Top 4 considerations to save money when improving citizen services
We all want to improve our citizens’ services but, when pursuing this goal, what can we do to ensure we are spending the right amount of money on the right plan? The most practical way is to thoughtfully examine your citizens needs, your goals and assess your current systems against these to achieve the right balance between spend and results.
Here are four areas you should consider to make sure you are getting the most for your money.
1. Understand first
- When creating any plan, the first action should be to understand the needs and wants of your target. Not all people will have the same issues. The only way to know is to ask your citizens, listen intently and believe them. This is particularly true when you think you have solved certain issues already.
- In modern agile technology development, the practice is to rely on the” voice of the customer”. This is to ensure when the product is complete it meets the needs expressed by the potential buyer. The same is true in finding the best solution for your citizens.
- Remind yourself that you are not the citizen. Assume that you do not really know anything about your citizens’ needs. This way you will not try to prove your bias right or dismiss some expressed citizen needs as “not important” or “already solved”.
2. Look at what you have today
- Look at the processes you have today that are at the heart of any of the issues identified by your citizens (e.g. a citizen is not notified when an issue is fixed – perhaps because a workorder is lost after a job is completed so there is no record of it being closed). Ask yourself what vehicles, tools and processes you are using to meet your “citizen service goals”.
- Are you using your website to get information out? Do you have posters in community gathering spaces? Do you have a section every week in the local paper? Do you have a dedicated software tool or just a spreadsheet to track issues? Do you have a written policy that helps all staff to address citizen issues quickly? Do any of these create or solve the issue expressed by your citizens? These types of questions are key to success.
3. List all potential solutions
- Improving citizen services may not require buying new hardware or software, and spending a bundle on installation and configuration. Maybe it is a simple matter of increasing the awareness of your website or creating posters to inform citizens about how you do things and why. It might also be possible to improve services by repurposing technologies that you already have in hand (e.g. using your CRM in a unique way or changing access permissions so more people can answer the questions posed by citizens).
- Listing solutions should not be an excuse to try to make current software do things it was not meant to do. Look at the process you want to have first then find the solution that best fits it.
- Do not be afraid to look at human resource factors. Maybe the answer is to better train staff in citizen resolution or conflict management (customer service skills). Maybe you need to ensure that all staff members know your policies and how they should be implemented.
4. Consider technology solutions by task, not product name.
- List your “service goals” and rate the importance of each of one. The best way is to break down your list into the following columns: “must have”, “good to have” and “nice to have”.
- If you think that technology might solve some of the issues, list only the “service goals” you want your software to address, i.e. not what features or what brand will be the best solution.
- Remember the technology may not need to be citizen facing to increase satisfaction. It might just enable an improvement in your processes to offer better, faster and more reliable citizen services.
If you consider these four areas, you will likely find a solution with that best fits your budget, and that will have the largest impact on your citizens. By checking your own internal bias, you stand a better chance of making sure the right tracking and communication methods (internal or external) are part of your change, and the costs may well be less than you thought.
At AccessE11 we understand that paper systems and endless email chains are not productive when it comes to citizen services and support. There are too many opportunities for an issue to fall through the cracks, or for delays in responses to issues.
We promote instilling processes that make sense and that are easy to adopt so that everyone in the municipality can become a citizen support expert.