TTI Helps TxDOT Ask Texans the Right Questions
Knowing how well you’re doing your job can be as easy as asking someone’s opinion. But when you’re a public agency, it can get a bit more complicated.
In a joint effort, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the Bush School of Government and Public Service recently developed a guidebook, Tell TxDOT: Customer Satisfaction Program, to help the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) determine how it’s serving the people of Texas.
“Getting useful feedback requires more than just asking, ‘How am I doing?’” explains Assistant Research Scientist Tina Geiselbrecht, TTI’s lead on the project. “It also requires knowing how to ask that question — in what context, in what format and to what purpose.”
Tell TxDOT shows agency employees how to solicit citizen opinion. It covers the basics, like when to ask for feedback on a project, and also addresses how to select a research method — from online surveying to focus groups — and how to analyze the resulting data. Finally, the guidebook discusses how to communicate results to TxDOT staff, policy makers and others.
TxDOT recently developed a series of internal performance measures that evaluate how well the agency is meeting its strategic plan goals. Agency employees can supplement that knowledge using the guidebook to determine external perceptions of how well they are doing.
“By identifying differences between the internal and external portraits,” explains Geiselbrecht, “TxDOT can improve its transparency with the public while giving citizens a voice about what they feel can be done better.”
As part of this effort, TTI developed the Ride the Road with TxDOT Survey Program to study citizens’ expectations about specific roadway elements and services. Researchers conducted road trips in which citizens were asked to grade various elements of the roadway infrastructure, such as the smoothness of the ride or the presence of roadside trash. While TxDOT regularly conducts peer reviews with other state departments of transportation, this was the first such undertaking with the general public.
The survey studied participants’ knowledge of and attitudes toward TxDOT and its services, as well as solicited their opinions while driving across eight sections of roadway maintained by TxDOT. Data analysis shows that, overall, both males and females were “somewhat satisfied” with roadway conditions and the driving experience they were asked to evaluate. When the responses are further sorted by demographics, African Americans and participants aged 40–44 and 55–59 (regardless of gender or ethnicity) represent the most satisfied groups. TTI will use the results from this pilot survey to refine questions and procedures for future road trips conducted by the department.
“The people of Texas are our customers, pure and simple,” says Mary Meyland, director of strategic policy and performance management at TxDOT. “As we move to becoming a more results-based organization from a resource-based one, the Customer Satisfaction Program will provide us the necessary tools to gather and assess the public results of our performance.”