Public sector constituents—like consumers—want a great experience
Local government IT professionals tell how software solutions are enhancing relationships with the residents they serve.
Creating a memorable customer experience is the hot trend in consumer-facing industries today, as companies—from retail to restaurants—strive to create Instagram-worthy moments. But what about the public sector?
Constituents, like consumers, have high expectations. A customer-centric approach crosses over to the public sector in many ways, adding to the pressures government agencies already face. Fortunately, software solutions can help.
Technology experts from federal, state, and local agencies discussed the value of building constituent relationships during a session at the Government Forum in Washington DC recently, part of Inforum 2018.
Karen Lorenz, director of integrated systems management at Tacoma Public Schools, was among the guest speakers sharing technology success stories. Tacoma has increased high school graduation rates by 30% over the past eight years. Lorenz credits replacing outdated legacy software solutions as one factor that helped the administration become more productive. When behind-the-scenes, tedious tasks, such as inventory management, are automated, resources can be applied to other areas visible to the public—and areas generating meaningful results—like graduation rates.
“The investment has meant less interruptions for the administration during the day, and more time to focus on the important things,” she said.
Reggie Harris, deputy assistant director, Department of Neighborhoods, Inspections and Public Service in Houston, Texas, noted his city comprises 2.3 million people across 8,778 square miles. His department has only 160 inspectors to respond to constituent calls about building-code and nuisance violations, as well as clean-up and beautification projects.
The Neighborhoods Department was averaging an on-time service rate of only 12%, with some constituent requests taking three weeks to be manually entered into the work order system. Now, after Implementing new call center software, the department is performing at a 92% success rate. Constituents notice such a sharp change in performance.
Amanda Singleton, chief customer officer for Watercare in Auckland, New Zealand, shared their journey toward a customer-centric business model. Watercare treats over 480 million liters of water and wastewater daily. Historically, the water utility was very numbers-focused and rather impersonal.
“Then I came along and told everyone I wanted to replicate the Amazon model in utilities,” Singleton said.
Despite some initial skepticism, major changes are starting to take place.
“We started thinking about customers as individuals, not meters,” Singleton said.
They held workshops with customers to learn more about expectations. Surprisingly, they found that customers didn’t want to communicate with people about their utilities. They wanted simple online tools with one-click resolution. Now, that is the ultimate goal for Watercare.
Bonnie Tam, enterprise asset management program executive at Metrolinx, agreed that constituent satisfaction must be one of the goals of successful IT programs.
The province of Ontario created Metrolinx as a new regional transportation agency in 2006. It manages $20 billion in assets and investment of $43 billion to expand fleets and rail.
“What are the success factors of such a major project? The first item is the human element. Nothing is more important,” Tam said.
For Metrolinx, that means tactics such as a standing Residents’ Reference Panel, stakeholder advisory groups, and collaborating with employers on transportation options. It also means investment in modern software solutions. Working toward a long-term vision that supports planned growth, Metrolinx has increased the number of weekly train trips offered by the GO Transit program by 500%, added 70 kilometers and eight new stations to the network, and gained more than 13 million passenger trips a year. Getting people to their destinations quickly, safely, comfortably—and with the smallest impact on the environment—is a critical task.
Versatile software solutions for the public sector, including EAM solutions to manage assets, help organizations like these mentioned here achieve their goals of productivity and performance. Above all, they can help organizations align with the needs and expectations of their customers—the constituents they have been elected and appointed to serve.