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Giving the floor to the employees: Working with local government staff on service improvements

Following up on a previous study among entrepreneurs in Amsterdam about their experiences with the service offering from the local government, STBY conducted a series of workshops in each of Amsterdam’s seven district councils. The aim of the workshops was both to present the results of the study to the service employees and to jointly explore opportunities for improvement with them.

The aim of the original study was to investigate how entrepreneurs in Amsterdam experience the service offering from local government, and what in their opinion would be the major points for improvement. Recurring barriers entrepreneurs encounter were found, and for each of these barriers opportunities for improvement were formulated. These results were presented in meetings with the service management team of the city of Amsterdam. It was decided here that the results should be shared and further explored with the people who actually deliver most of the service to entrepreneurs: local council staff. STBY then facilitated a series of workshops in each of Amsterdam’s district councils.

As mentioned above, the workshops served two purposes. First, the employees had to acknowledge the results of the research. In a short presentation the background, methodology and insights were explained. The biggest and most important part of the workshop focused on exploring the barriers entrepreneurs encounter and giving the service employees the opportunity to discuss and formulate suggestions for improvement. This exploration was done step by step, one barrier at a time. Each barrier was first illustrated by a short edited video clip and/ or a customer journey from the research. The employees were then asked to discuss in small groups what, in their opinion, needed to change to overcome this barrier. This could be at a personal level: what could they do to improve this? Or at a management level: what would they need in order to improve this? The strength of using real stories from actual entrepreneurs became obvious again, the employees were able to really step into the shoes of the entrepreneurs to formulate suggestions for improvement.

Although the atmosphere in each district office was different, the suggestions from the employees were surprisingly similar and could be clustered into opportunity areas like “expectation management” or ” training and knowledge sharing”. Within each opportunity area concrete suggestions were also indicated, these were both suggestions on what the employees could do to improve the situation; such as looking if relevant information from the entrepreneur is already available before asking, and suggestions for additional resources employees need; such as a system that provides the history of contacts about a particular case. These opportunities have been summarized in a report and are currently used by the city council and service managers to improve the overall service offering to entrepreneurs. One of the already planned initiatives is a training program which will shortly be given to all employees of the district councils.

This project gave STBY the opportunity to come full circle on service innovation: exploring the barriers customers experience when dealing with the local government, and reviewing the possibilities for improvement with the people actually delivering the services. In this way we jointly built on the employee’s expertise to recognize and engage with opportunities for improvement: this makes it all the more likely that the resulting suggestions firmly connect to their daily work and will actually be picked up.

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