Constituent Engagement, State and Local Government

Empowering Citizen Experience with Social Media

AdobeStock_100514523Citizens expect the same level of customer service and great customer experience when interacting with public sector organizations that they receive with private sector companies. Government has made great strides in improving their citizens’ digital experiences but there is still room for improvement. The stakes are especially high for government run public transit organizations who rely on fares to maintain these services. The service levels for public transportation are especially critical now that citizens have more transit options than ever before, such as taxis, ride sharing companies like Uber, and the environmentally friendly CitiBike.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is no stranger to this reality. After experiencing negative feedback and a lull in service, the department decided to completely revamp their customer service strategy from a reactive to a proactive model in the hopes of improving citizen engagement and satisfaction with their services.

At the 2016 Customer Experience Summit, Kim Scott Heinle, the Assistant General Manager of Customer Service and Advocacy at SEPTA, discussed three segments of customer service that the organization needs to keep in mind.

  • Internal service: Putting a great team together and supporting that group with the resources and tools they need to succeed – you need a skilled and happy team before you can do anything else.
  • Riders: SEPTA needs to be able to make sure the citizens that use the public transit system feel their needs are understood and addressed.
  • Tax payers: Since SEPTA is a government run public transit system, it is funded by all city tax payers. Therefore even the satisfaction of the population in southeastern Pennsylvania that does not use public transit is still important.

The SEPTA team realized that a key component of improving customer experience is first improving customer engagement. According to Heinle, like SEPTA before its transformation, many government organizations are nervous to engage with citizens via social media. They push content out but do not respond or engage with the citizens who are trying to interact and start a conversation. In 2008, SEPTA opened up the dialogue between itself and its citizens by creating multiple social media channels and hiring trained social media specialists. SEPTA runs a general Twitter handle for information and inquiries, another handle for safety tips, and an overarching SEPTA services handle for general news. The organization also manages 25 individual Twitter accounts for each bus, trolley, rail, and subway route that delivers real-time information about status updates to customers on the channels they are already using.

The main @SEPTA_SOCIAL Twitter account has over 18,300 followers and 145,000 tweets, most of which are direct responses to customer inquiries. By creating a system of direct response accessible via social media, SEPTA is establishing a feeling of good will and loyalty in the community as citizens know their needs and concerns are understood and addressed. Once a complaint is received, SEPTA tries to get the issues resolved on the first contact with the customer; but in the 8% of issues that can’t be resolved on first contact, the appropriate professional will follow-up to address their problem— even if that means a director calling the individual personally. SEPTA has developed a bond with its customers and a reputation of great service by establishing channels that meet customers where they are and promoting the two-way flow of communication. Should any concerns arise, citizens are confident that they will be addressed and resolved in a timely manner.  Ultimately, they know that their voices are heard enough for real change to occur.

A great starting point to improving customer experience is to better understand the customers themselves, but surveys and research only go so far. Compiling all the citizen data you already have in one place can offer a holistic view of your customer and help your agency fully understand customers’ wants and needs. The right tool can streamline this process and help you easily make sense of all the data.

The Adobe Marketing Cloud is a comprehensive suite of solutions that offers analytics, social, advertising, targeting, and web experience management tools. The real-time dashboard brings together everything you need to know about your agency’s engagement and social campaigns to deliver the ideal experience every time. The Adobe Marketing Cloud enables users to optimize social engagement with deep insight into customers to better tailor content and campaigns to suit unique needs.

Learn more about how Adobe Marketing Cloud can help your agency establish relationships with citizens:

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