Student Fellowship

Equitable Customer Service at 
City Hall

Project Area:

Racial Equity & Access


South Bend, IN

Reporting to:

Chief Innovation Officer

The Challenge

One of Mayor Mueller’s key concerns is making government-related customer experiences across the city more equitable and user friendly. To that end, in 2020, the city launched SB Stat: Customer Service, a performance management program for local government that uses data in an interdisciplinary way to track customer service success across the city. During its first year, SB Stat: Customer Service focused on visualizing customer service data, developing opportunities for residents to receive relief on their utility bills, building an online service request portal in addition to the existing 311 system, streamlining contracts between 311 and departments, and identifying which 311 topics get the most repeat callers.

South Bend is particularly interested in understanding how to meet its more vulnerable residents where they are. Most systems (e.g. digital services and customer processes) are easy and accessible for residents with free time, who speak English, have internet access, and do not have disabilities. But which services/interactions pose difficulties for residents who do not meet the criteria and how might the city address this?

While the city continues to collect data, it wants to actively consider how to amass information beyond a customer relationship management database; what is the comprehensive list of interactions with its residents; which best practices on customer service could be borrowed from other sectors; and how to create a system of consistent city-wide responses. The fellow in South Bend will meet senior leaders, sit in on 311 calls, and get a full perspective on the city – from Venues, Parks & Arts to the Department of Public Works.

What You’ll Do

The fellow will be expected to:

  1. Inventory all of the customer service interactions (through research, interviews, and mapping) across city teams, noting which have documentation/feedback loops and data collection to share with the mayor to prioritize strategy for the remainder of the fellowship.
  2. Assess accessibility and equitability of each interaction and group by type; analyze equity around 311 usage.
  3. Identify new ways to collect customer service feedback from residents and to make customer service interactions more equitable by borrowing best practices from design and the private sector.
  4. Develop a "Customer Service Strategic Plan" output for the mayor and Chief Innovation Officer, presenting a framework for major improvements and next steps to be taken throughout the second half of the mayor’s term.

What You’ll Bring

  • Design-oriented skillset, familiarity with human-centered design concepts and design thinking
  • Self-driven work ethic
  • Empathetic communication skills that exhibit humility
  • Basic descriptive data analytics and research experience
  • Ability to synthesize a high volume of information into structured insights/highlights
  • Passion for government or public sector innovation
  • Skills preferred, but not necessary: experience in government, formal experience in customer service, advanced data analytics experience
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