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Chatham Customer Survey Shows Major improvement in Two Years

Post Date:02/07/2018 12:45 PM

The Chatham County Manager’s Office recently presented the Board of Commissioners with results of a random sample phone survey conducted in November 2017, which showed several areas of major improvement since 2015. Overall, the grade for interactions with county staff improved from B+ to A-.

"Chatham showed remarkable improvement in its customer satisfaction survey results over the past two years,” said Kevin Baker, president of BKL Research & Consulting, which conducted the survey both years. “For comparison, local governments typically require multiple survey periods over several years to see such a level of improvement."

The biggest departmental gains came in the areas of water utilities, planning, and central permitting & inspections. One measure actually soared by 60.1.3%. The survey also showed more people feeling good about Chatham as a place to live, work and raise a family and also report having more confidence in county government.

“In reviewing the results, I could not be prouder of our department heads and employees who take customer service so seriously and constantly look for ways to do better,” said County Manager Renee Paschal. “Several improvements can be directly traced to specific steps taken by departmental teams. We will keep looking for ways to improve the delivery of services as well as communications with residents and businesses.”

The county initiated the survey in 2015 and used an RFP process to select BKL in Salem, VA, which specializes in local government survey research. A random sample of 400 county residents participated in the phone survey, which used cell phone numbers as well as land lines. Overall, 35 grades improved, 29 stay the same and seven fell a bit, but nothing fell dramatically.

The survey found several substantial improvements in the areas of satisfaction with county government and Chatham as a place to live and work. The most significant changes are shown below. The percentages show the change in mean scoring and the grade reflects 2017 results:

  • Chatham County government welcomes citizen feedback: Up 18.5% to a grade of B- 
  • Chatham County government is generally trusted to do the right thing: Up 20% to a grade of B-
  • Chatham County is a good place to work: Up 40% to a grade of B-

Other related measures also improved, but in the range of 6.3 to 8.8%.

When asked to list up to TWO most pressing issues or challenges facing the county, nearly twice as many people had trouble coming up with anything to list as those surveyed in 2015. The top 10 issues for 2017 and 2015 are shownin the table at right. 

Chatham County public survey issue chart 2017When asked how they get information on county government, news articles remain the most common, but this is declining, which reflects a national trend. The county website came in second and is on the increase, but the county could do a better job getting people to sign up through the website to get email notices of events and news at

Respondents were asked to provide feedback on interactions with nine county departments and offices over the past year. Not all county offices have enough public interactions to provide valid survey results and were not included.

The overall customer service grade for departments remained at B+, but the measures related to staff interactions soared by 9.3% and the grade went from B+ to A-. Highlights are:

  • Water Utilities: Billing and payment services increased a whopping 61.3% to a grade B, the single largest improvement in the survey. The overall staff grade improved 19% to a B grade.
  • Library System: This remains the overall highest rated department with mostly A and A- grades.
  • Planning: Major improvements for all measures, ranging from 19% to 26.2%, with the biggest jump in timeliness of service and staff interactions. Most grades are now in the B and B+ range.
  • Central Permitting & Inspections: Every single measure increased 15% to 24% and this feedback occurred prior to the launch of the online permit CityView application process in late 2017. Grades are now all B+ except for A- for courteous staff.
  • Solid Waste & Recycling: Overall services and staff interactions saw notable improvements since 2015, but the biggest improvement was for services related to compost, mulch and yard debris, which jumped 26% to a grade of A-.
  • Animal Services: Animal control services, which are usually complaint driven, showed major improvement, up 15.1% to a grade of B+. Courteous staff reviews improved from Grade B+ to A-. 
  • Register of Deeds: Overall staff customer service improved from a grade B+ to A-. 
  • Tax Office: Overall staff customer service improved from a grade B+ to A-.

The 400 survey respondents reflected all parts of the county, but with greater representation of western Chatham than the 2015 survey. The percentage of African American respondents improved since 2015 and it close to the countywide average. “We did not have enough Hispanic and Latino respondents, even though the survey is offered in Spanish,” said Debra Henzey in the County Manager’s Office. “We will have to do some targeted outreach for that population.”