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?
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.
Private and public sectors are terms that are thrown around loosely no matter what end of the spectrum you or your business falls under. In government, it’s not unusual to hear people say, “Well if we were in the private sector…” In many instances the two seem like they are different worlds, but ultimately they are both used to describe parts of the economy, and what services each sector provides. Where the private sector part of the economy is concerned with private enterprises, the public sector is concerned with government services.
In customer service, it is imperative to know the difference between private and public sectors, because it helps define your customers’ needs. Though the terms are important, it’s not uncommon to see people use them incorrectly. But both the private sector and the public sector have distinct characteristic that distinguish them from each other.
The private sector is privately owned
The primary differences between the private and public sectors are who they employ and who they work for. The private sector is usually made up of privately owned organizations, like corporations. However, the private sector is not limited to big corporations and can include local business, credit unions, non-profit partnerships, and charities.
The public sector serves the public
The public sector mostly operates through organizations owned by the government, and as a result, public sector workers are paid by the government. These organizations can include: holding political office, the U.S Postal Service, and federal, state, or municipal governments. The public sector provides services that directly influence their governing province and/or country.
Private provides tangible products, while the public sector often outputs “anti-products.”
Ron Ross of The American Spectator put it nicely when he said, “The private sector’s products all around us — food, shelter, clothing, automobiles, home appliances, entertainment, for example. The public sector’s products include defense, the justice system, roads and highways, public schools, income redistribution (welfare), laws, and regulations…” It’s easy to recognize the private sector because of its products, yet it’s important not to overlook the significant services that the public sector provides.
We see that the private sector and public sector have their clear distinctions, yet they often find themselves in communication with each other. Customer service methods are a great way to share a dialoged between the two. Part of my job as the Chief Customer Service Officer is understanding that there are different approaches when it comes to customer service in both sectors. A customer is a customer regardless of the product, yet in the public sector, when your customer is the public, it is a little bit different. As a customer of Wal-Mart, if you are dissatisfied with the service you have experienced, you can go shop at Target. Most of the time, with public services, you can’t shop around. In the public sector we have long-term customers and our challenge is to provide them with the best customer service that we can.
Providing citizens with great customer service often means borrowing strategies from the private sector. Using social media as customer service tool, for example, is something that many successful businesses have done. We have implemented a similar strategy at the City of Philadelphia, but one that directly connects citizens with city services. Understanding what is being referenced, and being familiar with the distinctions, between private and public sectors, ultimately helps the public sector better meet citizens’ needs.
To learn about more differences between the private and public sector, check out Jan Mares’ “25 Differences Between Private Sector and Government Managers
NOTE: Interested in reading more Innovative Customer Service Strategies? Check out my blog at: www.rosettacarringtonlue.com