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The following is an op-ed by Mayor Curtatone originally published July 15th, 2011 in the Somerville News. For up-to-date data on how departments are performing, please follow the links on the right-hand sidebar.

If you paid a company thousands of dollars a year each and every year, you naturally would expect to get attentive customer service as part of the transaction. After all, you are a good customer. That company ought to place a high value on your patronage.

City government is no different. If you live in Somerville, you either pay local taxes directly or through your rent. You get a lot for those taxes – schools, roads, public safety, parks, public records, etc. Yet it is still a sizable chunk of money. In the business of municipal government, you are the customer and you deserve high quality customer service.

One of my main initiatives as Mayor has been to improve customer service at City Hall. We added the 311 information line to collect and track work orders from the public. We have our SomerStat office measuring the performance of the departments that provide service to our customers, like public works.

Yet we can do better and we are going to do better. Starting this summer, the City of Somerville will debut a new program based on our ACE customer service methodology. The letters stand for accurate, courteous and easy. It is the methodology we use to serve you, our customers. It should be easy to get in touch with the City. We should give you accurate information. And we should be courteous.

As part of the ACE initiative we will be putting our customer performance online. Starting in August you will be able to see how well our public works department is fulfilling the work orders submitted to it. Our on-time performance and an extensive list of the different types of work orders we have received will be part of the public record.

You also will be able to see statistics concerning our 311 call center: how many calls it has received and whether we have answered  those calls in a timely fashion. We even have added a mystery customer program to check on our service delivery and so far almost 50 volunteers have signed up.

We should not have to tell you we are doing well. We should be able to show we are doing well. And if we are falling short in some areas, then you should be able to see that too.

As part of the ACE initiative we also have a customer bill of rights. Here it is:

  • Residents have the right to speak with a professional and knowledgeable customer service representative by calling 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Calls should be answered within 45 seconds during normal operating conditions.
  • Residents have the right to expect complete satisfaction from the quality and delivery of any service that is received from the City of Somerville. We will continue to review processes and provide staff training to improve how we address the City’s ever-changing needs.
  • Residents have the right to expect the City of Somerville to maintain the highest level of accountability, professional commitment, and employee empowerment at all levels. We will treat our residents with prompt service, integrity, and respect by following the City’s ACE methodology: Accurate, Courteous & Easy.
  • Residents have the right to understand all of our city services. You should fully understand the capabilities and functionality of city services before, during, and after the work is completed.
  • Residents have a right to expect innovation in our services through an unyielding commitment to improving communication between City government and the people who live here.
  • Residents have a right to dependable service delivery. When you submit an inquiry to our 311 Team, you should expect a timely resolution in all new, existing, or prior matters. We will assume ownership of your issue and take all necessary actions, including tracking work done by other departments in order to satisfactorily resolve your inquiry as quickly as possible.

Other functions of City government may garner more headlines, but this is one area that touches upon every person who lives in Somerville. Our mission is to set high expectations and then exceed them.

Our customers pay a healthy sum of money to live here and they deserve the absolute best customer service experience we can deliver.

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