When I was a teen-ager, my father always used to say that if you’re talking on the phone for more than 10 minutes, you should just write a letter. I laugh at that thought these days, because in order to stay in touch with my godson and nephew, I have to text them on their cell phones. In sense, I am writing them a letter…on the phone.
My point here is that how we communicate with each other has changed greatly over the last few decades. For local governments, the challenge is no longer just to determine what messages need to be communicated, but also to think about how these messages are being delivered. The mix of communication modes that local governments chose to use to put information out as well as take information in is important. Not only do local governments want to provide some degree of diversity in communicating with their constituents as part of their customer service as well as communication/public information goals, but they also need to consider the costs associated with those different communication modes. Generally speaking, for example, services that can be moved online cost less to administer than those that require a staff person take the information face-to-face.
Local government 311/CRM systems have a role to play in helping community leaders think through what the ideal mix of communication modes being used should be. Not only do 311/CRM systems provide critical data for understanding what services citizens are requesting, but most also track how those requests are being received and how long it takes to address those requests.
Consider the list of common communication modes in use now:
- Walk-in traffic
- Phone calls
- Web chats
- Mobile applications
- Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc)
- Phone self-service
- Web self-service
In an ideal world, what percentage of citizen contacts is made using each of these communication modes in your local government? What would be the ideal percentage for each mode? Are there strategies your local governments can use to encourage citizens to use a more cost effective communications mode, such as web self-service or mobile applications? What information can be pushed out to citizens through e-mail or social media so citizens don’t need to make a phone call? While 311/CRM systems are primarily about improving local government customer service, they can also inform local government communication and information plans and provide a means for citizens to connect with their local government no matter which communication mode used.