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Govies Deserve Good Customer Service Too!

Avatar of Emily Jarvis
Emily Jarvis

We’ve all heard the refrain about how government needs to be better at customer service. We’ve heard the horror stories from the DMV and IRS filings gone amuck. But David Hebert says in order for government to be a great provider of customer service to the public it first has to have good internal customer service.

Hebert is the Internal Communications Chief at the US Geological Survey. He told me that customer services demands on the government are at an all time high, but in order for government employees to deliver that service they need to be well served within their organization.

“The way government interacts with the world is largely informed by what goes on inside it. If you have a dysfunctional internal culture then you aren’t going to be delivering the best service to the customer,” said Hebert.

One of the key reasons to push for better internal customer service is to reverse the negative view many feds have towards their agencies.

In fact, overall government satisfaction is down to its lowest levels in 10 years. That stat comes from the annual Federal Viewpoint Survey rankings of nearly 700,000 civil servants at 362 agencies and their subcomponents. Governmentwide scores dropped by an average 3.2%.

How Do You Fix Internal Customer Service? Hebert says:

  • Create an in-house customer service team. At USGS we are working on taking an existing customer service team that we already have that engages with the public and repurpose some of their efforts internally. They can use the same tools that a person would expect to encounter when they contact their phone company but in this case it would be employees contacting customer service folks to be routed to resources or subject matter experts.
  • Create an internal FAQ system. At USGS we have had a successful public facing FAQ system for several years. We took that software and re-created it to make an internal system. Ask subject matter experts questions.
  • Get buy-in from the leadership team. You need buy in from the top so that it becomes just the way you do business. We’ve had leadership here that has pushed for these concepts.
  • Create an IdeaLab. At USGS we had been working on incorporating something like TSA’s IdeaFactory. When we were researching solutions we heard that our Director was at a meeting at the White House. She heard about a similar tool at Census and was very interested. That’s how IdeaLab was launched and pushed from the director’s office. We used a publicly available tool called User Voice for the platform. IdeaLab allows an employee to share an idea in the web based tool. Then other employees can come in and vote and comment on that idea.
  • Put out a weekly message from the Director. We have our Monday Message which comes from our director. In that message she often cites ideas from IdeaLab and solicits ideas. She also nominates employees for recognition. The message itself demonstrates just how much people like being communicated with from leadership.
  • Don’t fight the rumor mill, embrace it. The conversations are already happening, so you need to find a way to be apart of the conversation so you can inform it.

You can hear stories like this at GovLoop’s Next Generation of Government Leadership Conference. You can find out more about the event here. And register here.

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