Providing Legendary Service to the Citizens of Fulton County
Fulton County, Georgia is dedicated to providing the highest quality services to every resident of their county. The role of county government is diverse, ranging from registering voters and supervising elections to issuing vehicle registrations, operating judicial systems, providing police protection, and administrating health and welfare service. Literally every citizen in the county depends on their services, so providing excellent customer service is not just important—it is the mission of Fulton County.
“As the largest county in the state of Georgia, we wanted to set the standard for the quality of customer service delivered by a government agency,” explains Brigitte Bailey, director of customer experience for Fulton County Government. “While we are a service delivery organization that has its roots grounded in service, we realized there was room for improvement. We also realized that improving our customer experience would require a culture change to support our new way of conducting business. The best method for addressing the culture change was to offer training for our employees.”
Along with Kenneth Hermon, Chief Human Resources Officer, Bailey worked with The Ken Blanchard Companies to deliver Legendary Service—a training program that helps managers and supervisors develop the mindset of a customer service organization, then teaches the skills that will help them deliver that level of service.
Blanchard research shows that companies known for delivering great customer service understand that their people and the relationships they build with their customers are their most important assets. These companies develop a service-minded culture, recognizing that customer service starts with how employees treat each other internally and extends to the treatment of external customers. They empower their people to take initiative, resolve problems, and exceed client expectations—which results in increased customer loyalty, engagement, and innovation.
The Legendary Service program teaches a simple yet powerful model of the four fundamental aspects of providing excellent customer service. Employees must be:
- Committed: Live the organization’s customer service vision
- Attentive: Listen to identify customer needs and wants
- Responsive: Take action that shows they care
- Empowered: Unleash the full extent of their power
Participants (employees) learn the importance of providing service to internal customers so their coworkers get the support they need, and to external customers so their needs are met and they can rely on the employee as a partner.
The results are impressive. In 2016, a citizen survey indicated an 82 percent overall satisfaction with the level of service provided by Fulton County employees. In 2017, the satisfaction rating increased to 85.7 percent. “We believe we’ve been able to move the needle to increase customer satisfaction as a direct result of our approach of increased training and evaluation of the customer experience in totality, from end to end,” Bailey says.
Creating a Culture of Service
Although Legendary Service training is a critical element, it is only part of the extensive sustainment program Bailey introduced to ensure that a culture of service is supported throughout Fulton County Government. She developed and implemented a county-wide customer service policy to create a standard of service that would govern the customer experience.
“With our customer service policy, we seek to provide an environment where both our staff and members of the public feel valued and where services are tailored to meet the needs of the customers. We are implementing strategies that are cost effective, quality driven, user friendly, accessible, inclusive, and efficient. The customer service policy is designed to ensure quality service is provided in a timely manner to all stakeholders, both internal and external, who interact and/or conduct business with Fulton County,” explains Bailey.
Another part of the overall plan includes an additional service training course, developed internally, that teaches the County’s customer service policy to every employee. Each employee is mandated to attend and a refresher course is required every two years. “In addition to the original internal service training program, departments can request customized training specific to their department. This allows us to meet varying needs of different groups,” says Bailey.
With the policy in place and training deployed, Fulton County developed a strategic implementation plan to spell out exactly how they would transform the culture into one that is customer-centric. “The plan is designed to guide our customer service initiatives over a three-year period. It focuses on key customer service drivers that include investments in people, infrastructures, and metrics.”
Fulton County is constantly looking for ways to improve its customer service satisfaction rating through the implementation of additional self-serve options, continued facility improvements, and enhanced digital technology that includes a redesigned website and portal, mobile applications, signage, wayfinding, and branding. To ensure the success of this strategy, customer service performance measures along with defined key performance indicators (KPI) have been incorporated into a newly adopted pay-for-performance/bonus plan.
“By including customer service goals as a tier of performance in our pay-for-performance/bonus plan, we were able to define and measure minimum service standards. This strengthens our ability to provide impactful, efficient, five-star customer service. We launched the plan this year with expected payout next year if the target is met along with other departmental key performance indicators. County employees are all very excited about this newly enacted plan to drive customer satisfaction and improved service. Each person realizes they play an important part in the plan.”
What Was Learned Along the Way
By making customer service such a big part of their vision and mission, Fulton County learned many things about their organization, customers, and employees. They assessed the customer experience from the perspective of both customer and employee. This allowed them to identify deficiencies that were inhibiting their ability to provide efficient service delivery. “We’ve been able to manage varying experiences across numerous check points, which has helped us eliminate cross-functional disconnects and enrich the customer experience,” says Bailey.
“We learned to empathize with and fully understand the emotional dimensions of what our citizens encounter when they need service. Gaining insight into the unmet needs of our customers through the development of citizen moments has helped us reveal common interactions, behaviors, and breakdowns in processes. Only through identification of the root cause of problems can we improve the process. We are much smarter about what our customers experience now.”
Bailey says one of her most exciting learnings was seeing how employees reacted to the training and the customer service journey. “We were proud to see a genuine desire among employees to provide better service to our customers. They embraced the movement and were motivated by the support from the executives in the organization.”
When asked what advice she would offer others who want to build a culture of service, Bailey responds, “Make the necessary investment to strengthen your organization’s customer service and service delivery options. While providing good service improves customer satisfaction, improving the entire customer experience involves placing your customer at the center of your organizational strategy and tying your organization’s mission to your customer service goals. Improving the customer experience requires a cultural change that represents a new way of doing business. It is critical to invest in your organization and make the necessary changes to your current business practices to fully realize sustained improvement.”
Fulton County is intentional about making customer service excellence a norm. They have made the investment in training, time, and policy to ensure their future: an environment where members of the public, as well as the County’s staff, feel valued.