In order to get buy-in, change must be not only attainable, but sustainable. It is easy to slip back into old habits and do what is comfortable; however, this will not help complete the change. Change must be incremental at first, so the old is not so far away, yet consistent, so small changes make dramatic leaps forward before you know it. The change must also be successful to the customer. The customer must “feel” the change in order to remain positive and make positive comments to staff that are often starved for positive feedback. Sustainable change will become a solid foundation for improvement. Sustainable support from executive management will go a long way towards staff taking the change not only seriously, but also applying it consistently.
Surveying your customers is likely one of the most important things you can embark upon in the development processing system. Customers can be brutally honest if the survey process is confidential and timely. However their feedback often provides clarity on priorities for improvements, bottleneck areas, and generally gives a snapshot about frustrations they have experienced. Yes….you also get positive feedback about what you are doing right, much more than you would expect. Remember though, customer feedback is “perception” of your services. It is up to you to relate that perception to your processing system components and separate angst from reality.
If you have come to the conclusion that changes are needed to improve customer service in the development process, there are some key questions to think about. For example:
- Based upon initial research, are you expecting the changes to the development process to be significant?
- Do anticipated changes involve multiple local city or county departments or agencies?
- Have previous efforts to improve the process failed or did not achieve adequate improvements to service?
Making significant improvements in the development processing system is a very difficult and risky venture from the perspective of the staff members involved in the effort. Staff (and customers) are being asked to change old habits and embrace new ideas for providing information and processing permits or applications. As an individual, you could be leading an improvement team or you may be asked to participate as a contributing team member. So, how can you optimize your participation in the improvement effort? How can you be viewed as a contributing team member?