One of the most important things a public organization can do is clearly define outcomes to identify for customers and the community what success looks like with the resources and budget available. Inevitably, when an organization defines success and identifies what it will focus on to deliver value, some may disagree with that direction. As leaders, how do we objectively – and respectfully – respond to concerns and pushback from customers or the community for decisions or services made by our leadership team and/or Board of Directors? Through data and clear communication.
While it may sound simple on the surface, data is a critical component in managing pushback. The first step is ensuring quality data. Who is the audience you’re trying to reach? What information are you trying to capture? The second step is having clear communication and sharing the data in a way that allows a constructive discussion.
Read on to hear about how organizations can manage expectations of customers and community members.
With any organization, there will be individuals that disagree with the approach or the outcomes as they have been defined. Several tools exist to gather objective data towards achieving metrics and outcomes of the organization. Customer satisfaction and community value surveys are several methods to gather data of each respective population. In a customer satisfaction survey for example, if customers identify vehicle on-time performance as the most important element of service, an emphasis should be made on identifying and implementing operational changes to improve the on-time performance. We know, as a component of aligning on outcomes, an agency can’t focus on EVERYTHING, it must choose what it wants to be great at, and there will be areas that are impacted by that. An individual may push back on areas impacted by the focus on improving on-time performance. That’s where clear communication comes in.
Using the results of the survey as a foundation for the discussion, listen to the concern of the individual, hear their concern, and then clearly communicate the process the organization uses define the outcomes and gather objective data from an entire population. In the example above, by using a random sampling process to capture the feedback from a representative sample of the population, the results reduce the ability of the “loudest voice in the room” to drive the discussion.
Similarly, if a community member wants the organization to focus on improving environmental sustainability efforts, a community value survey may indicate that the community believes the organization’s greatest area of focus in increasing community value is providing access to places of employment. Through a discussion of the outcomes for the organization – in this case increasing community value – and the data from the survey, the leadership team is well-positioned to communicate the actions the organization is implementing to improve access to places of employment, ultimately resulting in increased community value.