Improving Citizen service through disciplined issue management

When interacting with the people you serve, what is the single most important activity that you can do to make them feel more positively about you?  Listen to what they are saying, and remember it.

There is a lot of buzz surrounding citizen engagement and how best to inform your constituents.  Should we be sending out newsletters? Creating a targeted email campaigns? Blogging on our current initiatives, creating a Facebook page – maybe we need a hashtag #IssueOfTheDay?

As we have talked to residents however, one thing is become clear; more than being informed, citizens want to be heard.   This takes many forms, but in principle, it all comes down some very basic tenets;

  1. They want to feel like what they are saying is being listened to and will be taken seriously
  2. They want to know that their issues have been recorded accurately,
  3. They want to understand the process of how they will be addressed,
  4. They want transparency

As a way to better serve your citizens, here are a few simple recommendations to help deliver the kind of responsive service that leads to improved citizen satisfaction and builds trust in government.

1.      Record and track everything

We understand that each complaint or service request needs to be prioritized against our other activities and resource constraints. To the citizen however, if they are bringing it to you, it is because it is important to them and it needs to be respected as such.  The easiest way to achieve this is to record every single citizen complaint, issue and service request and communicate your progress with it.

2.      Provide access to information to the entire team 

When you share information effectively and everyone is kept up-to-date, you convey a message that the issue was important, and that you are competent in your ability to respond.  If you can record issues so that they can easily be viewed by all staff, then when citizen inquires about progress in the future, the entire team can provide them with a status update.  In this way, any interaction with a citizen can be informed with the issues that are important to them.

3.      Ensure you close the loop

When you have completed your actions, don’t forget to share the work that was done.  Public notifications are important, but if you are able to extend this to include direct confirmation, the impact is considerably stronger.  Making it as personalized as possible supports your goal to make them feel that they have been treated as an individual.  The objective of this final interaction is to ensure the citizen is aware that you listened and did your best to find a satisfactory resolution.  Even with those unfortunate cases where nothing could be done, an email confirming that it was evaluated with an explanation of the rational behind your decision can limit their frustration.

4.      Be open and transparent (with data to back it up)

With the right tracking system, a quantitative report can be created that highlights the issues and  service requests that were received in the previous month and the actions taken.  This is a potent method to articulate the work you are doing for your citizens.   Including the resolution times can be an effective tool for validation of service levels against those required by the municipal act within your province/state.  For example, if you are accountable to fix a pothole within 12 days of it being reported, and you are able demonstrate that 90% of the time you are able to respond in 7 days or less,  you have a means to show that you are working above the required standard.   And remember, a regular and accessible report can also increase public support to buy new equipment or to hire a additional staff to speedup/improve service delivery.

SO HOW DO I START??

If you are on-board with the belief that the simplest path to citizen satisfaction is based on improved intake, tracking and progress reporting, your first step should be ensuring you have the systems in place that allow you to do this.   Too often “engagement” equates to outreach (i.e. speaking) instead of issue tracking and reporting (i.e. listening) .

We built AccessE11 to support both.   We built a system to listen, react, respond and inform.   It is cost effective, simple to use and can be implemented in the time it takes to enjoy a coffee, or read this blog.