The Customer Feedback You’re Probably Missing


You may know how developers feel about your government’s permitting process, or what residents think about your parks, because you ask them regularly for feedback and opinions.

But what about your internal services? Do you have a regular process for collecting customer-service feedback about HR, finance (including budget), IT and purchasing services from the managers and employees who use them? What about for fleet and facilities maintenance services?  Just as seeking customer feedback is a best practice for direct services to the public, it should also be one for internal support services.

Internal customer surveys are a good way to find out how support services are functioning, and they can yield valuable insights that promote innovation, help retain talent, increase job satisfaction and encourage continuous improvement. They can also increase the overall performance of the government, because an organization that cares about its employees’ opinions and acts on their suggestions is better positioned to fulfill the needs of its constituents.

Of course, you don’t want employees in any department to feel attacked by their colleagues. The goal, after all, is useful information that can improve the way your organization does business. To maximize the learning you’ll gather from surveying employees, consider the following suggestions.

Send one survey from the highest executive office, not the departments in question. When the city or county manager asks about how these services are  doing, it sends a very different message than when the HR Department or the Budget Office asks how it’s doing.

Endorse the survey and let employees know that this approach is an impartial search for feedback, which is part the organization’s continuous improvement program. Conveying interest in the results and an intent to act on them will reassure employees that this is a valuable exercise.

Assure respondents that their answers are confidential. Employees may be reluctant to honestly assess the services they use for fear the information can be traced back to them. Provide plenty of assurance that identifiable information will be kept confidential. Make sure employees know the information will be used to spur improvement, not to punish anyone.

Ask a third party to administer it. Enlisting the help of a third party to administer the survey and tabulate results helps convince respondents that the process is professional and trustworthy.

Be transparent about the process and provide regular updates on it. Let employees know the timeline involved, and release the results as soon as they’re available. This boosts confidence in the exercise and makes future participation more likely.

Act on the information you gather. It’s demoralizing to employees when they take the time to offer their ideas and assessments, only to see them disappear into a void or sit on a shelf. By taking steps to address the issues they raise, you’ll show employees that their feedback is truly valuable to the organization, and they’ll have a stake in the improvements that are made.

Repeat the survey regularly. This allows the organization to track improvement over time.  The repetition is another way to demonstrate to employees that seeking feedback is just a basic task for a best-practice organization, and that employees’ ideas are important.

Governments have vastly improved the way they gather feedback from constituents and use it to enhance their performance. Viewing internal customers  as valued constituents and soliciting their ideas as a way to identify needed changes will help create an organization that’s continuously improving.

Jerry Newfarmer is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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