Since the city of Paducah wants customer service to be more visible, it makes sense the department created to achieve that goal is the first thing you see when you enter city hall.

City Manager Jim Arndt, along with other city staff, provided an overview of the Customer Experience Department and related New Day Initiative during a Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce small business seminar Wednesday morning at the Commerce Center downtown.

"The Customer Experience team is right there in the foyer," Arndt said. "They're there to greet the visitors that come into city hall. If you're there for any reason, they're there to greet you and help you find out where you need to be, the questions you need to ask, help to provide feedback and make sure you get answers."

Among the first steps of the process, "was realizing that we have customers," according to Arndt.

"Basically, we are a small business. A small business designed to benefit our customers," he said. "And, everybody is a customer, it's the citizens, it's the businesses, it's the visitors to our city."

The city held several public events to launch the new initiative.

"This is a new day. We're changing things and moving forward," he said.

The impetus for the new direction stems from the city's comprehensive strategic plan, according to Michelle Smolen, assistant city manager.

Some action items include creating a customer-centric culture, encouraging and assisting local business retention and expansion, recruiting (and incentivizing) targeted industries such as advanced manufacturing, creative, health care, high-tech, along with the construction trades and river industry.

"It (strategic plan) really is a road map, so if you want to see where the city is headed, go check it out," Smolen said.

City Clerk Lindsay Parish serves as director of the Customer Experience Department.

"Improving the customer experience is more than just customer service," she said. "It's about (improving) every touch point people have along their journey when they come to city hall, or call us, or email us. It's what they're feeling, or seeing on our website."

New business development efforts include making the permitting process more streamlined, improved data tracking, developing more online tools, and hiring a business development specialist.

The improvements will have measurable results for the city, according to Parish.

"If it's easier to get business licenses, more people are going to get them. If it's easier to get permits, more people are going to start projects which will increase our tax revenues," she said.

The city also has begun holding "kickstart meetings" designed to be a one-stop shop for business developers and homeowners starting new projects. The meetings give project representatives the chance to meet with city employees to discuss proper permitting and processes, and learn about potential grants and incentives.

Kathryn Byers has been hired as business development specialist. In the new position, she will serve as a liaison for local business owners and collaborate with the various community partners to advance economic development.

According to Arndt, improved communication is key to the city's new initiative.

"Communication along the way is critical," he said. "When somebody has asked something from the city, and in their minds they don't know if it's been received, making sure we keep them engaged and give them that feedback and follow-up is very important."

So far the public's reaction has been very good, the city manager said.

"They appreciate the energy we have at city hall and the positive changes we're making."

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