Using emergencies to fuel innovation | Graham Quinn | TEDxPhiladelphia

this is a story about how an unexpected emergency leads to progress and innovation in city government my name is Graham Quinn I'm the director of 3-1-1 the city of Philadelphia employs 28,000 people and serves 1.5 million customers now you called 9-1-1 for emergencies such as a crime in progress or a fire you contact 3-1-1 for non-emergencies who do you call to report graffiti on a wall who do you call to report an abandoned vehicle on a block who do you call when your next-door neighbor moves out of their apartment and dumps a bag of trash on the street those are many more 3-1-1 last year those requests total more than 300,000 and in a typical year we handle 1.2 million or actions half of those coming from the mobile application and the other half coming from the contact center so on a related note I'd like to take this opportunity and use this platform to talk to you about one of life's big lessons that I've learned well at least in Philadelphia if Monday is a holiday your trash will be delayed one day and picked up on Tuesday you're welcome given the nature of 301 being open and accessible to the customers in the city of Philadelphia the employees are considered essential employees that means regardless of the weather or other unforeseen circumstances they're required to be at the office under all normal operating hours now obviously this can be a challenge for staff but we understand that were the vital connector to the customer to the city of Philadelphia now last year this was tested when a fire broke out at the district attorney's office across the street from City Hall the alarms went off at City Hall we moved to our emergency location and then 15 minutes passed and then 30 minutes passed information to gain the trickle in we found out that there was an electrical fire underneath City Hall and City Hall will be closed for an undetermined amount of time now obviously this left us with potentially thousands of customers not getting access to city services at best those thousands of customers are about to flood 9-1-1 at worst prior to this emergency I felt very confident our emergency plans we would move to our alternative location we would set up shop and we would be operating as normal but under these circumstances we had an alternative location and we had one hour to make a decision so our options were becoming limited now I'm sure some of you in the audience may know where this is going we made a decision in the best interest of the customers but which runs contrary to local city government we would stay open and operational by all employees working from home now I understand this may not sound completely revolutionary or innovative to you but let me be clear this is not standard operating procedure for local city governments local governments struggle to see this as a viable employee benefit and to be fair local governments look into the federal level for guidance and at the federal level half of the employees are eligible to work from home except the federal government struggles to quantify this employee benefit so what happens the quality of calls improved and the quantity of calls we took increased during the time the staff worked from home now our mission is to provide world-class customer service while providing this essential service we use a variety of metrics to track customer satisfaction during the time the staff work from home we saw a 20% increase in the amount of times customers were willing to wait on the line to provide us with kudos the quality of calls also increased we can see that listening to the call recordings and using our quality metrics and finally we were able to answer a hundred and ninety more calls on average per day and we were more efficient at responding to our other platforms email mobile application and the web application but not only did the contact center metrics improve staff morale went up nya says there was five great benefits I found from working from home I got to sleep in a little bit didn't have to do with traffic aggravation didn't miss the bus it was a comfortable environment it was great to be home my kid got home from school who wouldn't love working from home Aisha said it's great that management gave me the opportunity to work from home it made me feel like a more dependable and efficient employee and Cindy said being able to wake start my day had a real impact on my mood so during this emergency we were able to maintain normal operations and our performance and customer service improved not only were we able to perform our jobs staff felt better about how they were doing them they treated the customers better now I knew it was success because the customers never even knew about it now many businesses have emergency plans but those aren't to innovate or improve those or to maintain normal operations so my question to you and the one that this experience has taught me to constantly ask as a leader is how do we create the conditions of an emergency the kind that let us take risks innovate and shift culture without the actual emergency itself now I wouldn't wish an actual emergency on any of you but creating the conditions of urgency and necessity or powerful tools for us no matter what business or profession we're in now I would propose the first thing we need to do is break our own mold as leaders we spend a lot of time dealing with policies procedures doing what we think is in the best interest of the business but we need to seek out opportunities to break our own molds it's a completely reinvent reimagine routine processes we need to ask ourselves and our colleagues let's make these systems better all the while knowing you can always revert back to the existing processes it's the power of possibility we can also train ourselves the employees will rise to a change of plan or circumstances and then acknowledge them and reward them when they do now as humans we can actually think people will be imperfect people will be human headlines might even make you believe that people will be selfish take advantage of the situations but if you've ever experienced an actual emergency you know that you can generally trust those around you to rise to the occasion it's imperative the management creates a culture where employees make these critical decisions in the best interests of the business now I wouldn't wish an actual emergency on any of you or your businesses I would encourage you to create your own fires the kind of spark you and your colleagues to iterate to innovate to improve in ways you hadn't intended or imagined thank you [Applause]

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