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Posted by on Jul 31, 2018

The President’s Management Agenda Series: Improving Customer Service

The President’s Management Agenda Series: Improving Customer Service

Blurred background of patient waiting for see doctor in the hospital.

In March 2018, the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) was released to the public. The PMA “lays out a long-term vision for modernizing the Federal Government in key areas that will improve the ability of all agencies to deliver mission outcomes, provide excellent service, and effectively steward taxpayer dollars on behalf of the American people.”

So how will the U.S. Government carry out these goals? In this blog series, we will explore some of the actions, processes, and practices it can leverage to ensure success.

  1. Managing Quality Customer Service

Customer service is vital to every organization, including—and especially—the United States Federal Government.

You may be thinking, who are “customers” of the Federal Government? Well, that’s simple: you, me, him, her, them. Every citizen of the United States of America is a customer of the Federal Government. And we all expect a lot from this particular service provider!

Customers expect outstanding service, but often, when people like you or I think of the government, we recall long lines at the DMV, tax time anxiety, and other less-than-stellar experiences. People don’t often think of exceptional customer service. Further, there are some individuals who rely on the government for intensive services, such as small business owners, veterans seeking support, and others. These especially impacted groups require the absolute best service to meet their needs, yet many still feel customer focus is severely lacking.

The President’s Management Agenda has laid out a plan to change this perception and bring quality service to the forefront.

Providing exceptional customer service is not a choice in today’s fast-paced business environment. Organizations in the private sector are competing more than ever to add and retain customers. The Federal Government isn’t immune to this competition. The PMA has undertaken an initiative to provide a “modern, streamlined, and responsive customer experience across government, comparable to leading private-sector organizations.”

An integral part of the Federal Government’s mission is to provide the goods and services that the American people need. As public servants, Federal employees are tasked with fulfilling that mission in a variety of ways. But the 2016 American Consumer Satisfaction Index and the 2017 Forrester Federal Customer Experience Index show that, on average, government services lag nine percentage points behind the private sector in terms of customer satisfaction.

This lag can be remedied by considering and acting upon the three major steps to providing quality customer service:

  1. Identifying your customer’s wants and needs
  2. Providing service in an efficient and professional manner
  3. Resolving any issues that may arise

Addressing each of these steps will ensure that your customers leave each experience feeling understood, taken care of, and valued.

But how do we address these steps? What are the skills and qualities needed to provide quality service?

Research shows that serving customers effectively and efficiently requires the following:

  • Listening
  • Problem-solving
  • Communicating
  • Partnering

According to the PMA, “The foundation of exceptional customer service is exceptional communication with your customers. Exceptional communication involves listening effectively, diagnosing and solving problems, choosing careful and appropriate language, and using technology to meet customer needs.”

So what is the Federal Government’s plan to remedy this deficiency in customer service?

The President’s Management Agenda sets out a long-term vision that works on behalf of the American people to:

  1. Transform the customer experience by improv­ing the usability and reliability of our Federal Government’s most critical digital services
  2. Create measurable improvements in cus­tomer satisfaction by using the principles and practices proven by leading private sec­tor organizations
  3. Increase trust in the Federal Government by improving the experience citizens and busi­nesses have with Federal services whether online, in-person, or via phone
  4. Leverage technology to break down barriers and increase communication between Fed­eral agencies and the citizens they serve

These are lofty goals, many of which are contingent on technology, but they can be accomplished if the Federal Government follows some proven customer service best practices that work regardless of the medium of communication and the use of technology.

These tried and true dimensions of customer service can make each interaction, no matter how large or small, a success:

  • Engender reliability; this comes from being consistent over time
  • Be responsive; understand and anticipate your customer’s needs
  • Make sure your customer feels valued; feeling valued is a two-way street—if your customer doesn’t feel valued, they won’t value you or your organization
  • Practice empathy; be willing to understand things from someone else’s point of view
  • Competency is key; as the service provider, you must exhibit your expertise or your legitimacy may be questioned

If the Federal Government can improve upon its customer service, the effects will trickle down from the very highest branches of government to the single postal service worker on her daily mail route. The goal isn’t to provide exceptional service in one area or to one group of people—but to foster a culture where exceptional customer service is the standard, not the, errrr, exception!

Source: President’s Management Agenda. President’s Management Council and the Executive Office of the President. March 2018. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Presidents-Management-Agenda.pdf.

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