While government has started to incorporate more and more private sector strategies to improve operations, one effort where government is lacking is branding. Where private-sector companies are able to build brands that customers love and are enthusiastic about, governments tends to stray away from any substantial efforts to build a lovable brand.
While government may never be able to build a Starbucks-esque brand (where customers are constantly “wowed” and pass this wow along via word of mouth and social media) government can make small changes to the way it interacts with its customers to create a more open, pleasant, and collaborative experience for customers.
I recently read an article called “5 Lessons from Companies with Adoring Customers” by Hannah Johnson on the Get Satisfaction blog. The lessons outlined were incredibly helpful and offered great insight for how small changes can improve an organization’s brand.
Let’s take these lessons and adopt them for government.
1. Provide Customers Access to Decision-Makers when they have a Gripe
The words “open” and “accessible” are now synonymous with any progressive government. While some of this focus is on releasing data, constituents also want access to the top officials making decisions. Thankfully, there’s social media. Social media has leveled the playing field in terms of constituent accessibility. Now, all it takes to reach top officials is a tweet or a comment on Facebook. And you would be surprised at how impactful a genuine reply or even a retweet can be.
2. Don’t Just Innovate for Them, Innovate with Them
Social media and other technologies have also given governments the ability to brainstorm with customers and get their feedback. When designing a process, program, or event, why not post something on social media asking for input? Also, Tweet Chats (scheduled discussions on Twitter) sponsored by governments are a great way to engage and discuss new ideas with customers.
3. Identify, Incentivize, and Empower Customers
Governments should take this cue from the private sector and reward top customers. This does not mean that governments need to buy customers expensive gifts, but customers who are top proponents of services or programs should gain recognition or meetings with top officials. Another way to incentivize customers is through gamification. Gamify civic engagement by giving points for participation in programs or community events. You can also designate great customers as “Super Users” or other honorary names.
4. Treat Customers like Humans
Government may be limited by budgetary or regulatory constraints in terms of marketing messaging. However, customers need clear information from their government. In some cases, there’s not a lot of room for creative marketing promotions or messaging, as information about resources and other public services should not be misconstrued. Social media, however, allows government to step away from entirely robotic responses. Through the use of social media, government can have real, human conversations with customers, rather than only pushing out information. Human interactions can improve the way customers perceive government as a whole.
5. Allow Customers to Help Themselves
Governments are known for being overly bureaucratic. Now more than ever, customer want information, answers, and resolutions instantaneously. A way to appease the customers is to make many processes self-service. Let customers get the information they want, as soon as they want. If your current system don’t allow for the creation of self-service portals, create informational blog posts, or even a wiki so that customers don’t have to wait in a queue to get an answer they could find faster themselves. Empower your customers. They’ll appreciate you for it!
Can you think of any other ways to improve your local government’s customer service brand?
Rosetta Carrington Lue is the Chief Customer Service Officer and Senior Advisor to the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director. Follow Rosetta on Twitter @Rosettalue or visit her blog at www.rosettacarringtonlue.com