I was delighted to read Web Manager University’s first blog entry on Govloop the other day. Delighted for two reasons – first, that they’re using the widely-read Govloop to advertise the wonderful courses offered through WMU. But I was even more delighted when I read this: “WMU is expanding our training to include all aspects of delivering customer service (including phone, email, print etc).” Yes! Yes! Yes! This is the right thing to do. This is the way we should be evolving. Broaden our focus from managing websites to managing customer service. Focus on the customer – not the delivery mechanism.
Of the 6 customer service standards established by the Federal Web Managers Council in their first white paper, this is the one that is so key: when citizens need government information and services, they should be able to get the same answer whether they use the web, phone, email, live chat, read a brochure, or visit in-person. We’ve got to stop working in silos built around delivery mechanisms (web, phone, publications) and start organizing around customers.
Expanding the scope of WMU (dare we hope it will be re-named “Customer Service University?”) is a great start. I’d still like to see a Customer Services Summit (note that my vernacular has changed from “citizen services” to “customer services”) to come up with a comprehensive, far-reaching strategy to improve government’s customer service. Bring together players across government and across delivery channels…representatives of both the management ranks and the staff who actually interface with customers. Involve customer service experts from outside government. Make it a model of open government by involving citizens…before, after, and during. Stream some or all of the sessions. Take suggestions online.
The outcome should be a strategy for improving the way government, as a whole – not by agency, not within delivery silos – can and will improve the way it communicates with and serves its customers. The Summit should be just the beginning of ongoing gatherings and discussions across government and with customers, so we can monitor progress, make course corrections, and be transparent about what’s going on.
It looks like the folks at GSA and the Federal Web Managers Council (maybe one day the “Federal Customer Service Council?”), which co-sponsors WMU, are thinking big. That’s great. They are providing leadership. Now we need to get more people –inside and outside government – involved. The time is right. We’re building critical mass. The evolution is underway. Let’s see government step it up and really give us some great customer service.