Customer-centricity and contact information

Örebro was the first among Swedish municipalities to publish their employees’ detailed contact information on their website. The information includes the name of the employee, as well as their occupation, where in the organisational hierarchy they hold their position, telephone number, e-mail, office address, mailing address and a fax number.

The public consider it a good service to be able to find a telephone number to the person their question concerns. It is especially useful when they have an established business relation to the person, but do not for one reason or another have their contact information at hand.

The municipality are in a transition period where their customer and citizen service centre is being developed into a one stop centre. The new service plattform (or a “service surface”) combining telephone, digital and physical meetings is to launch during the period of autumn 2013 and the turn of the year. The removal of the possibility to find your contact’s information online is being considered.

There are several obvious advantages to the public having access to the telephone number or an e-mail address in order to get their question answered or a case taken care of. But one of the problems that the Communications department at the municipality of Örebro found lies in that the employees whom the public ring to are in many reported cases unavailable for telephone calls. As of last year, around 50 per cent of telephone calls went unanswered, which isn’t very uncommon among the Swedish municipalities. If the public choose to e-mail a person by their e-mail address, there is also no way for them to find out whether the person is available or say on paternal/maternal or sick leave.

While the openness and transparency contributes to a better customer experience (“Hey, I didn’t need to ring the local authority, I found whom I shall contact online all by myself!’), it is rather illogical to let the public waste their time waiting for the reply when the person they have contacted is unavailable. They end up contacting a customer service centre with the same question several days later. A question that might as well have been answered by a customer service representative in less than five minutes.

One of the arguments for keeping the contact information on the website is that it is the possibility for the municipality to be customer-centric. The curious thing is that it is exactly the argument for removal of the contact information from the site.

Customer-centricity (or client-centredness—whatever you choose to call it) is not, I believe, about feeding your clients with different kinds of information and smearing it by making it searchable. Customer-centricity is about focusing on the needs of your customers and looking for ways to make their contact with your business quick and efficient.

For further reading on the progress with the development of service plattform in the municipality of Örebro, I would like to invite you to read Örebro’s blog Enklare Vardag (in Swedish), which can be translated as “A Simpler Everyday”.

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