Don’t Let Local Politicians Drive Customer Service

You know it must be bad when local politicians want to draft a resolution that requires that government employees deliver good customer service.

A Maine City Councilor is looking to improve customer service at City Hall by crafting a document that requires that customers “are treated with the utmost courtesy and that all such transactions are handled in a respectful and professional manner.” He’s heard of residents and local business owners not getting prompt, effective service in response to inquiries and in the permitting processes.

While most municipalities have local developers, design professionals, and those who work in the trades who have concerns with permitting and inspection processes, it’s a sad day when politicians feel the need to take up the mantle of customer service champion. Maybe this Councilor truly feels customer service is a major concern, or maybe he is pushing this for some other reason, but the point is that there are ways to improve customer service – and this isn’t at the top of the list.

We’ve worked with local government – in permitting/inspections areas, in particular – for years, and much of what they’ve done to continuously improve customer service focuses on 3 areas:

· Continually Engage the Customer – Have local committees made up of the building community that offer you input into your plans, share feedback on service, and provide support on your initiatives. Augment this with ongoing (at least bi-annual) surveys of the broader constituency.

· Ensure Staff Have the Skills and Mindset They Need – Develop customer service standards – a bare minimum expectation in terms of how staff will engage customers. Provide training on the skills, principles, and philosophies of great customer service. Most permitting/inspections staff are hired because of technical skills, so they need training to ensure they also have great communication and service skills.

· Have a Process Improvement Orientation – So much of what drives satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with permitting and inspection services relates to processes. How quickly can a permit be issued? How easy is it to submit plans for review? How often to inspectors show up at the scheduled time onsite? Ensure your processes and technology are standardized, efficient, and easy to navigate.

Take the need to improve out of the hands of the politicians. Talk to the customer. Train the staff. Continuously improve your processes and systems.

Read our New Book – “Ask Yourself…Am I GREAT at Customer Service?” http://www.amigreatat.com/

Listen to our latest podcast episode of “Stepping Up Service” on The MESH Network at http://themesh.tv/stepping-up-service/

Interested in improving your company’s customer service? See more at our new website! http://www.cssamerica.com/

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