Increasingly, local Councils are looking for ways to improve the service experience they offer customers and, like businesses in the private sector, are looking to establish ongoing Customer Experience Management (CEM) programmes.
Based on our experiences with our current Council CEM programmes, we’ve put together a few top tips on how to launch a successful programme.
Top tip 1:
The key thing to be aware of here is that these programmes only work over an extended period of time. In our experience it takes time to bed these in, sort out all the internal resourcing issues, get people aligned in terms of who’s doing what and when, and be able to use customer feedback to actually improve (not just measure) your customers’ experience. Like a certain hair product, it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen…
See the chart below, which is real data from one of our programmes. Two things leap out from this – firstly that, once established, the programme has led to genuine improvement in customer experience. But the other point is that it took over a year for the changes to really take effect. During the first year, the results were all over the place – it was only after a year that the organisation really saw the fruits of their labour.
Top tip 2:
Like any other business improvement programme, you’ll need an internal champion, a fair bit of organisational buy-in (even if it’s not 100% – see tip 4 below) and a readiness to change. These things are obviously easier said than done, but without them you’re not going to get a CEM programme over the line. Often a key trigger for starting these is when the organisation is feeling the painful effects of delivering poor customer experience – complaints numbers are up, the media is having a field day, and the mood in the office is pretty grim, as people are spending so much time fighting fires. As horrible as this is, these conditions are very fertile ground for establishing an effective improvement programme.
Whatever the trigger, you will need a sponsor on the Executive Leadership Team who’s prepared to back your programme, and you’ll need a strong internal champion (perhaps that’s you?) to drive it through the business.
Top tip 3:
What’s often over looked is that, while you always need top-down support, to make a CEM programme work over time, you also need bottom-up support. By this I mean that you need to have someone (or perhaps a few people) who are going to have the time and focus to act on customer feedback, to wrangle internal teams, coordinate who’s going to respond and do something with the customer’s feedback.
Say, for example, that your consent team gets this feedback from a customer, as one of our clients has recently:
“My application was sent early June. I phoned in early July and left a message which was not returned. Another attempt was made early August, but I was still not able to speak to anyone in the department about the status of my application. Have you received my application, or has it been lost? I understand that it is a busy department, but it seems chaotic and disorganised.”
An obvious action here is to find this customer’s application and contact them to let them know the status (and apologise for the delay and confusion). So, who’s going to do that? And who’s going to monitor progress on this to make sure something has been done and the customer has been contacted within the agreed time frame? For ongoing CEM programmes, the importance of having an effective, persistent internal administrator (we call them wranglers) cannot be over stated.
Also, it’s perhaps a little peripheral, but I found this post by Tony Robbins on effective time management a good reminder on how to get more done in the limited hours we have. Stretched resources are always a challenge for local Councils, so encouraging your teams to use their time more effectively can only be a good thing.
Top tip 4:
You don’t have to have buy-in from all departments to start! In fact, we have found that starting with a few key departments, who are ready and hungry for a CEM programme, is the best way to go. That way, you can work with a few keen managers who see the benefit of the programme, and work with them to design the process in a way that suits their needs.
These are the people who are going to be most likely to actually use customer feedback to take action anyway, so starting with these teams will help the organisation see the biggest benefits in the shortest space of time. Harness the enthusiasm of those teams who are keen – and over time, as they see their results improve, you can watch as other parts of the organisation come knocking on your door. This is exactly what has happened with one of our bigger Council clients – we started with a few business units in the regulatory and environmental services department and now, after two years of running the programme, we have a queue of more than four other departments wanting to join the programme.
Final tip – just start.
The best time to start the programme was a year ago, the second-best time is now.
Bonus tip – keep going!
As the Tanzanian proverb says, “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.”
What have I missed – have you got any other tips to share from your own experience?