11 Things A Public Sector Social Customer Services Should Have

4040455314_97690b76ea_o

It’s always good to see slow burning success… and even more so when it comes for people who have worked hard on it.

John Fox spent a fair chunk of time at Sheffield City Council on a range of projects and working to get customer services engaged with the social web was one. I helped John wearing my comms2point0 had for a couple of days with this by showing what was possible. The baton has now been taken up after John’s departure which is good to see.

John has moved on to other things but Sheffield City Council has emerged on Twitter and has a dedicated customer services stream. It is early days but shows all the signs of being a success with a human voice.

It’s prompted me to re-blog the customer service post I made a while back and re-issue the reminder to comms teams to demonstrate their worth as a nit by making friends with this service and see how they can work better together – particularly on the social web.

11 things a public sector social customer services stream should have…

Have a dedicated customer services Twitter. Yes, I know your organisation probably has at least one already. But plan with scale in mind. You may be answering three or four a day now. But once your generic enquries email was doing that too. Just as you have different email accounts for different things you need different social accounts for different things too.

It should say when it’ll be monitored. 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday is fine so long as you make that clear. You’ll get more brownie points dealing with things out-of-hours but sometimes this just ain’t possible.

It should be staffed by real people. It should be authentic. Human. It should talk about the weather if it’s raining cats and dogs. That’s fine.

It should speak human. It should talk in a recognizably human way. Like real people do. It shouldn’t talk in jargon.

The actually doing it…

Start the day with a tweet from a real person. Close it the same way, too. Train operator London Midland do this beautifully.

Acknowledge the query. People don’t expect fully formed answers within the hour to complex problems. They know life isn’t always like that. But they do want to know you are on the case. The tweet that says: ‘Thanks for your tweet. Will find out for you’ is fine in the short term.

Get back in 24 hours or less. And make a point of saying this on your Twitter bio.

 Have a few people trained up. Not just one.

Never argue with an idiot, is what my Uncle Keith once told me. How right he was. How much of a web visionary he was, too. If you can help then help but if people shout, swear or troll you are probably better off spending your time answering other queries. Michael Grimes of the Citizenship Foundation’s seminal blogger engagement guide works well.

When in doubt think what you’d do if this conversation was taking place on the telephone. Which, when you think about it, is a lot more tricky than Twitter. You have to talk to people directly in real time. How tricky is that?

Use the channel as two way. Getting a flood of telephone calls about bin collections? Maybe a Twitter update and a piece on the website can help.

Creative commons credit

Help duck https://www.flickr.com/photos/16289690@N00/4040455314/


PRINT TRUTH: ‘Newspapers in print are clearly going away. I think you’re an idiot if you think that’s not happening.’

3377807208_20a6bc04b9_b

Fail to understand the changing landscape and very soon you won’t have a job.

It’s something I’ve been banging on about for some time now and It’s true whether you are a journalist, comms person or a fifth generation pit prop maker in 1983.

A bright person a few weeks ago told me that there would always be newspapers because they’d always be there.

I disagree.

People thought that about coal mines once too.

There’ll always be news but there’ll always be print newspapers? Really?

As the rise of Twitter as a breaking news medium and sites like BBC that’s just not the case.

Here’s an interesting few quotes from John Paton, CEO of Digital First Ventures who own, as their website says, more than 800 print and digital products that reach 57 million customers a month.

If you aren’t taking it from me take it from a news organisation that has a $1.3 billion turnover.

They are quotes that comms people need to know about because they represent more evidence of the seismic change in the media landscape.

But why switch to Digital First as a company name?

“Digital First is my name. I’ve been saying it long before I got here. The name originally was to say very loudly — in a headline kind of way — that what we thought we did in newspapers, we had to change 308550289_b8a4be2d44_odramatically. And that, of course, meant digital first.

“And actually “digital first, print last.” I wanted to hammer home that this idea about the Web as something else we do was ridiculous.”

“The Web was and it should be what we do. Print is something else that we do, which happens — at this moment in time — to have almost all the revenue. But that’s not going to be our future. It was something that I named to try to hammer home that message. It’s kind of funny — I don’t think they have a “digital first” strategy at Google. They have a strategy. The name, hopefully, if we’re successful, becomes very dated.”

On paywalls and digital dimes…

“I don’t think paywalls are the answer to anything. If we’re swapping out print dollars for digital dimes, I think paywalls are a stack of pennies. We might use the pennies in transition to get where we’re going.”

On newspapers going away…

“Newspapers in print are clearly going away. I think you’re an idiot if you think that’s not happening.

3588867138_ec00e587e3_o“I don’t think that news organizations are dying but are newspapers going to stop running in print? Yeah. Absolutely.”

On making the shift…

“I think we still are too afraid to take the kinds of risks we need to take because there’s so much money tied up in print. We have $1.3 billion in revenue. And of $1.3 billion, $900 million is advertising and $165 million of the advertising is digital advertising. Four years ago, that was almost nothing. That $165 [million] is going to have to more than double in three years. To do that, we’re going to have to take some risks on the print side. That’s the one thing that scares the [expletive] out of everybody.

“I love newspapers. I’m a newspaperman. My father was a printer. I started off as a copyboy. I love newspapers. But they don’t love me anymore.”

You can read the whole interview here.

That’s something worth reflecting on.

Creative commons credit 

News stand http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagogeek/3377807208/sizes/l/

Reading http://www.flickr.com/photos/maong/3588867138/sizes/o/


CHANNEL SHIFT: A future for public sector comms in 2013?

3754894091_d721283588_oIt’s always been tricky working out the impact of good communications.

Back in the day, you’d get a big ruler, a sheaf of cuttings and work out column inches.

Then maybe work out who could have read them.

Proudly, you’d boast of how 500,000 would have seen your campaign.

Then everyone would pat themselves on the back.

Only thing is, that nice as that is that just doesn’t prove a hill of beans.

How many turned a page and ignored it?

Add social media into the landscape and things get even more complicated. That niche Facebook page with 200 liking it? A waste of time? Not at all. Not if its the right number for that niche activity.

How do you measure success?

What counts? Likes? Retweets? Twitter followers?
Maybe the number of press releases you wrote or the tweets you sent?

The impact of communications – traditional or digital – must be not the passive audience who glanced at it but what people did as a result of it.

So, in other words, it’s how many people signed up for that course or how many used a web form instead of calling a help desk.

Frustratingly, that means it’s not a universal measurement. Getting 12 people signed-up for basket making session could well be just as much a success as getting 100 to join a library.

But it’s more than that.

One thing that’s always irritated me about measurement – particularly social media measurement – is a the vagueness of the results.

Take Klout. Break the news to your chief executive your organisations’ score is 55 and they’ll more than likely look at you strangely.

Other monitoring that produces a notional number also leaves me cold.

Your rating has gone up by 2.2. So what?

But it could well be that comms people already have the answer to all this right under their noses.

The cost of things counts 

A few years ago, web standards organisation SOCITM did some research into the cost to local government of doing things for residents when they got in contact.

Doing something face-to-face costs £8.62, by telephone £2.83 and the web 15p.

Accountants PWC apparently also did some similar work calculating the cost of local government replying to a letter was around £10.

So maybe one way to evaluate some comms activity was to look at the situation before you got involved and then look at it after.

In other words, helping channel shift, that act of going from the expensive offline to the cost effective online.

Did the number of phonecalls dip? Did the letters fall? Did more people use the web to report it?

ImageUsing a compare and contrast you can come up with a notional sum of money saved.

That’s a figure that really start to  pass the chief executive credibility test.

That’s also a language that officers can understand too.

That could well be the beginnings of an argument not just to better evaluate but critically to help explain and justify the role of communications in the public sector in 2013.

That’s quite a powerful idea.

Further reading

Dr Gerald Power’s white paper for Govdelivery on channel shift which is here.

Creative commons credits

Type http://www.flickr.com/photos/crankypressman/3754894091/sizes/o/in/photostream/


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 839 other followers