Office hours: It’s all about the customer
“Customers aren’t just comparing you to your competitors anymore. They are comparing you to the best service they have ever received – from any company they do business with,” we read in Forbes.Community leaders are consumers, too, and want to give the same high level of service at city hall as they expect from businesses. But cities and townships can’t grow their business through more sales; in fact they face declining revenue because of Michigan’s property tax restraints and reductions in state revenue sharing.More than 30 have contracted with Carlisle|Wortman Associates to provide the complete menu of planning and zoning services and with Code Enforcement Services to manage their building department.“Everyone at CWA and CES is a professional but we wouldn’t have succeeded if we weren’t good at customer service,” our Dick Carlisle says. “It permeates everything we do. We serve our clients by serving THEIR clients.”The majority of CWA’s senior staff, including most of the partners, spend some office hours per week managing and assisting their clients with planning, zoning and building issues. Of course they’re available by phone the rest of the time.On Mondays and Wednesdays you’ll find John Enos in the Huron Township offices answering planning and zoning questions at the counter. You’ll also see Ralph Pasola who serves as the township’s code enforcement officer.“Many times it’s someone’s first impression of your community – getting a building permit, developing a parcel, zoning,” said Township Supervisor David Glaab. “A lot of people don’t know what questions to ask and the answers are in a different language. Part of Carlisle|Wortman’s success is putting things in plain English; asking the right questions to chart a path towards resolving the issues.”Glaab acknowledges that effective code enforcement may not result in the same degree of customer happiness.“You need someone empathetic and fair but also firm. It’s not an easy job but it’s an important one.”When the recent recession brought development to a halt in Springfield Township, Supervisor Collin Walls took Dick Carlisle up on his suggestion that Code Enforcement Services run the building office. Susan Weaver smoothly transitioned from being a township employee to the Carlisle|Wortman payroll. She staffs the office daily and Craig Strong spends one day a week reviewing building plans. Susan also serves Rose Township and Clarkston’s building departments from the office.“Customer service is what we’re here for,” said Township Supervisor Collin Walls. “We need to give our residents and contractors as smooth a process as possible.”Carlisle|Wortman manages all community development functions – planning, zoning and building department -- in Riverview. Dave Scurto serves as director, spending two days a week there, supplemented by Lauren Carlson once a week. Building Official Craig Strong is there weekly. The office staff are also Carlisle|Wortman employees.“We participate fully in interdepartmental decision-making and policy development,” Dave said. He described how we achieved that level of trust and cooperation in this 2013 post.“Communities benefit in many ways from these ongoing relationships,” wrote CWA Partner Doug Lewan in this 2015 blog post. “They don’t have to manage one project RFP after another. They can get routine, small tasks, like plan reviews and ordinance updates, done quickly. They can access the knowledge and experience of our specialists, including recreation planners, landscape architects, environmental analysts, LEED-AP-certified planners and economic development consultants.”Operating under a contract gives municipalities the option to review the success of the department on a regular basis.You’ll also find CWA and CES staff at the counter in Scio Township, Salem Township, Sumpter Township, Allen Park, Royal Oak Township, Troy, Pittsfield Township, Oxford Township and Milan.