In just the past few years, we as consumers have become accustomed to easily connecting online and being treated in highly individualized ways. The fact that you’re reading this article means that you’re likely someone who is connected to the Internet virtually every waking hour. And every time you look at your Netflix favorites and recommendations before deciding what evening movie you might like, click on an address in your calendar to find directions, or use Facebook to share a selfie you just took, you benefit from technology-enabled personalization. This is the CRM revolution coming to you at home, to your individual life. This is how we all live now.
Our expectations as consumers have evolved to the point where we want the benefits of personalization in every aspect of our lives, not just with respect to the companies we buy from. We want personalization from the government agencies we interact with, the charities we support, and the organizations that employ us. And they are starting to take notice. Customer-focused personalization enables more efficient and effective interactions, which is music to the ears of public entities.
One thing governments are doing is adopting mobile and online technologies to help their citizens interact with them more efficiently. For instance the SeeClickFix app in the U.S. and the FixMyStreet app in the U.K. allow citizens to report problems with streets and roads, leapfrogging the need for a “311” phone-response system, and empowering small towns as well as large cities to hear from and interact with citizens directly.
One of this year’s Gartner & 1to1 Media Customer Experience Excellence Award winners in service excellence is none other than the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Its social media program allows account managers to track hundreds of tweets each day from residents about community issues, and to share real-time information on police activities. NYPD created more than 100 Twitter accounts in order to enable personalized, two-way dialogue, serving the specific needs of different communities around individual precincts, housing developments, and transit hubs.
Something businesses and public organizations alike are finding is that in order to do a better job serving their customers (or their citizens, constituents, or donors), they have to do a better job orienting their own employees to their customers’ perspectives. The NYPD trains its officers on social media guidelines, and on how to shift the tone of conversations and culture toward positive community engagement. “We’ve gone from a culture of ‘no,’ ‘don’t,’ and ‘you shall not,’ to ‘yes’ and ‘you shall’,” says Deputy Commissioner Zachary Tumin.
And Cigna, a 2013 Gartner & 1to1 Media Award winner, has adopted a consumer-oriented vocabulary among its own employees, urging them to use simple, straightforward words rather than the kind of jargon that develops inside most companies. Rather than saying “copay,” they now say “you pay,” and rather than “formulary,” they say “drug list.” They’ve stopped referring to “patient liability” and just say “the amount you need to pay.” Rather than “submitted charges,” they refer to the “amount billed.”
If these examples just sound like businesses and government organizations trying to be more human and accessible, it’s because they are. The customer revolution requires organizations to demonstrate their humanity in all areas of the organization, in order to interact personally with human customers or do business with less friction. And this applies whether these organizations are business entities, government agencies, or any other type of group.
We’re all customers, now. Citizens, constituents, employees, we’re all customers.