Russel being interviewed

Behind the Scenes of Government Social Media Customer Care

In BC, I’m the public service director responsible for the government social media customer care for our ministry, but my dad still doesn’t understand what I do.

“Yes, but what do you do? Aren’t you just tweaking on faceplant?” – actual quote from my dad.

Thanks, Dad.

To be fair, I regularly explain my role, and the value of our group’s work to serve the public and support our ministry. A big part of my role has always been change management, and communication is key to that. So any chance I get to engage and answer curious questions, the better.

Recently I was invited to take part in two interviews, one for CX Buzz and one for CX Quick Tips, where I shared a bit about our team’s work for the BC Ministry of Transportation.

This interview was originally posted on CX Buzz.

Tell us about yourself and share some background about your government organization’s social customer experience strategy (and how you ended up joining BC Public Service)?

I’m the Director of Web and Social Media Services for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure in the BC Public Service. For more than 10 years, I’ve led the very successful social customer care program and strategy of TranBC and DriveBC, to better inform, educate and engage with our customers. Our focus is to be both proactive and reactive in our customer service, providing timely customer responses while also using that qualitative data to inform our content marketing. By listening to the voice of the customer, whether directly or through front line staff, we’ve been able to create more useful customer-centric properties (ie winter driving website). Building public trust as a “go to” source of truth over time through timeliness and accessibility has also been extremely beneficial during emergency events like flooding and wildfire. Our strategy is about putting the customer first.

In 2010, the ministry was putting together something that hadn’t existed for them before. I was extremely excited to work with our team to build an operational social care team from the ground up, from ongoing communication and change management to buy-in and branding. It’s been a rewarding journey.

How much has the consumer sentiments changed in your space during 2020 and how is 2021 going to look like?

Consumer sentiments have remained largely the same from the last year to next. The key thing that continues to grow is public expectations. Our customers are comparing us to the last great customer experience they had, not other government agencies. And the thing about expectations? They don’t go down. So regardless of global pandemics or whatever else is going on in the world, customers want solutions to their problems, a place to be heard and to have their time respected. We aim to do that through our government social media.

As a director in your government agency, what are the most important KPIs you use to measure customer experience benchmarks?

We have a few. For our most immediate metrics, we refer to our engagement rate to understand what content is clicking with our customers and how much we’re building our reputation as a resource. Seasonally, we dig deeper into engagement rate per platform against relevant seasonal periods. We’re a very season-based organization and it would be odd to compare winter months to summer ones. Finally, we conduct a yearly Customer Satisfaction Survey as part of our service KPI, that measures response time, satisfaction and preferred platforms.

How much has the role of a public service director changed in the social distancing era — what role digital transformation has in this crisis?

Digital transformation certainly grew in relevance due to the pandemic. With much of our staff having to work from home, moving to more digital methods for communication, productivity, project management, engagement and more became really important, really fast. Good leadership hasn’t changed. It’s just tested under these circumstances. My job is to ensure my team has the tools they need to be effective while removing any obstacles to their success. With social distancing, it was important to listen and understand their needs and their concerns while also providing a structure that supported this “new normal” (as much as I’m growing to hate that term).

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?

The importance of empathy. 2020 was a difficult year for so many, not only customers but also coworkers and employees. Having an understanding of the impacts on mental health, productivity and stress was essential in building stronger relationships. And you can only truly know how strong those relationships are when they are tested by such stressful events.

An organization that leads with empathy, both internally and externally, will only make for a more resilient business.

2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite one?

One event I actually had the pleasure of attending and speaking at in 2020, held right before the pandemic, was The BIG Ready. A small, intimate conference focusing on productivity and mindset. This year, it’s being organized by the same people and held virtually.

Another conference I always enjoy, whether it’s in person or online, is Podcast Movement. I love podcasting as a platform for employee engagement and community building and this conference provides so much valuable information to be successful.

It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future, how should Executives gear up to the changing times?

This is a great opportunity to work on those leadership skills — communication, empathy, direction. Whether you’re an organization that is used to remote work or are just being introduced to it now, making sure you show strong leadership in a virtual world is essential.

For example — be clear about your expectations, communicate regularly and sincerely (scripted messages are over) and embrace transparency and accessibility. To build stronger relationships, people need to feel they can connect and count on their executive whether they are in the room or across the country.


CXBuzz also did a round up article of some of their favourite CX metrics, which I was included in with some pretty amazing brains.

Another pretty cool conversation I had was with Jim Rembach of CX Global on his CX Quick Tips show, about what our ministry does to serve the public through digital.


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