Connecting state and local government leaders

A Municipal Innovation Priority: People Want Information And ‘They Want It Now’

Philadelphia City Hall

Philadelphia City Hall LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES /


Connecting state and local government leaders

Rosetta Carrington Lue, Philadelphia’s chief customer experience strategy, innovation and technology officer, discusses principles of the customer service experience.

Among municipal Twitter feeds, the city of Philadelphia’s @Philly311 is among the most active across the local government digital landscape.

Within the span of a few hours on Thursday, it relayed information about the Parks and Recreation Department’s Summer Meals program, how to report graffiti , where to find food trucks , where to register for the Philadelphia Marathon and linked to a city-produced day-in-the-life video featuring a neighborhood liaison .

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for Philly311’s fountain of municipal information, which is dispatched to city residents and others from the city’s integrated customer service center hub  via various communications channels.

In February, Philadelphia City Hall celebrated the completed implementation of its expanded 3-1-1 customer service system , which was part of $120 million Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration targeted for capital investment projects to upgrade the city’s technology infrastructure.

When Nutter took office in 2007, the city lacked any sort of centralized 3-1-1 non-emergency customer call center operation and quickly got such a system off the ground.

For the most recent expansion, which includes better ways to track customer service requests and is built on Salesforce’s cloud-based platform, Philadelphia City Hall worked with Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-based Unisys to design and implement the 3-1-1 system improvements.

“When I came into office, I made it a priority to enhance transparent and efficient government, increase integrity, build better open data practices and improve government accountability,” Nutter, who will leave office in January 2016, said in this past February’s announcement. “We want to empower people and work with Philadelphians to get done the creative and sustainable solutions to quality of life and government related issues that citizens care most about.”

It also comes down to some simple communications management principles.

Municipal governments may harness a lot of important local information, but local governments must effectively figure out different ways to connect residents and relevant stakeholders to that information when they want it and when they need it most.

That’s easier said than done, of course. But cracking the code of effective municipal communication is definitely an important example of civic innovation in action.

“So we have to move away from how we think about traditional government, how we service folks, how we meet their demands, to the fact that today, people want information, they want it now, they want it accurate and want it on their time,” Rosetta Carrington Lue, chief customer experience strategy, innovation and technology officer, says in a recent Philly311 video on civic innovation. “So innovation is part of this process. How do we become innovative in what we do?”

And what’s an important part of the process? Effectively harnessing and learning from customer feedback. “Bottom line: When you do collect feedback, you need to do something with it,” she says in a separate video .


Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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