ViewPoint Webinar: Building A Customer-Centric Approach to Service Delivery

Building a Customer-Centric Approach to Service Delivery [webinar]

The first of our Year of the Citizen webinars, Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole and New Urban Mechanics Co-founder Nigel Jacob joined us for a conversation about how to approach “customer service” in 21st century local government. Drawing on their personal experiences in the civic tech hubs Santa Monica and Boston, Cole and Jacob share their practical philosophies for how to bring innovative, customer-centric technology to local government—even those with few resources to spare. Touching on several audience questions, they also share practical strategies for viewers to start implementing in their own communities today.

Watch the entire webinar here or watch the segmented sections below to learn more about improving the state of technology and customer-service in the public sector.

Webinar & Speaker Introductions

Speaker Presentations

Understanding ‘Customer-centric’ Service in 21st Century Local Government | Rick Cole


  • Look to the private sector to understand how government must adapt to new technological trends
  • The public sector “monopoly” on services is an illusion
  • Taxpayers compare their customer-service experiences with the private sector to their experience with local government

A Digital Strategy Example in Santa Monica | Rick Cole


  • It’s important for everyone in an organization to adopt the customer-centric approach
  • Leaders need to demonstrate their commitment to customer service and progressive technology
  • Combining a digital marketing strategy with a customer-centric approach can help governments change public behavior

Using Data to Create a Customer-centric Digital Strategy | Rick Cole


  • Use centralized data to start treating citizens like customers
  • The importance of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems
  • Use data-driven tactics for your digital strategy

The Story of New Urban Mechanics | Nigel Jacob


  • NUM was created in Boston with the idea that local governments can be innovative with technology
  • The mission of the NUM team is to figure out how to deliver value to our residents and make their lives better

New Urban Mechanics Projects in Action | Nigel Jacob


  • NUM began by creating a “best-of-breed” customer relationship management app for Boston
  • Treated the creation of the app like a private-sector product
  • Ended up encompassing internal employees and unexpectedly helped “give a face” to government bureaucracy

Audience Q & A

Question: How can you introduce the customer-centric approach with short-staffed departments? | Rick Cole & Nigel Jacob


  • If residents don’t see value in public sector services they’ll stop investing in them and we’ll have even less resources. Commit to providing excellent services, no excuses.
  • If you’re short-staffed, get creative in finding cheap or free resources and cutting costs.
  • Find high-impact areas, prototype, and then scale.

Question: How do you effectively deploy technology that will serve many different generations? | Nigel Jacob


  • Think critically about who you are trying to serve and not assume they will respond to technology in the same ways
  • Think about multiple ways to deliver the same services to different ‘market segments’

Question: How can you change your community’s self-image around technology? | Nigel Jacob & Rick Cole


  • Local governments can start changing public expectations by committing to excellence
  • Start building products and services that people actually want to use
  • Benchmark progress against private sector entities with the best customer experience

Question: How do you train managers without UX (user experience) backgrounds to be more ‘customer-centric’?| Rick Cole & Nigel Jacob


  • Develop a learning culture in every level of your organization
  • Don’t compare yourselves to peer governments, but to private sector service providers
  • UX (user experience) is putting yourself in the shoes of the people you’re serving

Question: How can open data programs comply with citizen-centric thinking? | Rick Cole & Nigel Jacob


  • Look at open data programs as part of a larger public engagement process
  • City of Boston working with libraries to instill a culture around open data
  • City of Santa Monica hosts ‘Hack the Beach’ contest, and partner with winners to develop product

Question: Does Boston or Santa Monica use a CRM product to improve communication between departments? | Rick Cole & Nigel Jacob


  • Start with the developing a culture around data-sharing
  • Experiment and test out a CRM, and then learn from your experience and adjust accordingly

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