In 2002, the City of Baltimore, led by Director Lisa N Allen, was the first city in the country to launch 311 as an intake center for all service request and requests for general information from citizens and visitors. Over the years, many cities and counties have modeled Baltimore’s 311 and have implemented 311 call centers internationally.
On March 11, 2019 local governments of all sizes are using this date – 3/11 – to showcase and to celebrate how they are using 311 and centralized contact centers to provide a coordinated and seamless approach to service delivery.
For many communities, contact centers have become the face of government to the public. With the implementation of 311 systems, digital and civic media, and apps which allow the public to make service requests and enables direct interact with government officials, local governments are setting new standards for customer/community participation.
I encourage city, county, state, and federal governments that are using 311 and centralized contact centers to use March 11 (3/11) as an opportunity to promote your efforts to provide for responsive service to the public.
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.