Walk the HEART Talk


Hard to believe, but we’re coming up on four years since we started our Customer Experience Initiative and spread the message of serving with HEART. Since it was rolled out, I’ve been delighted at how fired up people get about it, making decorations, coming up with departmental recognition, sharing Positive Experiences and so on.

That’s great. That’s how we keep the HEART spirit alive. 

I want us to build on that enthusiasm and really see HEART seep into every aspect of what we do. This effort has always been about building a culture. Making exceptional customer service simply the County way of life. Ingrained in how we work, so deeply that as years go by and new employees come on board, they immediately sense the expectation, see our actions and follow suit.

We can memorize what HEART stands for (you can rattle off the five qualities, right? Here's a refresher). But are we living it day to day, person to person?

One thing we’ve stressed with HEART is taking a really broad view of who our customers are and what customer service is. Traditionally, the picture that comes to mind is helping someone who comes to one of our counters somewhere. Without a doubt, that’s still a big part of it. Service with a smile means a lot.

But that’s just the start. We’re there to make it as easy as possible for them to get through a process. We need to be applying HEART to every step. Being pleasant, patient and Respectful when interacting with customers. Dedicated and demonstrating Expertise in helping them toward success.  

If we need to send them to another division or department, how are we making sure the handoff goes smoothly? That they’re not dropped in transition or sent in circles? Did we follow up to confirm they got what they needed? Creating a positive customer experience means not just getting our particular task done but making sure customers reach their goal.  

This is the wider view of HEART. It goes beyond the personal attention to the customer to things like looking at processes themselves. It might be as simple as rewriting a set of instructions so they’re easier to understand or as big as revamping a case management system. To borrow a business term, HEART can scale.

And if we look at improving efficiencies, are we always considering whether a change is better for the customer, not just easier for us? Ideally, a process improvement does both, but not necessarily. This is especially important to keep in mind any time we take advantage of technology. It can do wondrous things, but its ultimate success has to be measured in customer satisfaction.   

For many of our customers, a website is their County experience. Is yours Helpful and Attentive to your customers’ needs? Does it put the things people want most often front and center? Is it written as plainly and simply as you would talk to people in person? Is it organized how customers might think, not according to our bureaucracy? Those of you who work on websites may never interact with the public, but you’re directly involved with delivering an exceptional experience.

As we challenge ourselves on living out HEART principles in all things, I ask that you always consider your fellow County employees as customers as well. An essential feature of the culture we’re building is that our co-workers deserve the full HEART treatment.   

No one here operates independently. We depend on a whole chain of people for anything we do. And each of us is a link in the chain of our colleagues’ work. It all links back to the public, so we’ll only be as good for them as our support is for each other.

Our internal rules and processes can be complicated, and just because someone is an employee doesn’t  mean they’ll automatically understand them. Show the same care and offer the same guidance with your co-workers as you would with the public.

Speak their language. Every line of work here has terms and acronyms that mean nothing to others. You’ll build inclusion when you avoid tossing out words that other employees are unlikely to understand.

And just communicate overall. Give people updates or heads up on things so they can plan accordingly. Be Timely in replying to mails or calls. If you’re slammed, at least acknowledge you got the message and will get to it.

Researchers have found a close link between internal customer service and how external customers see the quality of our services. Show your fellow employees HEART, and it makes its way back to the public.

HEART is a byword, but it also evokes the center: putting the customer experience at the heart of everything we do. Truly living HEART, in all ways, with all customers, is how we’ll get there.