NextGen Awards
Move Over Amazon, There’s a New Customer Service Expert In Town, Gov!

Move Over Amazon, There’s a New Customer Service Expert In Town, Gov!

Originally posted on GovLoop by Emily Jarvis.

Young Government Leaders (YGL) and GovLoop present the NextGen Public Service Awards for superior public service and achievement. The 4th Annual NextGen Public Service Awards will be given at the 2014 NextGen Award’s Ceremony, which will kick off the NextGen Training Summit on July 23rd in Washington, DC. We have 18 finalists in six different categories. All month long we will be introducing you to the finalists.

Meet the Finalist:

Who: Rosetta Carrington-Lue, deputy managing director and chief customer service officer for the City of Philadelphia

Achievement: NextGen Public Service Award Finalist, Silent Hero Category

“Poor customer service can make government overly bureaucratic whereas good customer service can help make government open, accessible, and efficient. Carrington-Lue has been largely responsible for the city of Philadelphia’s impressive transformation in customer service. Prior to 2008, there was no centralized contact point for municipal information or services. After Lue helped to implement a 311 system, she expanded the city’s customer service efforts to improve the experience of the 1.5 million customers engaging with Philly311 each year.” – Ryan Birchmeier, Assistant City Manager, city of Philadelphia. Birchmeier nominated Carrington-Lue for the Silent Hero Category for the NextGen Public Service Awards.

When you think of good customer service, you probably think of organizations like Amazon and Zappos, companies that are built around the needs and wants of their consumers. But Rosetta Carrington-Lue thinks government can also be a prime provider of customer service.

Government hasn’t always viewed the customer the same as the private sector, because with government services the customer has no other option – they have to deal with it as the only provider. But Carrington-Lue says this is all changing, and  there’s now a movement to begin to get government to understand that you need to begin to engage and collaborate and improve the services that are being delivered to the constituents.

“These are people have made an investment in the community by residing here, by working in the community, that we want to show that we’re listening,” Carrington-Lue said. “We want to begin to get feedback and begin to improve the way that we deliver services, and the way that we deliver information.

One of the ways that Philadelphia has adapted to the changing environment was to adopt the Philly311 program – a centralized customer service or call-center for the city.

“You dial 911 for emergencies, you dial 311 for everything else. Back in 2008, we created this type of operation, so that the residents have an ability to talk to someone about simple transactions, or when is service going to be delivered, or give feedback on an issue,” said Carrington-Lue. “We answer those questions immediately or put you in contact with the right person. No longer do you have to play phone tag with 17 different departments.”

The Philly311 program has revolutionized customer experience – and it has also created an abundance of data for the city. “We capture data based on those enquiries,” said Carrington-Lue. “You no longer have to guess what the feedback is on a new park or procedure. We are actually capturing [citizens’] feedback.”

Over the past six years the residents of Philly have come to depend on the Philly311 program. The police force has also been able to take a backseat on non-emergency calls which has helped the department streamline resources an improve response times.

“The police can now concentrate on more complex criminal activities, versus trying to get a cat out of a tree, or get a call that the garbage was missed,” Carrington-Lue said.

Carrington-Lue’s engagement initiatives haven’t ended with Philly311 – she also created the Citizen Engagement Academy a place where the government is actively working to educate the public about how government works.

“When I went into community meetings, I saw a strong distrust of the government from the community members. There where people who are cynical, and said ‘I’ve called the city so many times and I get no response.’ I saw that lack of trust as an opportunity to say we need to better educate our community about how government works.”

As a part of the Citizen Engagement Academy Carrington-Lue created the Neighborhood Liaison Program to find the informal community leaders, the people who has a vested interest, and teach them how government works.

Now the city has over 1,000 neighborhood liaisons, who all went through a series of eight-week classes taught by department leaders to help educate people how the city government actually runs.

“It’s not a debate as to whether a program is right or wrong, but more of an education awareness, here’s how the water department works, here’s how 311 works, or here’s how the budget works,” said Carrington-Lue.

The drive to improve the customer experience is baked into how Carrington-Lue operates. “Every day I get to come into work and see a change in someone that you’ve never seen before. I talk to people all the time, who have just given up on government, but then we put them in Citizen Engagement Academy and they feel a sense of pride! They see us really being passionate about what we do.”

We will be talking to all the NextGen Public Service Award finalists in the upcoming weeks. See the full list hereAnd register for NextGen!