Customer contact at municipalities – a talk to Drechtsteden
Drechtsteden Service Provision is one of Livecom’s customers. We talked to Michelle Dautzenberg, project leader at Drechtsteden Service Provision, about her view on customer contact at municipalities. Michelle shares her experience with the channels they deploy to be in contact with citizens.
Being a project leader, Michelle is thinking about new solutions for their service provision to the customers of the Drechtsteden every day. Drechtsteden Service Provision works for the municipalities Dordrecht, Sliedrecht, Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht and Alblasserdam. In addition, they also work closely together with the cities of Papendrecht, Zwijndrecht and Hardinxveld-Giessendam. “This way the customer contact in all these municipalities is lifted to a higher level and I’m kind of proud of that”, says Michelle.
Drechtsteden Service Provision is responsible for the public information desks, incoming phone calls and the development in the field of civil affairs and municipal service provision in general.
“I believe new solutions are a success if they are innovative but also increase as user-friendliness and offer a better customer experience. For us, these are important indicators when choosing a channel or solution”, says Michelle.
Personal, fast and digital
The Drechtsteden does everything necessary to offer an excellent service provision to their customers – the residents of the municipalities. They do this, among others, at the desk, via the website and on the phone. And nowadays also more and more via easier accessible channels such as chat, Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. Their motto: there’s something for everyone. Citizens opt for what fits them to communicate with municipalities.
Michelle tells us: “Citizens want quicker answers nowadays. We react to that with channels such as chat. We have noticed that citizens are highly satisfied about this channel. It reflects in the customer satisfaction. By the way, what really surprised us was the target group communicating with us via chat and WhatsApp. We had assumed that these channels would attract mainly young people but practice shows that residents of all ages use these channels.”
Drechtsteden Service Provision has run a chat pilot with continuous evaluation during three months. They were looking for a new communication channel that fitted their mission of fast, personal and digital service provision. It had to be an accessible channel that many people would want to use and where they could ask serious questions. Manning had to be efficient to structure and customer satisfaction of the channel had to be high.
“The advantage of the pilot was that we could start right away and gain experience with the new channel. The approval of such a project is obtained faster and not everything has to be thought through or perfect. You learn more by just doing it anyway and to react fast to possible adjustments you have to make. By letting the customers give their opinion after the chat, we could see right away what they did and didn’t like.
We have tackled the pilot via the scrum-method. Which was really great! All departments concerned were involved from day one. This allowed them to influence how the process was designed as well as the interim adjustments that were implemented. This was considered a good thing. The pilot showed a higher customer satisfaction for chat than any of our other channels. We are very happy with that”, says Michelle.
The questions asked via chat were serious and comparable to questions asked on the phone. Michelle was surprised, though, about how long the sessions could take. They had expected them to be short conversations: someone asks a question, they receive an answer and that’s that. That was certainly not the case!
Michelle says on this subject: “People sometimes tend to do other things meanwhile. They don’t have to answer immediately, the chat will stay open. They grab a cup of coffee or a screen pops up which hides the chat and they forget to react. Because of this they sometimes don’t participate in the chat for a long time, but we do have them on hold. The agents do not accept any extra conversations because they could respond any minute. We are now looking into structuring this more efficiently, by, for example put new chats through to other agents”.
Drechtsteden Service Provision conducts a maximum of two chat sessions per agent. That is the perfect number for them. This way the agents can conduct qualitatively good conversations and properly look into things for the customer.
The future of customer contact at municipalities
Livecom also talked to Michelle about her view on how customer contact will develop in the coming years – and specifically with municipalities in mind. She believes that customer contact will keep developing because customers will keep expecting more from them.
“I think that the customer will eventually expect to get an answer to his/her question 24/7. Not only between office hours. We want to react to that. It’ll become interesting for municipalities to, for example, use a chatbot. Combined, however, with personal contact because that’s something customers still want most of all. We’ll have to come up with a good solution for that.
I also see that customers want to have quicker serviced. This asks a lot from our employees. Customer contact employees have to have more and more knowledge about more subjects to be able to answer the customer as quickly as possible. Now they have to switch between sometimes as many as 10 screens. It would help them enormously if links would be made between the systems the municipality For example, a case system, an archive or a customer portal. There’s still a lot to gain in the field of synergy, in my opinion. Which absolutely leads to more efficiency!” says Michelle.