Local Government Magazine

Social media expert issues wake-up call

Spark Digital principal solutions specialist John Pratt is warning that local government is falling far out of step with the way community members want to engage with their councils.

He says local authorities need to communicate in customers’ media of choice if they’re going to have any show of meeting their expectations.
According to John, very few if any local authorities are up to play with social media. And it is “arrogant and disingenuous” to make people have to phone their council for service.
He says local bodies need to lift their game fast and could learn much from retail companies that have already adapted to engaging with customers in multiple ways.
John is a keynote speaker at ALGIM’s 2015 Customer Service Symposium in Palmerston North later this month.
“Consumers have spent about $3.5 billion over the past six years equipping themselves to do anything but make a phone call,” he says.
“You can buy a phone that makes and takes calls for under $50 but the average price that people pay for a cellphone is $565. So many consumers are paying a $510-odd premium but we’ve not seen local authorities invest in communicating with people on those other channels.”
John says that if a consumer has spent a grand on an iPhone, they expect to be able to use it as they choose.
“So don’t tell them they’re going to have to make a phone call just because you’re the council. That’s arrogant and disingenuous.”
He urges councils to think differently about how they manage communication with people.
“The objective of a lot of businesses now is to say that every interaction with a customer must be socially reference-able.
“A lot of businesses now are less focused on call handling and call queue-time. They’re focused on delivering happy outcomes to engage customers.”
As a plus point, John adds that using digital media is generally a lot cheaper than traditional methods of handling contact via phone calls.
“An agent can handle three or four emails in the same time they could manage one call.
“So pick the media of their choice, make sure customers are happy, and focus less on conventional battery-hen statistics such as time-to-answer, speed of answer and average call times.”
John is a leader within the Spark thought leadership team, specialising in retail services and social media.
He is talking about the engagement economy at ALGIM’s 2015 Customer Service Symposium.
The symposium, which is being held at the Palmerston North Convention Centre from September 21 to 22, focuses on ultra-fast customer service.

Local Government Magazine’s October 2015 issue will carry more ideas from John Pratt.

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