Asking our community what they want set the baseline for a better way forward

7 February, 2023Posted in: Corporate Affairs

Lady relaxing on stool outside house under construction

Bringing our 2023 Community Satisfaction Survey forward to October 2022 was a way of gaining clear insight to what people want, and where we need to improve our customer experience, while Council is updating our Community Engagement Strategy and Community Strategic Plan. Feedback from focus groups points to practical services such as waste management, where residents are very satisfied, while the need to work on our communication and community involvement in decision making, came through loud and clear.

Council is already in the process of implementing solutions to the key points that emerged as being in need of improvement.

According to Micromex Consultant Stu Reeve, who conducted a broad-reaching Community Satisfaction Survey, “Across the category we’re seeing a rise in dissatisfaction and that’s to be expected due to problematic natural events and hardships people have experienced over this period, added to the uncertainty of the Council being in administration.”

The purpose of bringing this research forward was to fully understand what is working for people and what we need to put in place to strengthen satisfaction levels as we formulate a fresh approach to the way we do things.

“Until July of 2022 our focus was necessarily the public inquiry. As we look to the future, we felt it was important to bring this survey forward to inform our approach to meeting the expectations of the community,” said Lisa Miscamble, General Manager of Wingecarribee Shire Council. “We are one year into a three year re-build, and while many positive changes have already been made, there is much still to be done and we want to be sure things take shape in a way that residents can feel satisfied with.”

New improvements to practical concerns such as waste management ranked highly in results, along with support for our senior citizens, local libraries, and water services.

Recent stressors resulted in support for local businesses, employment opportunities and tourism initiatives, emerging as strong drivers of satisfaction.

“Improving on our communication and engagement has been a priority, highlighted by the previous year’s survey results,” Lisa said. “We introduced a new role of Place Liaison Officer dedicated to communicating with our diverse village communities, and increased community consultation while creating more opportunities for people to participate in the decision-making process. The community told us they wanted more of a Council presence out in their communities, so we rolled out a new pop-up in January as a connect point you’ll see more of in 2023.”

A series of focus groups to inform updates to Council’s Community Engagement Strategy were run in tandem with the Community Satisfaction Survey, as a start point for future improvement. “We want to get this right and this is a step in the direction of knowing what the most meaningful outcomes will be, for us to strive toward.” Lisa said. “We asked people to share any good experiences they’d had with Council, the challenges they’ve been frustrated by.”

Among key points:

– People expressed frustration with ‘getting through to the right person.
Aware of the need to simplify this, we are in the process of growing our customer service team and upgrading CRM systems and processes.

– Older people are finding it stressful to get hold of information, an experience not limited to Council as the world has made a rapid transition to the digital space.
Sensitive to these needs, Council have made free workshops available to help people improve their digital skills and confidence while stepping-up paper notices.

– People have lost faith that ‘their say’ has an impact on decisions.
Council has increased community engagement around strategic planning so people participate in the way their place takes shape.

– Some felt we let ourselves down by not telling them about the good things Council does.
An improved e-news launched in January, providing weekly news updates, and good news stories are now appearing in local cinemas and other media.

– There is call for simplified, single page fact sheets or ‘plans on page’
New templates have already been developed as part of our new brand look, feel and voice.

“These are some of the ways we’re making progress in the top three areas people want to see improvement, Straight-forward and timely customer service, a more user friendly website and systems, and accessible information in a simplified format across a variety of platforms.”

Additional focus groups are planned for mid to late March 2023, reflecting the importance Council places on improving our community engagement and satisfaction.