27 September 2023
8 customer service tips for local authorities
Discover the top eight customer service tips for local authorities, including the value of adopting advanced CRMs, and chatbots and providing accessible information.
Customer service is valuable in the private sector for obvious reasons. It helps firms maintain a positive brand image, improves loyalty, and prevents customers from going to competitors.
But in the public sector, the dynamic is different. It’s much harder for people to vote with their feet (and wallets).
Even so, it still pays for officials to implement high-quality customer service. For starters, it builds public trust and reputation. People are more likely to speak highly of authorities if they can resolve issues.
It also improves accountability and transparency. Local governments that operate effective customer services appear more open and trustworthy.
Lastly, it facilitates efficient service delivery. Authorities can better use taxpayer money by streamlining services and resolving issues promptly.
Unfortunately, while the benefits are well-known, many government agencies don’t enact high-quality customer services. As such, government data reveal only 76.1 per cent of citizens feel satisfied with the services they receive.
Poor customer interactions often emerge from complex operations, services, and schedules. It’s not that agencies don’t care: they often simply lack the tools to improve provision.
The trick to providing exceptional customer service is to follow best practices. But what should local authorities be doing, specifically? Let’s take a look.
1. Adopt Advanced CRMs
Local authorities should begin improvements to customer service by adopting advanced CRMs. Communicating with citizens using spreadsheets and Post-It notes doesn’t work in high-volume environments.
Fortunately, several leading developers, including SAP, Microsoft, and IFS, make CRMs specifically for the government. These feature additional safety and data protection features, ensuring your agency remains within the law.
2. Add A Chatbot
Another pro tip is to add online chat to website homepages. Chatbots can interact with citizens and triage them based on their inquiries or requirements.
Today’s modern chatbots are significantly more advanced than those that operated just five years ago. Many now incorporate advanced technologies, such as natural language processing (NLP), allowing them to understand questions asked in regular conversation.
Click4Assistance uses two kinds of chatbots: those with preprogrammed decision trees to guide citizens towards specific solutions or staff members and those that use NLP for free-flowing conversations. Either can help in government settings, depending on the services you are responsible for and the type of enquiries you receive.
3. Be Responsive
You should also make your local authority’s customer service more responsive. Getting back to people quickly improves public perception, confidence and trust.
Most customers want reps to respond to their queries within 20 to 30 minutes of asking a question, with a minority requiring response times of less than fifteen minutes. Unfortunately, most local authorities take significantly longer than this to provide a reply unless customers contact them directly.
4. Be Likeable
Another tip for local authorities is to make their customer service agents more likeable. Many citizens can feel like “cogs in the machine” when they phone or chat, not valued voters or customers.
For this reason, agents should understand that customer service should not be one-size-fits-all. Citizens need time to explain themselves and understand you. It can help to have some chit-chat during the conversation to make it feel more natural or to have scripts that agents use full of empathetic conversation cues.
Ideally, agents should rapidly identify a citizen’s communication style and mirror it back to them. The four main types are:-
- Conscientious: The customer appears precise, private, and systematic and wants to focus on tasks and information.
- Steady: The customer is accommodating, humble, and doesn’t lose their temper. Their goal is to build relationships to process information.
- Influential: The customer is enthusiastic and optimistic, focused on processing information quickly.
- Dominant: The customer is results-oriented, firm, and forceful, wanting tasks completed quickly.
5. Add Feedback Mechanisms
Another pro tip is to include feedback mechanisms, including surveys and suggestion boxes. Providing citizens with the ability to tell you what they like about your services and what they don’t, which can be helpful.
For example, you might discover your agents’ phone manner is excellent, but their ability to resolve issues is faulty. You might also learn that response times are long but that customers enjoy being able to communicate with you via text messaging services.
6. Offer 24/7 Support
Local authorities should also aim to offer 24/7 support to citizens, not just during regular office hours. Individuals may be unable to resolve issues and complaints while at work.
Data reveal that 49 per cent of public service customers visited local authority websites before 9 am or after 5 pm. However, most are unable to contact agents for help. For many, the only option is to read FAQ pages or send an email.
Historically, governments didn’t have the resources to run 24/7 customer services. But the introduction of chatbots is changing that dynamic. So-called “task bots” can help customers perform various basic tasks, such as answering support questions, while AI chatbots are more complex and can answer questions asked in natural language using data fed to them.
Interestingly, 69 per cent of customers prefer to interact with a chatbot than a customer services agent, which is another reason local authorities should use them.
7. Provide Accessible Information
Another excellent way for governments to improve customer service is to make information more accessible. Programs, policies, rules, statutes, and even wheelie bin collection times should be easy to access through multiple channels. Customers should be able to access services through social media and physical locations to suit their communication needs.
8. Make Communication Easy To Understand
Finally, local authorities should focus on making communication easy to understand. Agents should use clear and concise scripts written in plain English, minimising fillers and slang.
Ultimately, implementing these customer service tips can improve trust in your local authority, process efficiency, and community engagement. Citizens feel confident departments and agencies can deal with their issues swiftly, transforming their opinion of public services in the right direction.