Public works departments ensure that the community's infrastructure — which is seen and used daily by its residents — is maintained and improved regularly. But when residents don’t have visibility into the department’s timelines or processes, it can lead to frustrated community members and a lack of trust.
Rather than having residents wonder when a stormwater project will be scheduled, when a road will be fixed, or when a park will be reopened, investing in quality customer service brings a level of transparency and predictability to a process that many people have never seen before.
So, how can you introduce customer service to your community? Here are five steps you can consider today.
1. Give visibility into your public works projects
By nature, public works services are incredibly visible. When handled transparently, community leaders can show that these projects are helping to improve quality of life — after all, park redesigns, improved transportation, and other local projects are all beneficial once complete.
While projects are underway, it’s important to:
- Use social media to provide real-time updates such as road closures, utility interruptions, and progress of maintenance and repair projects.
- Communicate with residents frequently to keep them informed about current and future public works projects, as well as address any concerns or issues that residents may have.
Source: ARTBA Bridge Report
2. Encourage community involvement and feedback
Because community members are the ones who use public works services, their feedback is essential in improving those services.
- Hold regular community events. These can be used to inform residents about public works services, as well as to gather feedback and suggestions from residents. Community events can also be used to showcase public works projects and highlight the benefits they bring to the community.
- Use surveys and feedback forms to gather feedback from residents about their experiences with public works services. This feedback can be used to identify areas for improvement and make changes to improve the quality of service.
Source: Infrastructure Report Card
3. Enable timely and efficient maintenance and repairs
While maintenance and repairs are necessary to ensure that the community's infrastructure is functioning correctly and is safe for residents to use, it’s important to provide timely and efficient work to minimize impact on residents’ lives.
- Prioritize emergency repairs. Public works officials should have a system in place to respond quickly to emergency repair requests, such as water main breaks or sinkholes. Responding quickly to emergency repair requests can help prevent accidents and reduce the disruption to residents' daily lives.
- Communicate repair and maintenance status so that residents are aware of when a project is expected to be complete, and why the project is important for the community. Without these communications, public works projects can be seen as nuances versus essential services being performed for the overall safety and well-being of the local residents.
Source: USA Facts
4. Invest in technology
Technology can be used to improve communication, streamline processes, and provide better service delivery.
- Electronic permitting software makes it easy to stay organized, keep your team on track, and know which projects you have ongoing and the status of each. Having this information at your fingertips makes it easier to navigate conversations with the community and plan for future projects.
- Use technology such as sensors and monitoring systems to detect issues before they become significant problems. This can help prevent accidents and reduce the time and cost of repairs.
- Invest in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). GIS can be used to map public works infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and water treatment facilities. This can help public works officials identify areas that need maintenance or repair, as well as plan for future projects.
5. Measure the success of your customer service improvements
It’s important to make sure that any customer service improvements you make are measured to ensure they are effectively helping your department and improving resident satisfaction.
- Customer satisfaction surveys are an easy way to gather feedback from residents about their experiences with public works services. This feedback can be used to identify areas for improvement and make changes to improve the quality of service.
- Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs), such as repair response times or the number of potholes repaired during a designated time period, can help public works officials identify areas for improvement and make changes to improve the quality of service.
Improve customer service with third-party support
Many times, customer service is a priority for communities, but lack of staffing and/or funding makes it difficult for community leaders to provide the level of support that is expected by local residents and businesses.
At SAFEbuilt, we specialize in community infrastructure development and services, including civil engineering, permitting, inspections, and more. With local expertise and the backing of a national company, we have the staff on hand to inform your project, keep timelines moving, and make projects more seamless and less disruptive to your community.
Ready to see how we can help improve community relationships?