Admit It, Customer Service Is Our Job

Well, well, well folks. It seems I’ve hit a hot button here: customer service. I cross-posted a post titled “Get to Know Your Customers on a Personal Level” to the NCMA group on LinkedIn. There strong feelings on both sides. Some think that contracting officers absolutely need customer service training. Some think that customer service has no role at all in contracting.

One poster summed up my view best: “You catch more bees with honey”. Just because you are nice and friendly with people doesn’t mean there are ethics violations. So to take this point a step further, to prove that customer service is a part of the contracting officer’s job, Here are a few parts of the FAR that show customer service is a part of our job:

  1. Vision Statement at FAR 1.102(a): The vision for the Federal Acquisition System is to deliver on a timely basis the best value product or service to the customer.
  2. Performance Standards at FAR 1.102-2(a): Satisfy the customer in terms of cost, quality, and timeliness of the delivered product or service.
  3. Performance Standards at FAR 1.102-2(a)(2): The [Federal Acquisition] System must be responsive and adaptive to customer needs, concerns, and feedback. Implementation of acquisition policies and procedures, as well as consideration of timeliness, quality, and cost throughout the process, must take into account the perspective of the user of the product or service.
  4. Acquisition Team at FAR 1.102-3: The purpose of defining the Federal Acquisition Team in the Guiding Principles is to ensure that participants in the System are identified — beginning with the customer and ending with the contractor of the product or service. By identifying the team members in this manner, teamwork, unity of purpose, and open communication among the members of the Team in sharing the vision and achieving the goal of the System are encouraged. Individual team members will participate in the acquisition process at the appropriate time.
  5. Customer Satisfaction at FAR 11.203: Acquisition organizations shall communicate with customers to determine how well the requirements document reflects the customer ’s needs and to obtain suggestions for corrective actions. Whenever practicable, the agency may provide affected industry an opportunity to comment on the requirements documents.

You can find these yourselves if you like. These are direct quotes from the FAR. Without a doubt, customer service is a part of the contracting officer’s job. I think a lot of people have a hard time with this concept because: (1) customer service is being confused with just doing what you’re told, and (2) customer service is viewed as a lowly duty relegated to call center operators in Third World countries. These are misconceptions. First, contrary to popular believe, the customer is NOT always right. But we have a duty to get the best value for our customers. This is still customer service; it’s just not recognized as that. Second, customer service is not the lowest duty, but the highest duty we have. By satisfying the customer (while following the law), we succeed at our jobs. If we don’t satisfy the customer, then we are not succeeding at our jobs.

| Leave a comment »

Original post

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Nicole Evans

Great point, Sterling. I am surprised people would argue that a Contracting Officer’s role is not one of customer service.

Jaime Gracia

I had the similar experience with my parallel posts about communications between Contracting Officers and the contractors that support the contracts those same Contracting Officers manage. Amazes me at the level of ignorance in the 1102 community at this fundamental point. Regretfully, cultural rot from bad leadership seems to be taking hold, exacerbated through the lack of any substantial or legitimate training on this subject.

Lead by example Sterling! I often use you personally at what my hope is for 1102s that get it! Retirements can be a good thing on this score, but it requires the inexperienced 1102 to be open to this message.

Jerry Rhoads

Great post. My thoughts are that Customer Service is really “service to others”. In reality we are all someone’s customer.