On Wednesday, President Obama announced an Executive Order to "Streamline Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service."
I agree that citizens' expectations of government are increasing and I think having focus on energy on the topic is really important.
The good news is there is a lot of examples/ideas for agencies out there across government.
Here's my 10:
1) Define and focus on key initiatives. Agencies touch citizens and provide tons of services. Start with an assessment of your key citizen services and focus on the initiatives that 1) touch the most people 2) have biggest impact (may not touch tons of people but huge financial cost) 3) quick wins/lowest hanging fruit for improvement
2) Tools to solicit feedback - there are actually a ton of tools here from Foresee Results surveys to RightNow to ideation sites like UserVoice, Ideascale, Get Satisfaction. Key is to embed the solicitation in the experience of the citizen (for example, right after a transaction....without proper promotion these feedback solutions usually fail)
3) Collaboration - help citizens help each other - Part of great customer service is having citizens help each other. SBA built a great online community at business.gov that had small business owners help each other. Most great companies do as well from AMEX Open Forum to Turbo Tax community to Apple support forums. You could see lots of great communities from a Recovery grant community to a H1N1 state government officials communities.
4) Coordinating across channels - I really hate when a call into a big company or agency and you get moved around and they don't seem coordinated. Love the push on Executive Order to coordinate across channels. What does that mean technically - means most agencies probably have to invest more in CRM - systems where everyone that touches a citizen takes notes on the customer (in this case citizen). And train workers to make sure they track and put these touches in a system.
5) Cut paper, move to digital - I'm not sure if it's still the case but TSP used to mail me a new password when I wanted it reset. Really? In 2011, citizens want immediate changes (new password now) and I think they want all things digital (I don't know what to do w/ my print TSP statements they keep sending me - I'd love to store them online). If you think about it, most banks, 401k style companies have transitioned most of the interactions to digital.
6) Live Chat - My favorite thing for customer service. I hate when I have to call customer service. Love when there is a live chat box. A few government agencies have this - they all should.
7) Provide automated, personal reminders - If your Netflix subscription was to expire, they'd send you a series of 3-4 emails reminding you to renew. And honestly sometimes I'm just lazy and want to renew and appreciate the reminder. Government often just sends one item in mail on something really important and then leaves it at that. Government should remind its citizens in the format they like reminders (email, text, others)
8) Create internal/external FAQ and make it search friendly- What's the first thing you do when needing customer service? You Google the problem. Government agencies should build strong FAQ but more importantly enable the communities sited in example #3 to build a robust library of information. If they organize this information with basic SEO (friendly with search techniques), you will decrease inbound requests as folks will have found the information needed
9) Plain Language - There's a plain language act. Government needs to follow it. Great customer service is not talking from a confusing bureaucratic script. It's using plain language and talking like a real people. Train your staff, work on your language
10) Social Media Customer Service - Citizens (your customers) are talking about agencies on social media from Facebook to Twitter and more. Great companies like Comcast provide customer service in those places but answering those questions. Agencies should also provide customer service in these channels. I'd suggest a 3 phase approach 1) Set up ways to listen - there's a ton of tools from free to really advanced where you can find out where people are talking about your agency 2) Train/set up 1-2 key members of your team to engage with folks in these channels as a test.
P.S. - A couple extra ones for good measure 🙂
-Be Proactive - Simply if you get in front of customer service the better it is. The more information you provide the better. Write a blog on the topic, put out information on FB and Twitter, send email announcements, create collaboration areas for people working on topic.
-Provide data on your customer service on what people can expect. What's the waiting time? Turn-around time?
What else am I missing? Anyone got some great examples government is already doing?