As government contact centers, we all face financial and technological constraints in our pursuit to improve the customer experience. One challenge faced by many contact centers is staffing limitations to handle the volume of incoming customer traffic. There are barely enough employees to operate phones, let alone work on meeting or exceeding the organizational customer satisfaction performance goals.
One initiative that was important to the City of Philadelphia’s 311 non-emergency contact center was the successful collection of customer feedback and coaching our employees to improve the customers’ experience with each transaction. The 311 Contact Center serves as the single point of contact for over 1.5 million residents, businesses, and visitors needing City-related non-emergency services and information.
With so many daily interactions between our customers and agents, how could we improve customer experience if we did not have the means to ask our customers about their experience? With a limited technology and staffing budget, it seemed impossible to implement a customer satisfaction program in our government contact center. We needed to find innovative solutions to effectively collect, and manage, accurate and real-time customer experience responses.
To create a credible program to measure customer satisfaction, our contact center partnered with a national Fortune 500 company who, pro bono, helped to develop an effective customer satisfaction survey and we partnered with a local non-profit organization for surveying and data entry staffing support. The benefit of these partnerships were two-fold: building a best-in-class program and providing a training environment to enhance clientele’s skills through their experience in a customer contact operations.
For example, in an agreement with the non-profit’s Work Experience programs, we provide opportunities for their clients to gain experience in an office setting. Work Experience employees work in our contact center for up to 20 hours a week for an agreed-upon number of months (based on the program) or until they found employment. Work Experience employees administer customer satisfaction surveys via the telephone.
Formal training is conducted for our Work Experience/customer satisfaction surveyors to familiarize them with our services, the data collection processes and why their role is critical to our success. After this, surveyors are given a list of anonymous customers who contacted us within the last 24 hours and authorized the use of their number for a customer satisfaction survey (asked by our contact center agents at the end of each phone call). Over time we have enhanced the sample questions the surveyors ask. The results are entered into a centralized database. Following are the current baseline questions used in our survey:
- Did the agent explain the process for resolving your issues or concerns?
- Did the agent have access to the necessary information to meet your request?
- Was your call (or email, or visit) handled in a timely manner?
- Were you satisfied with the service you received from Contact Center?
- Would you like to provide any additional feedback about your experience with the contact center?
- Would you like to provide your name, phone number or email address, if you would like to be contacted.
As part of the process, surveyors are able to transfer concerned or dissatisfied customers to a contact center supervisor or manager to follow up on or resolve their issue.
Results and Overview
Results of the customer satisfaction surveys are shared with our contact center supervisors for meetings with their teams. The previous day’s average is also displayed on our contact center’s reader boards. Monthly and quarterly customer experience results are shared with Senior Leadership within the organization and posted on the department’s bulletin board.
Overall, our ability to gather customer satisfaction data has been instrumental in our growth as our city’s customer service center. The data has improved our technology and business processes, external communication, and service offerings as we continue to strive for customer service excellence. We continue to use Work Experience programs to collect customer satisfaction surveys and we have also expanded our initiative to include social media data mining. Designated agents monitor social media “streams” to see what our customers are saying about us, in addition to their “wants” as they relate to our services.
While we still face budgetary constraints, our contact center continues to innovate and find means to continually improve our customers’ experience.
Rosetta Carrington Lue is the City of Philadelphia’s Deputy Managing Director and Chief Customer Service Officer.
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