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Ten in Ten – Talking CX in Local Government with Fiona Symmons

Welcome to Ten in Ten!

This is our all new interview series where we sit down with CX experts from across all kinds of industries and pick their brains for the tastiest little bites of CX Knowledge and insights.

It’s Ten Questions in Ten Minutes! (or less)

In the first edition of this monthly series our resident Cx Journalist, Tom Hogan sat down with Fiona Symmons; Customer Experience and Business Improvement Lead at the City of Stonnington.

She’s had a fascinating career across multiple levels of government and it was an absolute pleasure to get her insights on her CX career and the exciting things to come in 2023.

Without any further ado, introducing Fiona Symmons!


Fiona Symmons CX interview about customer experience and local government.




Tom: Thanks so much for joining me today Fiona, I’m super excited to begin this series! I’d like to start by hearing a bit about your current role?


Fiona: I’m Customer experience lead at the City of Stonington. My official title is Customer Experience and Business Improvement Program Lead. But my friends call me Customer Experience Lead


Tom: Fantastic. And how did you find yourself working in Local Government CX design?


Fiona: I come from a communications and marketing background and had 12 years in tourism doing that.


I realised once CX  became a profession and there were more jobs out there I realised this is actually what I wanted to do.

When I look back at my whole career, the things that I enjoyed most in all of my roles were things that related to CX.


When I started working with other CX practitioners I realised that was what I wanted to do. I was able to get some experience through the role that I was in. Did some more training and then made the leap.


I had a hybrid role back at State Government where I did some customer experience, managed the design team, did some comms strategy, and then made the leap into full time customer experience a few years ago.


Tom: You were saying you’ve worked in state government and you’re currently working with local government. Can you tell me why is CX design important to your industry of local government?


Fiona: I think it’s vitally important. It was an intentional career move to make the switch from state to local government. I really wanted to work in grassroots government rather than a higher level, particularly in terms of customer experience.


Because we’re such a grass roots kind of level of government, customer experience is vitally important and it probably looks a little bit different than it does in other levels of government.


Sometimes it’s exactly the same. but I think CX is so important in local government because we do deal with a lot of the community. They have different expectations of us.


But in Government at all levels, CX is so important.


I think that that old idea of bureaucratic, faceless government, it is an old idea. It’s something that thankfully has changed a lot in the last few years, but we’ve still got a long way to go as well. Customer experience is vital in in helping to knock down those barriers.


Tom: What are some unique CX challenges about the local government sector?


Fiona: Traditionally, we’re very community focused., often there are a lot of people who work in local government who live in the local area. So there is a real sense of place and no question that there’s such a commitment to the community. But in terms of the customer experience, community outcomes can often be missed.


Things like getting back to the customer and helping individual customers to understand why we do things.


All of that sort of stuff that typically ensures a really great customer journey. Local government is continuing to work on this and it’s really paying dividends.


Tom: So looking at your career as a whole, what’s the most important CX lesson you’ve learned.


Fiona: There are so many! Always focus on the customer. You know, it sounds so 1 0 1. Just getting people to peel it back and keep it simple and customer focused. You know it really is about keeping it simple.


There’s so much theory out there and that’s all really, really great. But I think when you are working with people across the business who don’t know what customer experience is, just keeping it simple is so important.


Explaining in simple terms, essentially practicing what we preach in terms of using plain English. You know, I think that is so important.


So in terms of rolling out customer experience in an organization, that’s top of the list.


Tom: Looking to the future now, what CX predictions do you have for 2023? What do you see on the horizon?


Fiona: For local government I continue to look forward to CX being more of a recognized profession. And I can see this right across local government that we’re moving from, roles that might be a 1 to 2 year contract becoming more ongoing roles. We are seeing more teams, we’re seeing more recognition of the importance of customer experience, and that’s just delightful.


So I’m really looking forward to even more of that in 2023.


Into the future Technology is continuing to help customer experience. But, there’s always that balance between having the human approach and relying on technology.


There’s always that middle ground. AI is a great example of that where it can really help so much.


But there’s only certainly at this stage only a point to which it can help and we still need the human element. I’m really excited about what technology can do in the customer experience space.


I suppose in government, we are looking for more sophistication in our channels of choice for customers. Something that we’re working on in our space in Stonnington is that we want to have the right channels to meet customer expectations and that we’re able to deliver a consistent customer experience right across everything.


That ability to allow customers to tailor how they they have that service experience with us is pretty exciting.


Tom: Of course that really does sound exciting!


Fiona: We nerd out about that sometimes in Government but it’s the simple things that can make a lot of difference to customers.


A consistent customer experience where, they get in, they get out, and they’re able to do what they need to do and understand why it is that they need to have that interaction.


Tom: Nerd out about it all you want. It’s great! Just a quick one. Service blueprints or user journey maps?


Fiona: I’m going to sit on the fence with this one. We use customer journey maps, we use service blueprints. We have process maps, we have value stream maps. I kind of feel like it’s it’s really selecting the right tool for the job. I’m a big fan of the service blueprint because I love that it shows a much bigger picture than the customer journey map.


But if you’re trying to embed voice to customer and get people to really understand the customer, you can’t go past the customer journey map


Tom: Which stakeholders give you the greatest insights?


Fiona: Oh, so many! I have to sit on the fence again.

Insights from our external stakeholders, our customers continue to blow my mind.

We’ll be doing a customer interview and looking at customer insights and the solution is right there.  Problems that we’ve got without them realizing and they’re giving us those solutions.


Really drilling down and identifying where the key levels of pain are. That’s really important.


I love dealing with our internal stakeholders, particularly those that haven’t got much experience in customer experience.


When they hit that aha moment and you can tell that the penny has dropped and they can see the value of customer experience and they start getting excited about it.


Not necessarily an insight, but it’s a great part of my job.


Tom: Finish this sentence. The future of CX is ………?

Fiona: Exciting!


Tom: Excellent. Great answer. Okay, final question. What is your ideal CX team?


Fiona: Oh, look I’m gonna say, the one that I’ve got. And I’m not just being diplomatic! (laughs).


We are fortunate enough to have UX specialists, continuous improvement and service design within my team and I feel like that mixed bag is that perfect mix of practitioners who are able to really identify and go the customer.


Of course being able to work together to identify, analyse, diagnose and work with the business to solve problems and improve the customer experience.


And I really feel like we all work together to bring that together. So I should also acknowledge that CX Loop set up our team. They did a very good job!


Tom: Fiona Thank you so much for your time We’re very glad to hear that. And that’s it for ten in ten! Ten questions and we did it in 10 minutes and 30 seconds!


Ten in Ten is a monthly interview series.
If you are a CX practitioner and would like to be a part of a ten in ten interview please send all enquiries to tom@ft-group.com.au