In the Fall 2006 edition of the Tree City Bulletin, a City Services Survey was mailed to approximately 9,000 households. (The survey was also on-line through this blog and 50 of you took it on the web — thanks!) The survey asked for residents to rate their satisfaction with City services, the Kent community (like downtown, retail shopping, housing, etc.), top priorities, and funding preferences. The results are in…read on to find out what the respondents said.
As tight budgets grew tighter over the last 5 years, the City sought to focus resources on core services as much as possible, and those efforts were rewarded in the survey with high citizen satisfaction ratings for fire, police and utilities.
Likewise, those service areas that are underfunded, e.g., street maintenance and economic development, appeared to fall victim to the impacts of fiscal stress with low citizen satisfaction ratings.
To that extent, the survey results demonstrate that customer satisfaction is equal parts employee performance and resource capabilities. Exceptional employees can do more with less, but they can’t necessarily do everything with less – and that means some less critical service levels will slip and customer satisfaction in those areas will likely follow.
The good news is that as the standards for customer service have climbed, the performance of the City’s core service areas have climbed right along with them. Core service satisfaction rates are competitive with national benchmarks for customer satisfaction in both government and private industry.
This suggests that when resources are available, Kent City employees can deliver service as well as anyone in the nation.
Balancing tight budgets is a process of choosing what to cut, where to hold the line, and when to increase funds. When posed with these questions, the majority of survey respondents favored keeping funding the same for 59% of the items listed, and increasing funds to the remaining 40% of the high priority items (see list to the left). The only item where a majority of residents favored reducing funding was in the enforcement of the noise ordinance.
For the top rated areas like street maintenance, revitalizing downtown Kent, stimulating new businesses, and improving the image of the City, the majority of residents support spending more money on these items in order to do them better.
The residents also continue to place a high value on public safety functions, with the majority consistently supporting sustaining funding for police and fire.
EVALUATING THE RESULTS
Another way of looking at customer satisfaction is to plot the ratings received against a calculated perfect score. Using 100% as a perfect score – which would require every person to report that they are “very satisfied” – the actual survey scores were tabulated, and each service area was charted. The list below illustrates the gap between the actual score (blue bars) and a perfect score (purple bars). The list is also shown in descending order, with the highest scores at the top and the lowest scores at the bottom.
Citizens were asked to rank what they considered to be the top two areas that they believed the city needed to focus on. The outcome of the rankings are displayed below in descending order – meaning that the items at the top of the list received the most votes, and the items at the bottom the least votes. Where different items received the same number of votes, they are reflected as ties in the ranking. The far right column combines all the scores for first and second place votes to give an overall summary ranking.