City implements initiatives to improve customer service

Northeast News
October 1, 2012

The city of Kansas City is continuing to look for ways to improve customer service.

During a Sept. 20 press conference, city officials outlined five initiatives, based on recommendations from the city’s Special Committee on Small Business.

“We should definitely be committed to the culture of customer service in Kansas City at all times,” said Scott Taylor, chair of the Special Committee on Small Business.

Taylor added that while Kansas City is viewed as one of the friendliest cities, it should also become one of the friendliest cities to do business with.

Initiatives include expanding the secret shopper program, giving employees up to eight hours of paid leave to participate in charitable activities, creating a standardized telephone greeting and closing, continuing to recognize outstanding employees and modifying employee evaluation forms.

In the past, Kansas City has received complaints about how city employees handled phone calls, said Taylor. Complaints included not knowing who answered the phone and not receiving a follow-up call or timeline for addressing an issue. Implementing a standardized greeting will help ensure that callers receive consistent service, he said. In addition, employees must end the call by ensuring all concerns were addressed and set target dates for remedying an issue.

For the Secret Shopper Program, each department will be evaluated, and both internal and external customers will be used to either telephone the department or visit in person. The Secret Shopper Program will become more “embedded” in the city’s culture and will be implemented on a quarterly basis, said Gary O’Bannon, Kansas City’s director of Human Resources.

Customers will be given scripts with “challenging” scenarios geared toward each department, said O’Bannon.

“We’re trying to deal with real life scenarios,” O’Bannon said.

Secret Shopper customers will then fill out a reporting form of their experience and feedback will be given to the department director.

The Secret Shopper Program isn’t a “gotcha mentality,” O’Bannon said. The goal is to highlight how well employees are performing and also proactively look for ways to improve service. Incentives will also be given to employees who perform well.

“We think our employees by and large do an excellent job of providing customer service,” he said.

However, it’s common practice in customer service organizations to verify that customer service is running smoothly, and there’s always room for improvement, he said.

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