Beyond Expectations: Setting a New Standard in CX

KIA Online Community Member Spotlight: Brigitte Bailey

From an inaugural customer service vision memo to “secret shopper” quality assurance, online    self-service, and frontline agent training programs, Brigitte Bailey has implemented a top to toe customer experience overhaul that’s resulted in customer satisfaction rates any CX professional would dream of. But Brigitte isn’t working for a beloved consumer brand. Instead, she’s the Director of Customer Experience and Solutions for Fulton County Government, Georgia.

Over the past three years, Brigitte’s innovation has unleashed a string of highly successful process improvements that put Fulton County on the map for CX excellence. Here’s how.

 

Execs In The Know (EITK): In the private sector, customer experience is typically considered a key differentiator in an increasingly competitive marketplace. As the single-source provider for a wide variety of public services, what’s at stake for Fulton County in prioritizing CX?

Brigitte Bailey: I get this question a lot, actually! We’re extremely dedicated to providing the highest-quality customer service to our residents and visitors because we want Fulton County to be a place where people come to live, work, and play.

Our offerings are tremendously diverse. We issue motor vehicle tags, register voters, conduct elections, administer health and human services programs, and operate judicial systems, but we also offer voluntary services such as library and arts and cultural programs. Citizens engage with our brand on so many levels and in so many aspects of their lives that it’s vital their customer experience be a good one. They need to feel comfortable enough to reach out to us for a wide variety of services and know that they will be treated with professionalism, respect, kindness, and understanding.

For us, it’s about building long-lasting relationships. We want people to feel pleased to do business with us and stay here. There’s a lot at stake in terms of private-sector investment and economic development.

 

EITK: Over the past three years you’ve created a CX organization from the ground up. How did you go about getting started? What kind of support did you receive internally?

Brigitte: We have a great team of leaders with a very strong vision for where we want to go in terms of customer experience — from our county Board of Commissioners to our County Manager and his executive leadership team on down. Without their buy-in and full support, my efforts would be futile. The first thing I did upon taking on this role was take a hard look at how we were going to get there. I created a Customer Service Strategic Plan that outlined what we needed to do to become more customer centric as an organization.

Second, I knew that in order to be successful we needed to establish a standard level of service. I drafted the county’s first-ever Customer Service Policies and Procedures to set basic expectations for service and ensure that our services were actually tailored to meet customer needs.

Third, I realized that with these standards in place we needed to give our employees the tools and resources to meet them. I collaborated with our Employee Development Division to design our ASPIRE customer service training class. Since the program launched early last year, we’ve trained more than 1,600 employees.

Finally, if you’re going to train your employees to uphold a high standard of service you need programs in place to recognize and reward them. I now manage one of the county’s largest recognition programs, called the Fulton 100 Customer Service Legend program. We’ve also begun honoring our employees during Customer Service Week, which is something we never did before we had someone thinking about customer service 24/7.

 

EITK: What CX programs and initiatives have you put in place and what have the results been so far?

Brigitte: I’m always looking for new ways to improve the service experience for our customers. Some of the programs and initiatives that have helped change the way we do business include:

Sending out “secret shoppers” to report on service quality. In the second quarter of last year I implemented the county’s very first “secret shopper” program, in which a team of employees visit or call our various departments with realistic customer service scenarios and report back on their experience. It’s a bit like the TV series Undercover Boss. Sometimes we’ll intentionally send someone to the wrong department to see if the employee goes the extra mile to redirect that person or picks up the phone to find out the necessary information for them. This has really helped us assess the quality of services we provide and determine if employees are following established procedures. More importantly, it provides an avenue for constructive feedback that enables us to continuously improve the mode or manner of service delivery.

Conducting “pain point workshops” for business partners. Sometimes in government there’s a tendency to do things a certain way just because that’s the way we’ve always done them. In the third quarter of last year, I set up “pain point workshops” for the departments that requested them to help identify perceived operational deficiencies from the partners’ point of view. Our processes must evolve along with our policies. If we can streamline a process by five or six steps that means we can speed things along for our end users as well.

Building an information and service hub within our Government Center. I worked with our Department of Real Estate and Asset Management to design and construct an information desk near the entrance of our Government Center. We had thousands of citizens visiting us each day, but we didn’t have a central, dedicated space where citizens could stop and get service. Since the desk opened last year, we’ve served more than 19,000 citizens. Our customers love that they can often get served right at the desk without having to wander around trying to find the right department, and if they do need to be referred to a department for service, they know they’re being referred to the correct one.

Overhauling the county website to put service first. Our old website, dating back to the early 1990s, was structured around departments. The result was that, for example, citizens looking for information on youth services might find information on the services provided our Health and Human Services department but not the youth services offered by any other department. I worked with our External Affairs and IT departments on the county’s Website Revitalization Project, focusing on the service delivery aspects. The new site, launched in October 2019, offers many more options for online self-service, and information is organized by the services we provide, not the departments that provide them. The feedback we’ve received from customers has been tremendous.

Revamping the signage in our court building. I’m currently working with a cross-functional team to improve signage and wayfinding within the four-building complex that serves as our county court. It can be hard even for our employees to navigate. With improved signage we can help ensure that people aren’t late to court or waiting in the wrong courtroom for their case to be called, which ultimately slows down the proceedings for everyone. We look to expand this project in the future to our Government Center and other county facilities.

Up next for 2020: Rolling out kiosks to collect real-time data on customer satisfaction. Beginning with four of our forward-facing departments, we’re installing kiosks that enable customers to instantly rate their service experience at the end of each transaction by selecting a happy face, a not-so-happy face, a sad face, or an angry face. If we get a sad face or an angry face the customer can offer details, and we follow up with a further option asking if we might be able to contact the person for more information. We want to know immediately what happened. This real-time data will enable us to track and manage our performance, fluctuations in service level, and possible causes for poor performance, as well as validate any recommended improvement actions.

Implementing new employee training programs for handling customers with disabilities. I’ve been working with our Diversity and Civil Rights Compliance department, which houses our Americans with Disabilities division, to develop a customized customer service training program that focuses on managing service delivery for our citizens who are disabled. We need to be able to offer them the same level of service we offer to everyone else.

 

EITK: That’s a lot going on! How do you measure success and customer satisfaction?

Brigitte: We conduct an annual County Residents’ Survey, which gathers customer satisfaction ratings on the availability and quality of the services we provide throughout the year. Since the survey’s inception in 2016, I’m very pleased to say that our customer satisfaction rating has averaged around 83%.

I also worked with our Strategy and Performance Management Office to establish a set of customer service performance measures for each of our departments and created customer satisfaction surveys to send out to the citizens that interact with those departments. Customer satisfaction ratings on these surveys have topped 90%. That particular program earned a national achievement award from the National Association of Counties.

Those numbers are no small feat for a government organization of this size. That’s how we know we’re on the right track. We do a lot of work behind the scenes to make our customers whole experience better, and it’s paying off.

 

Are you a CX Leader at a consumer brand? Continue the conversation on “Know It All” (KIA), our private online discussion forum where senior CX executives are connecting across industries to innovate and share best practices. Click here to visit and request to join.

Brigitte Bailey
Director, Customer Experience and Solutions, Fulton County Government
Fulton County

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