Connecting state and local government leaders
“We are not here to just build a road, we are here to provide people with an experience,” says the agency’s director of communications.
As part of a broader push to improve customer service, Colorado’s Department of Transportation launched a new feature on its website last week, and has also reworked the way agency staff members field calls and emails from the public.
A diffuse agency, Colorado DOT is divided into five regions that span across the 103,641 square-mile state. Each month, the department receives anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 calls or emails from the public, according to Communications Director Amy Ford.
This correspondence can range from pothole complaints, to questions about how highway express lanes work.
The new customer service program is intended to streamline what it takes for a person to get their DOT-related questions, concerns or comments addressed. It is also designed to hasten the agency’s response time when people get in touch, and to keep better track of why citizens are phoning-in or sending emails.
“This process is, sort of, the culmination of almost two years worth of work for us,” Ford said by phone last week.
She noted that, previously, “people would reach out directly to project engineers, construction managers, admins, others, just based on whatever numbers they could find.”
Since the customer service program was initiated, the department has revamped both websites in an attempt to make them easier to use.
Now, a button that appears on the sites links to a Contact Us webpage. On that page are 15 icons for different areas that fall within the transportation department’s purview, such as construction and road closures, express tolling, and driver’s licenses. The icons link to pages that act as gateways to information and staff contacts that are specific to each area.
Also reworked is what happens once the agency receives a call or email.
The new online Contact Us feature, and phone hotlines, are set up to funnel these types of communications to what Ford described as “mini customer service groups” in each of the regions. These groups are made up of existing staff members who have received special training on how to handle calls and emails from the public.
Before the new customer service program was put in place, a staff member receiving a call might act more like a switchboard operator, Ford explained, passing it on to their supervisor.
“I’d like to reduce the impact that we have on our supervisors’ and others’ workloads,” she said.
“These customer service reps are fully empowered and able to work on these problems with the citizens,” Ford added.
Customer service team members can respond to public inquiries without going through the department’s communications division. And they are backed up by a group of pre-selected subject matter experts, who can provide additional information they might need.
The goal is to respond to public inquiries within 24 to 48 hours of the time they are submitted.
Using software from Salesforce, a cloud computing company, the department is also populating a database with detailed information about calls and emails that come in.
“I am able to start tracking trends,” Ford said. “I could have anecdotally done that before. Now I’m going to have good data.”
There are discussions going on, she added, about how to integrate data about the calls and emails into meetings of regional leadership and executive teams. The idea is that this information could help inform investments, and the allocation of resources.
Why do the customer service changes matter so much to the agency?
“We are not here to just build a road, we are here to provide people with an experience,” Ford said. “It’s critical for us to be able to understand what they have to say.”
Bill Lucia is a Reporter for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.