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Get Organized for Great Customer Service

At long last, the customer service bandwagon seems to be rolling in government. The latest evidence: GSA just quietly unveiled a fabulous new website: HowTo.gov. It puts requirements, best practices, training, and tips for all forms of customer service delivery (web, call centers, publications, social media) under one customer service umbrella. Bravo! Finally, we can focus on what and why we’re communicating – not just how.

So now I’m thinking about what agencies might do to make great customer service happen. Step one is a strategy, and I still think we need a cross-government customer service summit to get everyone working together. But enough on that.

Step two: get organized for great customer service! Designate/hire, train, and empower a cadre of your best to lead, coordinate, and evaluate your customer service plan.

“So, what would you do, Candi?” I thought you’d never ask! Here’s a draft to start the discussion.

Establish a Customer Service Team.

Hire or designate an executive Customer Service Director – someone really skilled in analyzing customers and their needs and coming up with/implementing winning customer service strategies. Make sure that person understands the government customer (citizens and others).

Assign the agency web manager, the new media director, the agency call center manager, the agency publications editor/manager, the director of correspondence, the director of field operations (if field offices have any contact at all with the public), the Open Government manager, and the Plain Language Manager to the Team. Ex officio members (with dotted line relationships) include the Director of Public Relations/Affairs (press/news), the CIO, and the agency Contracting Officer (because contracts should adhere to agency customer service standards and requirements). Oh, and don’t forget to coordinate with the program officials – the people who actually manage the products and services your agency provides.

Put the Customer Service Team as close to the top of the agency as possible (report to head of the agency or his/her deputy), to make sure customer service gets the attention across the agency it deserves.

If there is a field component in the agency, set up Regional Customer Service Teams, reporting to the agency Team. Include regional representatives of the web, new media, call centers, correspondence units, and publications operations. Make sure they consult regularly with people who answer the phones and handle walk-in traffic in local offices to be sure we stay on top of trending issues.

I’d charge the Customer Service Teams with 4 primary functions:

  1. Tell us about our customers: who they are, what they want, and how they want it (delivery channels)
  2. Tell us what we need to do to improve the way we deliver our services to our customers (including strategy, process improvements, quality controls, and evaluation)
  3. Teach us to deliver great customer service
  4. Work across agencies to make sure we all deliver the best possible customer service to the American people.

What would it look like? Try this.

OK – there you have it. Don’t like it? OK. Come up with your own ideas. But start thinking. You need to get organized for great customer service.

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