3 Ways to Improve Customer Service

The Customer Service series is supported by RightNow Technologies. To learn more on how to use cloud technology to improve customer service, visit the RightNow resource center today. Check out the GovLoop/RightNow Customer Service Hub to get smart on how to be awesome at customer service


The great part about the topic of customer service is that we are customers everyday whether it’s buying coffee at Starbucks, filing our taxes, going out to eat, or driving the roads.

So as I think about the White House memo on Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service, I think through ideas government can adopt from my own personal life.

As such, here’s 3 simple ideas:

1) Outside-in thinking vs Inside-out thinking. Outside-in thinking is when we look through our processes through our customer’s point of view VS our point of view.

The best story I’ve ever heard about it was about a marina. This marina had over 200 boats docked there year around. And every summer as it neared July 4th, the marina staff would start scheduling vacations. The most seasoned staff would always take off July 4th as they had the most seniority and they loved taking their own boats out on that weekend. Well, every year July 4th weekend would be the busiest weekend of the year and the marina had its least experienced staff working.

That’s inside-out thinking. Boat owners often are only using their boats a dozen times a year and they want the best service on the busiest weekend. So after adopting outside-in thinking, they put their best people on the busiest days of the year but gave them more time off during the slow times.

For government – have you ever spent time in your customer’s shoes? If you are in HR, when’s the last time you have gone through the job process on USAJOBS? If you are delivering benefits, when’s the last time you’ve applied for your own benefit

2) Prioritize for the 80/20 rule. Customer service is much like anything in life in that a small percentage of items (the 20%) represent 80% of overall calls. In customer service, out of the 10,000 calls or emails you get a day, I’m sure about 80% are the same.

When I was in NYC with their 311 call center, their magic item was alternate-site parking (where people have to move their cars from one side of the street to the other on certain days). That was a large large percentage of the calls. So they prioritized that to one of the 1st things you hear when you call 311, so they can funnel those 80% calls away and get to the more urgent issues.

When I bough a Living Social deal last year, their magic item was a problem w/ a coupon they did with Amazon. So instead of just going through the normal options, the first thing they said on their call-in number was “If you are calling about the Amazon deal, press 1” and on their website there was in big font a link sayig “If you are having problems with the Amazon deal, here’s the latest”

So as you rethink your customer service, what is your 80/20 rule? What things keep on popping up? You may already have a FAQ section but make it even more prominent. And instead of a list of top 100 FAQ, put the top 5 most requested issues first before the other 95

3) Keep a hall of fame – It is difficult to create a culture of customer service when you aren’t out with your customers every day. Part of creating that culture is by showing it off every day. Create a hall of fame where you put up customers letters of support. Put up pictures of faces of your customers or logos of the companies/organizations you deal with it. Set up those reminders everyday. On GovLoop, I get probably 3 or 4 emails a week saying thank you about something we did for them. We put them up both online and offline in our hall of fame – it reminds me why I do what I do when I see that letter of someone saying GovLoop is “their light at the end of the tunnel” or “got them through a tough time in Iraq.”

How have you prioritized the 80/20 rule? Embraced inside/out thinking?

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