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Voice of the Customer- Improving Your Community Outreach

Posted May 1, 2012 8:33 AM by Dylan Miyake

The phrases "Citizen Outreach" and "Voice of the Customer" have been popular topics over the past few weeks. The trend started at an Alliance for Innovation Conference in Kansas City.

This conference featured a number of municipal governments talking about current issues with a particular focus on how they are connecting to and engaging their citizens.

One city started their presentation by saying that long ago, town hall meetings were lively affairs. They had a picture of a small riot near City Hall and said everyone wanted to know where their tax dollars were going. Then, over time, the crowd dwindled down to nearly nothing. Just a couple years ago, they presented the budget to an empty room, aside from a reporter and a cub-scout group hoping to see government at work.

This was a turning point. The city decided that they needed community input but could not expect the community to come to them anymore. So they began to actively engage the community via social media (facebook, twitter, surveys, etc), traditional media like newspapers and radio, and even going door to door in some neighborhoods to understand the issues that mattered to citizens and how the city could respond. The city leadership admitted that while they had been working on the same problems for years, the citizens provided very practical new ideas.

In the next case, we have been working with a healthcare organization that is refreshing their strategic plan using the Voice of the Customer (VOC). Rather than building the plan in isolation, they are actively engaging their clients and community stakeholders in the visioning process. They are asking what their community expects and what real success should look like. As a part of these interviews, we have heard how rare it is that strategic plans are developed in conjunction with peer organizations input. This organization is even going a step further and looking for shared objectives and shared measures of success. From a facilitators view, this is really cool. Each organization will be able to talk about shared value creation and will also be able to hold each other responsible for critical parts of their shared strategy.

And then this morning, I had the opportunity to work with a nonprofit that specializes in translations. This organization's Executive Director is making a big push to involve her board in tough decision making. In preparation for the retreat, she has been spending a great deal of time identifying the community trends that are accelerating her organization's growth.

Because the trends are indicating even greater need for her organization's services going forward, she wants everyone to be aware of possible stressors as well as pinch points so that they can best guide her growth and investments going forward.

Each of these organizations is taking outreach seriously. They are doing more than simply informing; they are actively listening and engaging their community and partners. In the healthcare organization's case, they are even using shared objectives and metrics to ensure patients are receiving the best care. All of this outreach builds excitement, generates fresh ideas, and really increases community engagement so that lonely cub scout group can see real democracy in action!

Filed Under Community Outreach