Expectations of constituents continue to be more and more demanding on council’s services. The ability to meet these demands in a concise, timely and consistent manner force many government bodies to engage a range of technological solutions.
While their corporate cousins are driven by the bottom line, government bodies must balance budgetary challenges while managing the expectations of taxpaying constituents. Finding this balance continues to be a challenge.
Many councils around the world are having success as they build their own community engagement strategies. It’s largely a new field for many governments; however headway is made with the use of a variety of technological solutions matched carefully with changes to process and policy.
You may also be interested in eNgage, a tool to help government departments bring together the many communication channels to engage with your constituents.
Key points to remember when developing a community engagement strategy:
Be Authentic and Follow Through
- While governments may invite community input and feedback, there is a perception this process is simply a matter of process. Be authentic, listen, and return those notes to the community.
Develop your Success Metrics
- It’s difficult to understand what success looks like without any metrics in place to measure your progress against. Agree your metrics upfront, come back to them on a regular basis and refine them as needed.
Sustain your Efforts for the Long-term
- The grandest of plans can fall apart without sufficient people and processes in place to support them. Think three to five years out, can your Community Engagement strategy survive the test of time?
Community Engagement in Action –
Victorian State Government
In October 2004, the Victorian State Government of Australia built on their existing online service by making available contact details of their local, state and federal governments via mobile phone to constituents. The Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Marsha Thomson said:
“It is also part of our strategy to deliver government information to Victorians in a variety of innovative ways as technology becomes available.”
Thomson went on to say:
“Victoria Online is the online entry point to information on everything from arts and entertainment, to legal services, to paying council rates online. It’s confidential, totally secure and the fastest way to find whatever government information you are searching for.”
Community Engagement in Action
Victorian Education Department
Again in Victoria, the Education Department launched “Ultranet – an online portal and ‘virtual classroom’ that Education Minister Bronwyn Pike promises will transform the way students learn.” As with most people who experience change, teachers were fearful of parents bombarding them with messages and complaints.
Would that necessarily be a bad thing? In the corporate world a high degree of interaction with customers is seen as a good thing regardless of the topic of engagement. People may be less likely to complain if it requires a telephone call or face to face visit. Email is an easy way to reach people and an easier way for them to reach you. However, SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) must be in place and communicated to your constituents so expectations can be met in relation to a response from a warm blooded human, not an automated response from a server.
“Customer complaints are the schoolbooks from which we learn.” Author Unknown
Marrickville City Council has a Significant Web Presence
In the inner western suburbs of Sydney, Australia, the Marrickville City Council has a significant web presence providing constituents with a range of services. Included in this array are many community groups sponsored by council.
The council has very publically published their Service Charter. The Charter outlines their SLA’s for all to see. With the many channels constituents can use to contact council, it can prove a challenge for government bodies to meet their published SLA’s. Technology makes it easier for constituents to contact their elected and government officials, but it can also provide a bottleneck as government manages to respond in a personal manner to people’s suggestions and complaints.
“In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.” Doug Warner.
To learn more about how CRMNow can help your organisation engage with your community online, Click Here to contact a member of our team.