IMPORTANCE OF AN OPERATIONAL AUDIT IN A GOVERNMENT CONTACT CENTER

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Why are government contact center operational audits important?  According to the Institute of Internal Auditor, an operational audit is a systematic process of assessing an organization’s effectiveness, efficiency, and economy of operations under the influence of the management and giving details of the evaluation and recommendations to suitable persons. An operational audit has a number of objectives that define the importance attributed to conducting it on a government contact center. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Influence a positive change: Conducting operations audit for government contact centers assists its management to understand how future processes and policies will bring about maximum efficiency. An operations audit assists in developing clearly defined aims and strategies that will make the contact center a high performing one. An operations audit entails verifying written policies and procedures for operations.

For instance, the procedure by which employees are placed on shift sessions is evaluated. Assessing each process to determine if any of them should be combined or scrapped is also important. When these instances have been sufficiently sorted out by the operations audit, the path to positive change isn’t a lengthy and difficult journey any longer.

The employee turnover is another measure to demonstrate a positive change in a contact center. Fortunately, an operations audit evaluates this factor. When an employee has a high turnover, it may be that the manager has inadequate supervisory skills. Organizing seminars and workshops for these supervisors may help in improving the employee’s turnover.

  1. Review Internal Controls: In the accounting department, internal control is a term used to describe the processes that ensure organizational aims have a positive impact on operational efficiency, reliability of financial reporting and is in compliance with rules and policies. Internal controls provide an avenue by which organizational resources are allocated, monitored, and assessed. Internal controls help in protecting organizational resources and identifying fraudulent schemes.

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) of 1977 and the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 posted that there is a need to improve internal controls in public corporations including government contact centers. Truly, many a time the internal controls need improvement. However, these internal controls are key elements of the operational audit. Hence, getting to assess those internal controls helps the organization improve its performance.

  1. Understand Risks: There are several risks that are susceptible to occurring during operational hours. These risks may include errors committed by personnel, IT system failure, network interruption, safety and health matters, fraud, and litigation amongst others. There may not be a definite stop to these risks, but operational audit gives us an insight into how these could happen. When a government contact center employs agents, they are given access to sensitive information about the citizens.

Contact centers often have a high turnover and average attrition which is put at about 30% in the United States. Additionally, the employees at government call centers are mostly entry-level workers. An operational audit helps the management to understand how all these threats to the security of citizen’s information may be mitigated and avoided.

Discover areas that need improvement Opportunities: A consequence of understanding risk is the recognition of faulty areas where improvement is needed. There are various forms of risk – financial risk, operational risk, environmental risk, and reputational risk. Operational audits allow the auditors to determine these risks and thus, discover opportunities to do forestall them. Conducting a regular operations audit on government contact centers allows auditors to determine how these centers can improve their services and prevent risks such as network interruption, fraud, and theft of information from happening. Every operational audit brings with it an opportunity to make positive changes and improvements, no matter how small. Thus, the role of operational audits in a high performing government contact center cannot be overlooked.

Talk the Talk: 9 Government Customer Service Terms You Should Know

It may seem like basic information, or at least something that Google could solve, but you would be surprised how often undefined terminology gets the better of people in the work place. We’ve all been in similar circumstances; perhaps your boss asks you to complete a task, but includes a phrase or two that you are unfamiliar with. A lot of the times, people are afraid to ask for the definition of a word, which can result in general misunderstandings and unfinished tasks. I’ve personally faced situations like these.

As a member and founder of several initiatives and programs, I’ve run into this problem. I’ve experienced moments in meetings when a group has had to stop and clarify. Language consistency is a critical element of working efficiently and effectively. Below are a few terms that have become part of my every day as a Chief Customer Service Officer.

Citizen Engagement

According to the United Nations Public Administration Country Studies, “Citizen engagement in public administration implies the involvement of citizens in decision-making process of the State through measures and/or institutional arrangements – so as to increase their influence on public policies and programmes ensuring a more positive impact on their social and economic lives.” Citizen engagement is what we rely on when it comes to operations and it is reflected in the City of Philadelphia’s many initiatives, like the Citizen Engagement Academy, Neighborhood Liaison Program, and the Youth Neighborhood Liaison Program.

City Services

City services, also known as municipal services, are services that city government offers and provides, like trash clean up or graffiti removal.

Customer

Within the call center community, “customer” and “citizen” are often synonymous. Our customers, those who are calling for city information and city services, are citizens.

Customer Experience

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.

CRM

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management: a system that manages customer interactions. The system tracks, manages, records, and stores pertinent data. For a contact center, a high functioning CRM is imperative for maintaining internal and external customer relations.

Emergency

As a non-emergency contact center, knowing when to call 911, opposed to 311, is important. An emergency is classified by something that needs immediate attention, and something that may be dangerous or life-threatening.

External Customer

For the private sector, external customers are those that sign the check, so to say, but for the public sector these are our citizens.

Internal Customer

Internal customers are on the inside. They are your employees, stakeholders, and people who are directly connected with the organization. In many ways internal customers differ from external customers. Both internal and external customers should receive equal attention for the best overall outcome.

Service Requests

Service requests are requests from customers asking for specific services to be completed. A good example of a service request is a request to clean up a vacant lot. A citizen calls in, provides the location of a dirty vacant lot, an agent then puts in a service request with the Community Life Improvement Program, (CLIP) and the lot is cleaned within a timely manner.

Do you have any tips about language consistency? Are there any terms that confuse you? Leave a comment!

Photo credit:  Martin Cathrae