TAVARES — The National Association of Counties (NACo) recently awarded Lake County with two distinguished Achievement Awards, which recognizes innovative county government programs. The Lake County Board of County Commissioners recognized the award winning programs — "FOCUS: Fulfilling Our Customers through Unbeatable Service” and “Beyond Customer Service - Exceeding Expectations" — during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.
The FOCUS program addressed and strengthened customer service by creating a full-day immersion into a customer-centric environment to enable employees to better personify excellence in customer service. The program was developed by the Office of Employee Services & Quality Improvement and presented by a team from that department and additional training facilitators from other County departments who were members of a Toastmasters International Club.
The FOCUS full-day sessions were held several times a month from March through July 2008 for all County employees enabling 852 employees to be trained within a six-month period. Sixty employees participated in each training day and were divided into groups of twenty for break-out sessions on specific customer service topics such as “The Customer’s Shoes,” “Change and Cheese,” “The Chicken and the Pickle,” “Perils to Pearls” and “Business Communication.” Participants were also given the opportunity to test their knowledge by problem solving in potential customer service situations. The FOCUS program is part of the County’s continued commitment to customer-service excellence.
The “Beyond Customer Service - Exceeding Expectations” program was initiated in February 2008 to create a development review process that was more efficient and effective. In April 2008, a team of staff, which included the departments of Growth Management and Public Works, completed its review of the development review process and determined that a completely new process was necessary. Timelines and flow charts were developed for existing approval processes and were used to identify chokepoints. The team created new timelines to go along with the new process developed from the ground up. A few of the changes that were a result of the study included:
• Public hearing applications, such as rezonings and conditional use permits, were reduced from 90 calendar days or more to 62 calendar days to complete the required two public hearings
• Detailed timelines were established for review of plats and other major applications which reduced the process to a 30-day turnaround time
• A review process for minor site plans was established to allow immediate processing and approval of minor site plan amendments in 10 days or less.
Since 1994, Lake County has been recognized 28 times with NACo Achievement Awards. Last year, NACo awarded the Lake County Library Services Division for its annual Festival of Reading event. The festival promotes reading and the love of literature through activities such as meeting authors, sharing thoughts about books and writing, attending music and dance performances, and sharing personal poetry and writing.