Monday, June 13, 2011

Web Managers: Time to Look For a New Job

If I were you, government Web Manager, I’d be lobbying for a new job.  Things have changed over the past 15 years, and I think it’s time for Web Managers to evolve accordingly.

In the mid-90s, when we first became “Web Managers,” the federal government still saw itself as “wholesale, not retail.”  Its customers were intermediaries (state and local governments, nonprofits, and others) who used the funds we gave them to provide services Congress authorized.  Most agency managers didn’t view citizens as their customers. 

But that’s all changed now.  The internet brought citizens to our front doors, and they demanded to see what we’re doing and make sure we’re really delivering the services they pay their taxes to fund. 

Up to now, service delivery channels have been operated independently.  In most agencies, call centers, publications, and websites were run by different organizations; and if there were any coordination at all, it was minimal. 

Now, we understand that customers – particularly citizens who don’t understand, nor care to understand, how government is organized – expect to get the same answer no matter which channel they use to ask the question.  Now, we know that customers often use multiple channels to accomplish their tasks.  Now we know that channels have to be in synch. 

In the past, agencies were only interested in pushing out information - broadcasting.  No two-way street.  Now, we use social media to listen to and talk with our customers.

But look at us.   While all this change is occurring – while our goals are broadening - we’re still “Web Managers.”  That title pins us to one delivery channel:  websites.   It labels us in terms of how we deliver services, instead of what we’re delivering.  And it often gets in our way as we work with agency managers who think it means we’re techies, rather than the content and customer specialists we are.   

Times have changed.  Customer expectations have changed.   We have to change, too.  So, Web Managers, I think it’s time to lobby for a new job:  Customer Service Officer.  I’ve scratched out a little job description to show you what I mean.   Shift from managing one channel to managing customer services through multiple channels. Use the skills and goals you already have, in a broader arena.

Get smart about call centers and publications distribution.  Fold in social media.  Talk to the people who handle walk-in traffic and phone calls in the field offices and figure out what you can learn from them and how you can help them deliver services better.  Work across agencies to look at government services from the customers’ point of view, integrating services and connecting the dots when it helps customer experience.

This isn’t a big stretch.  You've been thinking about customer service for years.  And can help you on your way.

It just doesn’t make sense to have content specialists for each channel.  It makes more sense to have a single set of customer specialists who create content once and deliver it through all the channels customers want to use. 

Yep.  I think it’s time to look for a new job.

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