Great customer service starts right at the top of any organization – private or public. Top executives set the tone and the standards for customer service. When those top executives pay close attention and make customer service a priority, they create happy customers. Happy customers – better business.
Nothing new about that.
But have you thought about this, Government Executives? Do you realize that more of your customers (citizens) seek services and interact with your agency through the web than any other way? Do you know what services those web customers want and use most? Do you know if they can find what they want, understand what they find, and act accordingly? Does your website(s) reflect your commitment to great customer service?
It’s no secret in the government web manager community that the most successful web teams (and, therefore, websites) are those that have strong support from top executives. At HUD, we sailed forward in those early years, establishing a website that provided really good customer service. Why? Largely because the web team was part of the Secretary’s office. The Secretary and his team knew us and trusted us, and we had their complete support. The Secretaries (Cisneros and Cuomo) had a strong commitment to customer service, and it showed on our website. We got the first Digital Government Award for good citizen service. Citizens started seeing HUD favorably (we were still recovering from scandals) because they could see we cared about serving them. We learned first-hand that providing great customer service is the best marketing you can do.
The web team at EPA is enjoying this same kind of bounce right now. Savvy top executives met with EPA web leaders early and often, asking the web leaders for their ideas to improve customer service, listening to them, and supporting them. EPA’s web customer service strategy is leaping ahead of the pack, as a result. When top executives take a personal interest in providing great customer service, everybody wins. And the biggest winners are the customers.
OK – I know you’re extremely busy and you have a lot on your platters, Government Executives. But let me suggest just a few things you can do that could really promote great customer service in your agency:
- Meet with your agency web communication director and new media director regularly. Tell them your customer service standards and your priorities. Ask for their suggestions to help you achieve your priorities, enhance mission achievement, and improve customer service. Ask them to brief you on the goals and priorities of the government web management community, and talk with them about what your agency can do to improve customer service across government.
- Invite your web leaders to your executive staff meetings – let them brief your team on how the web is improving customer service and what they can do to help.
- Make sure your web leaders have the resources and support they need to improve customer service. Be available to break through organizational bottlenecks when your web leaders need support.
- Let your whole agency know that quality customer service through the web is a real priority. Effective service depends on effective communication, so encourage all of your managers and staff to learn and use plain writing for anything that is posted on the web (or delivered to the public in any way).
- Work with your web leaders to evaluate your customers’ satisfaction, through usability testing and surveys. Hold your organization accountable for improvement.
Make sure your website(s) reflects your commitment to great customer service, Government Executive. Everyone knows – great customer service begins at the top.