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Columbus' new customer service program worth looking at here
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 11:00 AM
Potholes, trash collection and deteriorating properties are among issues that hit closest to home; and for many residents, government's response is the measure of success.
Columbus, Ind. is rolling out an online reporting and monitoring program that seeks to assure people that the city is taking their complaints seriously.
It's a program that Madison and all other communities should study and implement.
The Columbus Republic newspaper reports that residents will be able to submit complaints through the city's website or phone apps and track the status of requests until they are corrected. The system will allow for email updates as the request works its way through the city government system.
For example, a complaint made through the system over a damaged traffic sign would automatically be forwarded to the supervisor at the city garage.
The customer would receive a ticket number from the system. As the complaint is assigned to a work crew and as the work is completed, the customer could receive either email updates or could check back on the site with the ticket number to see where the project stands.
Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown told the Republic that she has been pushing for such a system because previously city departments had no standardized way to track such customer complaints and no centralized way to receive and process them.
"This is a big step forward in an overall goal of improving customer service," Brown told the newspaper. "It makes us more responsive, more efficient and accountable."
The mayor said she believes the system also will help to streamline processes behind the scene. Before the system, there was no way to quantify how many complaints were received, how long they took to get resolved or even if anything had been done.
The city also will offer a centralized phone number, where people without computers or smartphones will be able to call in with complaints, Brown said. Those complaints will be entered into the customer service system by city staff during normal working hours.
The response system also will tie into two agencies outside city government: the county code enforcement office for zoning and other land use complaints; and Duke Energy, which handles streetlight repairs.
Customer service is critical for successful local government. The more quickly city officials and workers can respond to problems and complaints, the more likely are residents to feel government is looking after them.
Adopting a system similar to the one Columbus is rolling out would be one way to offer relative easy access and feedback.
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