it. Customer experience goes beyond customer service alone, and is far more than any single leader, employee, or department. It’s about truly understanding your customer as segments and as individuals, architecting a plan for delivering exceptional experiences, and then empowering employees to deliver it across all touchpoints. And, it’s about developing leaders to reinforce the beliefs and behaviors that support exceptional customer experience.

Bottom line, if your organization wants to advance its customer experience, you must make it a strategic business priority.

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

Saying Goodbye

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

The Impact

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

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

The Final Session

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

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

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

The Graduation Ceremony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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