Does Your Web Page Need Attention?

Do you know how many “pages” make up or how many pdf files we house on our website? It’s a rough estimate, but we have over 1,800 pages plus over 8,700 pdf files. The upside: we have a lot of information on our website. The downside: we have a lot of information on our website.

In our most recent citizen survey (2016), 78% of residents who had visited gave it a positive rating. This is a passing grade, but it leaves nearly one-quarter of our website visitors unsatisfied with our electronic information or services. How can we work together to eliminate this friction and improve our website? Here are some tips that we can all employ:

Update It
When a customer visits our website today and sees a sentence such as, “The training will continue through 2015,” our credibility is instantly diminished. Do you know the process for updating your department’s web page content? Typically, each department designates one person to send content updates to our contractor, Webtecs. Do you know who manages content for your department? If you do not, discuss it at your next staff meeting. Sometimes the person who was designated to watch the content moves on and the task is never reassigned. Other times, the day to day operations take priority over updating the website. Now is a chance to regroup and switch the assignments if needed.

Pdf vs. Page Text
Every time a user has to “click” the chances of that user retrieving the information you intend to communicate goes down. Unless you are providing a form to complete, offer the information in both text on the web page and a pdf of the flyer that you masterfully created.

Click vs. Scroll
The popularity of mobile devices and tablets has converted many of our customers into creatures who scroll. Half of our website visitors access from their mobile devices. (Apple devices edged Android devices on by 5.72% in December, if you are keeping score.) In the past, web design placed a high importance on the information “above the fold” or on the screen you see when you land on a web page. While this is still important, we have embraced scrolling. Scroll with it. Just be sure to keep luring customers down the page with good design.

Product Information First
While your 2016 annual report, organization’s history or the note from the director is nice, consider why your website visitors come to (NOTE: Your director is most certainly AMAZING!) Are your visitors online for services, to enroll in training, to learn about an event, to get contact information, to find the answer to a question or to do something else?  If your customer becomes frustrated trying to find the course registration information they are looking for, they could simply leave Take a moment to find someone with no or limited information about your department or program and ask them, “Does this make sense?” If you are the content manager, feel free to ask Webtecs for advice when sending your content to them. They can likely suggest empathetic site architecture to improve the user experience. Learn more about User Experience at

Proofread. Then proofread again.
You have read your copy a dozen times. If possible, request a trusted colleague to look it over. Once it is published online, take one more look. Simply the change in font or formatting can uncover a covert typo, lurking among the letters waiting to attack your professionalism and humiliate you.

Avoid Acronyms and Jargon
While it may be impossible to completely remove jargon, make an effort to mix common, lay terms or past terminology in your content. Remember that the website is a primary portal for the public, not your professional peers.

Consider Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
Passive sentences are not always the best way to phrase your thoughts. Passive voice is often awkward, vague, wordy and more difficult to understand. Make your writing clear and concise. Replace passive sentences with active sentences when possible. Here is a great resource from Purdue University.

This is just a sample of ideas we can use to improve What are some other things you see on websites that you feel should be included or avoided?  Do you have a favorite government website? Why? Share in the comments.


Customer Service | Advice & Action

Living the Golden Rule

What is the true meaning of excellent customer service? Words of advice from some of Ottawa County’s Customer Service Award nominees:

  • “Listen to what people are saying to you.”
  • “Always, treat people like they are humans, and handle each interaction with compassion and respect.”
  • “Always be willing to think outside the box for solutions. There is always an answer.”
  • “Be empathetic. Think to yourself, ‘what if I were in their shoes?’ Regard the feelings of others as more important than your own.”

Outstanding Customer Service in Action

Each quarter the Customer Service Team receives numerous nominations for the Customer Service Award. The stories are redacted and submitted to each team member to read. The Customer Service Team members then vote on the ones they found most inspiring. This is an extremely challenging task because the stories are heartfelt, inspiring and depict the true spirit of the Ottawa Way. Many stories are too good to not share.

Sandra Shafer

“Sandy provides an endless selection of food available to the staff at the Grand Haven courthouse. She spends a lot of her spare time preparing meals for those of us who work here and I am sure many of us would starve without her. It is so nice to be able to pick up a quick snack or meal to keep me going all day, as I usually don’t have time to think about that when I am rushing out of my house in the morning. I have a hard enough time making sure my kids get fed, and Sandy helps feed the entire courthouse! So grateful for what she does for her coworkers.”

Karla Snodgrass

“Going above and beyond for a customer who was recording a warranty deed. When Karla compared the legal description on the deed with the Ottawa County Property Search description, she noticed that there was a 7-foot exception included in the warranty deed which was not in the county’s description. Because this property is a part of a plat, she reviewed 10 resolutions that were made for the plat. She also reviewed the amendment to the master deed, the master deed and the adjoining properties – none of which included the 7-foot exception in their descriptions. Karla also contacted the Assessor for Holland City to see if he could figure out why the exception was not included and he was unable to figure it out. Not only did she do all of this work, she also made sure to keep in contact with Ben (who was recording the deed) to let him know that she was still working on trying to figure out the difference in the descriptions. After she completed all of the research, Karla and her supervisor decided to let the deed be recorded as is. Because Karla did all of this extra work, it is evident that she cares about the customers who visit the Treasurer’s Office and also about doing the best job that she can. Therefore, I would like to nominate Karla Snodgrass for an Outstanding Customer Service Award.”

Adam Zantello

“Every time Adam Z. has entered my establishment he not only takes a professional but a personal interest in making sure all staff is informed of the nature of his visit as well as a complete and proper inspection. He does not cut corners and always shows a positive attitude during his routine. Adam is very willing to answer all questions from any team members before, during, and after the inspection. I look forward to his visits knowing I will always learn something new. One thing I can add is that he is the only routine inspector that has ever made the effort to contact us with any answers he did not have at the time of inspection, usually within 24 hours.”

Deputy Josh Barton

“My son was involved in a bad car accident on his way home from work. When I arrived on the scene I was I was very concerned about the well-being of everybody, especially my son. Deputy Barton took the time to calm me down and explain that everybody was ok and explain what had happened to the best of his knowledge. Deputy Barton’s demeanor during a stressful time was exemplary. I  would like to thank Deputy Barton for his professionalism during this incident.”

Are you in the loop?

If you are not in the loop, you should consider joining it: GovLoop. GovLoop’s mission is simple: connect government to improve government. They provide articles, resources and training for public sector employees, plus forums for connecting and collaborating with colleagues across the nation. It is also worth mentioning that they recently published this article about Ottawa County’s customer service initiative. Check it out!

Outstanding Customer Service Award

Ottawa County is delighted to announce its eleventh recipient of the Outstanding Customer Service Award.

Congratulations to Deputy Shane Ryke from the Sheriff’s Office!

For the 3rd Quarter of 2016, 20 employees were nominated for an Outstanding Customer Service Award. Some were nominated multiple times. Nominees for the Outstanding Customer Service Award were:

  • Jill Bannink, Department of Public Health
  • Connie Barker, County Clerk/Register of Deeds
  • Chris Bartaway, Innovation and Technology
  • Karen Billings, Department of Public Health
  • Kristin Conrad, Department of Public Health
  • Dave Cook, Innovation and Technology
  • Kimberly Wolters, Department of Public Health
  • Hannah Hoeksema, Department of Public Health
  • Kevin Hoxsey, Department of Public Health
  • Scott Ippel, Sheriff’s Office
  • Carla Lieffers, County Clerk/Register of Deeds
  • Robb MacGregor, Department of Public Health
  • Melanie Manion, Parks and Recreation
  • Jonathan Marin, Treasurer’s Office
  • Jennifer Myers, Community Mental Health
  • Steve Namenye, Innovation and Technology
  • Andrea Olson, Friend of the Court
  • Mary Beth, Rokisky, County Clerk/Register of Deeds
  • Terry Sands, County Clerk/Register of Deeds
  • Drew Shaw, Department of Public Health

Congratulations to all of the nominees and keep-up the spectacular service! If you wish to nominate a co-worker or promote the program to residents, details are available at Nominations can come from both inside and outside the organization. Each quarter, the Customer Service Team will review all of the nominations and select the recipient of the Outstanding Customer Service Award.

More information about Shane Ryke will be posted in a future article.

Congratulations again, Shane!

Get involved: M23.1k Run & Relay

Ottawa County is excited to again be organizing the Michigan’s Credit Unions M23.1k Run on October 1. New this year is M23.1k Relay which offers three person teams the opportunity to compete, each team member running an assigned distance of between 3 to 6 miles. Each participant in the run and relay will receive a quarter-zip performance shirt, aid stations along the course, race photos, finish-line refreshments, a finisher medal, awards, a post-race party and a sense of accomplishment. The race begins and ends at Robinson School in Grand Haven, traveling the length of the new M231 highway, which will be closed to traffic. The course offers views of the floodplains, the Grand River and rolling countryside. It is limited to the first 500 registrants and the price to register is now $45 a person. Sign-up now and spread the word.

If you are not a runner, spectators and volunteers are also needed. Volunteers will receive a fleece hat embroidered with the M23.1k logo. Many positions are available including water stations, set-up, packet pick-up and more. Sign-up here.

Hats, visors and shirts are also available for runners, volunteers and superfans to purchase.

Funds raised support the Spoonville Trail, North Bank Trail and Grand River Greenway Trail. Together, these non-motorized paths are called the “Grand Connection” because of the link they provide along the Grand Rive between Grand Haven, Grand Valley and Grand Rapids.

Want to build good will and connect your department with a meaningful audience experience?  Grab a group of co-workers and create a “spirit station.” In 2015, runners specifically commented on the spectators from MDOT and “sweet ladies from the Parks department.” Runners would love to see you out there supporting them.

Thanks to to following businesses and organizations for their sponsorship or services which make this event possible:

Michigan’s Credit Unions | Chemical Bank | Spring Lake Fitness & Aquatic Center | Ottawa County | WGHN Radio | Michigan Department of Transportation | Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office | EcoTrek Fitness | Delta Dental | Priority Health | Merle Boes | ImageSoft | Presidio | Gordons Water Systems | Governmental Consultants Services, Inc. | Grand Armory Brewing | The Pipeline Smokehouse | M & S Storage | Ottawa County Road Commission

Meet Ottawa County’s most recent customer service award winner

Join us in congratulating Greg Rappleye from Corporation Counsel, who has been recognized as Ottawa County’s Outstanding Customer Service Award recipient for the first quarter of 2016. “If time doesn’t fly, it certainly hustles along.” said Greg who has been an employee for 25 years. He began is tenure in 1991 in the Ottawa County Prosecutors Office, doing the County’s civil work under the direction of Prosecutor Ronald J. Frantz. Later, Rappleye’s duties evolved into the Office of Corporation Counsel, which serves under the direction of the County Administrator.

The individual who nominated Greg wrote: I came in the main entrance at the Fillmore building and found Greg assisting an elderly woman who needed to go to the treasurer’s office. She was walking with a walker and Greg had her sit on the walker and pushed her down the hall and then down the elevator to the treasurer’s office. She finished her business at the treasurer’s office and he assisted her in the same way back to her car in the parking lot and made sure she was back in her car. He showed what customer service at Ottawa County is all about.

In order to better get to know Greg, we asked him the following questions:

The thing I like most about working for Ottawa County is:

I like my fellow employees, and the variety of work they bring to me on a daily basis.  In the course of my work, I’ve had the opportunity to consider everything from the daily price of exotic birds in the wholesale farm market to the constitutionality of legislatively imposed restrictions on political speech. I can’t think of another attorney whose practice is so varied.

The hardest thing I have ever done:

Oh, my! Too much heartbreak and bathos to get into that here.  For the truly curious, I could recommend a couple books of poems.

You would be surprised to learn that:

You might be surprised to learn that I am a writer. I have a Masters in Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, was a Bread Loaf Fellow, and have published three full-length collections of poetry, three chapbooks, and have another full-length collection in search of a publisher.  My poems and essays have appeared in many places, both online and in print.   I’m currently  working on a manuscript of poems about my Irish family, who came to America in the 1850’s and worked in the cotton mills of Biddeford, Maine.  I am also reworking the draft of a first novel, set in Guatemala during the 1954 revolution.

If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would you pick and why?

At the moment, I’d like to have dinner with Frank O’Connor (1903-1966), who wrote so well in his short stories about Irish family life.  I’d love to kick back with Frank on a rainy night in West Sligo and compare notes.

If you had to spend all of your vacations for the rest of your life in the same place, where would you go and why?

The requirements are good seafood, good bookstores, a lonely windswept beach and a quiet place to work.  Let’s say the Northwest corner of Oregon, off-season, from Portland to the Coast.

If you could travel back in time to any certain era or event, when/where would you pick and why?

I’d go back to the evening of January 30, 1962, at the Michigan State Fair Coliseum, just in time to stop the Flying Wallendas from attempting “The Great Pyramid” without a net, before a crowd of 7,000 curious circus-goers, thirty-five feet above the Coliseum floor. Why? No one needs to live half a century onward with that rolling around in their head.

Getting to Know…

In an effort to promote and refresh our Ottawa Way customer service techniques, Ottawa County’s Customer Service Team will be making more contributions to the County Connections Newsletter. These articles will highlight various departments within the County so we can get a sense of what services they provide to Ottawa County customers. Additional articles will include advice from county employees who have been nominated for the Customer Service Award plus some nominations whose stories were too inspiring to keep to ourselves.

County Administrator Office

The County Administrator is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the eleven member County Board of Commissioners. The Commissioners are elected every two-years from equally apportioned districts within Ottawa County. Current County Administrator Al Vanderberg, is the fourth to serve in this position since 1975 when the position was first created by the Board of Commissioners. The Administrator’s Office staff include Keith Van Beek, Deputy County Administrator; Misty Cunningham, Administrative Assistant; Shannon Felgner, Communications Manager; Shannon McGoran, Improvement Specialist and Stephanie Roelofs, Secretary.

The County Administrator is responsible for the day to day administration of Ottawa County, management of non-elected and non-judicial functions and financial oversight and management of all County funds. The office is also responsible for oversight of all major projects involving facilities, information technology, etc. The County Administrator’s Office is responsible to set the tone and be an example of outstanding customer service throughout the County.

County Administration is responsible for the future direction of the County and for stimulating the Board of Commissioners, staff and other stakeholders; to develop new ways of looking at problems and arriving at solutions.  County Administration developed the strategic/business planning model, facilitates the annual Board of Commissioner strategic/business planning session and prepares quarterly updates on progress toward the identified goals and strategies. The Administrator’s Office also developed and oversees the Four C’s initiative.

The office is responsible for and involved in communications at every level: Board of Commissioners, Department Heads, Elected Officials & the Judiciary, citizens, local units of government, other counties, regional & state agencies & professional associations and the media.  The office also works in various settings with different non-profits and businesses and business associations toward common goals.

Administrator’s Office staff participates on and offers expertise to various County, local, community, regional, state and professional association boards, committees and commissions.  They also take the lead in regional collaboration and work closely with local units of government to develop relations that improve or maintain services and reduce cost.

The Administrator’s Office is very involved with legislation and lobbying in an attempt to reduce the harmful impact to County operations and services of some legislative, bureaucratic and court decisions from the state and federal levels.

Each day brings new issues and challenges to the County Administrator’s Office, making it an interesting and fast-paced place to work!

admin staff

Back row from left: Al Vanderberg, Stephanie Roelofs, Keith Van Beek │Front row from left: Misty Cunningham, Shannon Felgner, Shannon McGoran

Join the Ottawa County Team for the River Bank Run

Priority Health and the Fifth Third River Bank Run have teamed up to find the companies that are the most committed to employee health and wellness. We already know that it’s us–Ottawa County. We are joining the Priority Health Corporate Challenge to prove it! The Priority Health Corporate Challenge is a competition that uses the 5K Walk, 5K, 10K and 25K runs as a way for employees and their spouses to stay healthy, have fun and compete. Those joining the challenge can save $10 on their event registration and will have access to a VIP area on race day in DeVos Place including refreshments, live race feed and private gear check.

We’ve created an Ottawa County team for employees and spouses. (Your spouse does not have to be covered by Priority Health.) Team members can participate in any of the Fifth Third River Bank events on May 14, 2016. Our team’s participation, not finish times, will determine the Priority Health Corporate Challenge winner. (Total employees participating vs. our company size) That’s right–we do NOT have to be fast to win! Trophies will be presented to the winning teams at Calder Plaza on race day. Register and join the Ottawa County team today!  If you are already registered, we still would love to have you join the team–just email Shannon Felgner or call 616-738-4672 to be added.

Ten reasons to join the team:

10. You’re already training for the Katty Shack 5K.
9.  Read funny race signs.
8.  To run faster than your supervisor.
7.  Motivation to get moving.
6.  A tent with adult beverages at the finish line.
5  Well, Ottawa is the healthiest county in Michigan!
4.  VIP access, baby!
3.  The $10 “Vander” discount. (But, even non-Vanders like $10 off!)
2.  To accept our winning trophy just a stone’s throw away from that “other county’s” big, fancy building.
1.  Personal fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment.

Click on this special link to register. Use the code 5316PHc to save $10 on your registration! If you are having difficulty with your registration or have other questions, call Shannon Felgner at 616-738-4672. The deadline for registration is 11:59p on May 9, 2016.



Thousands of Reasons You Should Use GovDelivery

Communication with our citizens is important to build and reinforce the County brand as a transparent, a trustworthy and a credible source of information. If your department is not regularly using Ottawa County’s GovDelivery system to communicate with citizens, you may be missing thousands of people who are interested in what your team has to say. How many people? Ottawa County’s GovDelivery account has nearly 16,000 subscribers. We launched externally on July 20, just over four months ago.

Like many new tools, GovDelivery takes some getting used to by employees and departments. Learning its intricacies and nuances can take time and practice. If you need help, training, review or have any other questions about the program, please contact Shannon Felgner. As we continue to promote the County’s GovDelivery service through posters, cards and other materials, it will be even more important than ever to employ it.