From ICMA Center For Sustainable Communities (Cory Fleming 311/CRM Program Director, ICMA)
This past Wednesday (November 20), I led an online discussion on “Building Customer Service into Local Government.” One participant came up with a great but challenging question – what performance measures do you use to evaluate customer service? I suggested customer surveys and comments cards, but I don’t think that alone is enough. After a couple of days of mulling over this question, I have some suggestions and would like to hear a few of your reactions. Are these ideas practical and would they work as part of an annual assessment of customer service for an employee?
- Organizational Knowledge Tests. One of the most challenging aspects to local government customer service in sustainable communities is making sure a resident is connected with the right person who can answer his/her questions. But it’s not unusual for employees to have little knowledge of local government beyond their department. All too often, residents end up on a wild goose chase trying to find the information they need.
If all government employees were required to have a basic knowledge of which department provides which services and programs, it would lead to a lot fewer misdirected calls. So maybe one customer service performance measurement for employees is to have a satisfactory score on an annual test of their knowledge of how their local government works?
“Secret Shopper” Evaluations. “Secret Shopper” programs are very popular in the private sector. Could periodic evaluations by “Secret Shoppers” on how local government employees work with citizens be done?
Customer Service Innovations. Nobody knows local government like employees do. Could a program be developed that recognized employees for their ideas to systematically improve customer service and provide better performance in service delivery?
Citizen Satisfaction Surveys. This idea was brought up during our discussion, but wasn’t fully explored. But many communities do annual or biennial citizen satisfaction surveys, such as the National Citizen Survey, to measure how citizens view the work of different government departments. While questions about the customer service practices of individual employees isn’t practical, customer service is definitely about team work, and the customer service rankings received by departments could be considered as one element in an employee assessment.
So, what do you think of these ideas? And what would you propose as measures for customer service in local government?