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Porirua City – customer at the heart

Porirua City’s work to become more agile and focus on its customers took out the runners-up award for the Best Customer-Centric Project at the ALGIM Spring Conference.

The issue

We wanted to be more agile, more innovative, and, most importantly, more customer-focused. We wanted to do more than just change the way we looked – we wanted to take a strategic and holistic approach to brand development: to put our customers at the heart of all we do.

The timeframe

The customer experience work was done in 2016, and the new brand was launched in April 2017, but with a soft launch and gradual rollout, so it’s an ongoing journey as we continue to make customer-centric changes in all our mahi.

How did you go about it?

Before thinking about brand, we took a step back to consider customer experience, as it’s this which ultimately drives reputation and satisfaction. We knew if we could get this right, it would flow seamlessly through all our activities and create a consistent and recognisable Porirua City experience.

To put our customers at the heart of all we do, first we had to understand them, and what was important to them.

So we launched a major customer experience project with four goals:

• To understand the current customer experience;

• To understand the desired customer experience;

• From that, to develop a framework for change; and

• Then to refresh our identity to reflect this.

We ran extensive customer experience workshops with a wide variety of people. We used an agile approach to make sure we could collect quality information in a short timeframe. This was a new, exploratory way of working.

In our workshops, we talked to diverse groups of people – young people, older people, Pasifika and Maori, residents, developers, business people, refugees, disability support groups and our own staff.

The community and council have agreed to four strategic focus areas. One of those is to have children and young people at the heart of our decision-making.

Because of this it was important to us to work with lots of tamariki and rangatahi on this project. We talked to multiple age ranges from 5-25: those in school here or out of the region; those not in education, employment or training; those in the youth justice system; at university; and refugee and migrant children.

We used a range of techniques including in-depth interviews, focus groups, experiential activities, contextual inquiry, surveys and journey maps.

An important part of the work was understanding people’s journeys with council and the city – how and when they engaged with us, and what their needs were at all those different touchpoints.

Central to customer experience is the way people feel. Overwhelmingly, all groups (external and internal) agreed that when dealing with the council people wanted to feel informed, understood and important.

And the over-arching desired customer experience was to be welcoming – reflecting people’s pride in the city, and being natural and authentic.

New, mobile-friendly website that is easy to search and simple for customers to use.

From all of this our framework was built.

External suppliers

Strategy Creative.

The results

We now have a single identity. Porirua City is the brand, not Porirua City Council. We are one city. We changed our logo to reflect this.

We’ve shifted the korero away from council, to focus instead on the city as a whole. It’s not about them and us. We are all part of Porirua City.

We developed guidelines on how we act, how we look and how we sound.

We use friendly, welcoming, simple language in all our communications – our voice is conversational and relatable, not bureaucratic and wordy.

We use colours that reflect the Porirua environment (which people told us they value so much).

We use a soft-edged font that’s easy to read, and doodles to highlight messages – and to add a sense of fun.

We use immersive, first-person images, to make people feel like they’re involved – as they’re part of the picture.

We’re a racially diverse city, and we’re proud of that. Seeing ourselves represented gives us a sense of being seen, heard and valued.

We have a new, mobile-friendly website that is easy to search and makes it simple for customers to find what they need.

We use innovative ways to engage.

We use video to tell our stories.

Our new brand is reflected across all our communications – in correspondence, in our publications, in promoting our city events.

We share our clean, welcoming messages around the city – e.g. on signs, our vehicles, rubbish and recycling bins.

By having a consistent, recognisable look, we show the clear connections between all our services and what rates are spent on.

We have a small ratepayer base, and we need to spend wisely, so we did a soft launch, and the roll out of the new brand is an ongoing journey.

Results and learnings

We are changing from within, as well as externally. By making small changes from within the organisation, the changes will continue to flow outwards.

A crucial part of making this change a success was getting our staff on board, so we ran a programme of workshops with our people to ensure uptake, understanding and excitement.

The change is transforming our city and our organisation.

Our events are more popular than ever.

More and more people are engaging with our website.

Our Facebook page has seen 20 percent growth in 12 months and is the fifth largest, or most liked, local government Facebook page in New Zealand. For a small city of 56,000 we see this as punching above our weight.

We’ve been getting great feedback from customers, and we know this will only increase. As we continue to make customer-centric changes, our customers will continue to feel informed, understood and important. And their trust in us will keep growing.

While feelings and perceptions can be hard to measure – we were really happy to see that this year’s customer satisfaction survey showed a significant increase in satisfaction in the way we’re communicating with our people, with a jump of 10 percent. This clearly shows that our new customer-centric way of interacting with our customers is a success.

Change is a journey, and it’s one that we are excited to be on. By putting our customers at the heart of all we do, we will continue to:

• Improve our customer relationships;

• Make council activities more transparent and improve participation;

• Break down barriers caused by a perception of councils as bureaucratic, intimidating organisations; and

• Strengthen Porirua City’s growing reputation as a welcoming, inviting place to live, work or visit. 

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