We know how difficult it can be to unite silos within your own organization; now imagine you had to unite silos across 17 different state agencies! That’s right, when your customers are the employees within a group of government agency partners, you’ve got a lot of work cut out for you. Today, we’ll hear from William Chumley, the Chief Customer Officer for the Governor’s Office of Information Technology for the state of Colorado. He’s been uniting leaders, the C-Suite, and silos across 17 executive branch agencies, in efforts to improve IT functions and streamline CX for the agencies that serve Colorado’s citizens.
3 Steps to Initiating A CX Communication Strategy
To provide some background context, William explains that he came into this role about 8 years ago, when IT was newly consolidated into the governor’s central office in Colorado. In order to provide IT support the various government branches, the state of Colorado decided to consolidate IT into one division. While in this relatively new role, William had to define his position and define what IT contributed to the overall B2B customer experience between agencies. It was time for the IT division to seriously consider how to improve their customer service and experience — they needed to get back to the basics. And how did William kick off this work? He shares some of the steps taken within his first year on the job:
- Combine observation with external research. If you’re the B2B provider, figure out if you can take a journey in the shoes of the customer (and previous guests on the show truly attest to this method!). Experience what it’s like on the receiving end of the service. William previously worked at one of these government agencies and knew what the IT experience was like, so he had first-hand experience with some of the aspects of the work that needed improvement; he knew some of the information gaps that directly impacted customers.
Additionally, William found this study from North Highland that gave him some guidance in terms of streamlining internal processes within a fragmented structure. Since he wanted to conduct surveys across the silos and multiple departments to determine what the focus should be, he used some of the research he found to help determine what type of questions to ask for surveys he wanted to disseminate across the agencies.
- Determine your positioning and communicate the story. As the IT CCO, William needed to communicate the division’s role to the other agencies. He wanted them to understand how IT can help them best serve their customers (this was also an important relationship building step). A portion of this work was consistently communicating that IT was forming a commitment to the agencies to deliver and promise services, and putting together a plan of action. He didn’t want his office to come across as a vendor, he had to stress the importance of partnership.
- Form supportive partnerships. I always say, know who to dance with – be sure you have an ally in this work, and William set out to do just that. William sought out his direct peers across the agencies he works with and formed a cross-state team to hold monthly meet-ups to discuss items on their agendas.
Ensure Role Clarity and Simplicity Across Organizations
Around the 2-year mark, after William spent more time working together with his team and agency partners, they started to flesh out agency roadmaps to clarify roles and communication processes. Here’s a quick overview of how they began that process:
- Streamline the process by communicating with the right people. Given that IT communicated with multiple state agencies, one of the first steps was to determine who should be communicating with whom based on internal positions. William and his team created a map to facilitate a communication strategy and determine a chain of command for problem-solving and/or escalating issues.
- Empower your team. William got all of the IT directors together to ensure they understood their role and knew that they would be responsible for communicating the unified IT voice to the agencies. Ensure everyone is aligned with what the major issues are and how to create the solutions to them.
- Document the process. We can’t forget how important documentation is when it comes to implementing a new strategy! And not only documenting processes but creating a vision. William and his team created a service level commitment document to have consistent guidelines on what should be measured, promised, and delivered to the customer. This sort of serves as a basic internal mission statement. They put this mission into action by looking at we promise and deliver without even thinking about it.
Additionally, William and his team developed a “one view dashboard” for each agency to pull in top three priority objectives, three top issues, and metrics that could be reported on. This included anything a specific agency wanted reported on, on one sheet of paper, so the leaders could have something to start their conversation around.
- Hire the right people. Within these first two years, be sure to focus on hiring the right people and maybe move people who weren’t the right fit for their specific role into something else. Spend time learning how to balance both soft skills and the “X” skills in order to be more efficient.
William and I also discuss the importance of earning your right to have a seat at the table. Since the IT teams dedicated 1-2 years developing a communications strategy and roadmaps, more trust began to develop between these agency partners. With this progress and increased trust, William was able to dive deeper into the work with the agency partners. For instance, he worked with them to find out what they were spending on IT, what the outcomes were, and what could be done to improve efficiency. Ultimately, William and his team spent time earning the trust of your customers.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
- The biggest thing I learned is that it’s not a one-time effort. Year one was like a checklist; I thought we just do all of the things necessary to move the needle and then you’re done. But then you realize there are higher expectations and more work to be done.
- I have also realized that the results are long-term and you might not see them right away. You’re going to see them as like, an ‘aha’ moment, a year later.
- Also, all of a sudden, something can change and you have to stay strong and keep fighting. This work is really challenging. Often our teams are the only ones doing it because everybody else is caught in the day to day and they can’t see the strategic; so it’s important to stay hopeful and keep fighting.
About William Chumley
William Chumley joined OIT (Office of Information Technology) in 2011, bringing with him 23 years of team management and customer relationship accomplishments in public and private sectors, small and large profit and not-for-profit organizations, and corporate and personal environments.
As Chief Customer Officer, William drives continual improvement in customer satisfaction and overall service excellence, helping OIT achieve a 31 percent increase in key measures. His team created Five-Year Roadmaps for each client agency, leading to stronger alignment between program and OIT objectives and the establishment of a Technology Advancement Fund to help reduce statewide technology debt and enable innovative use of new tools.
It takes a lot of work to be a CCO, especially one who’s uniting silos across multiple facets of an organization. I’d love to hear from any CX leaders who handle similar work on a global scale. How did you handle the challenge?
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