It Starts at the Beginning

This morning I attended GovLoop’s “Re-Imagining Customer Service in Government” conversation and was pleasantly surprised to hear about some of the successes agencies are having addressing President Obama’s April 2011 Executive Order 13571 – “Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service“.

Chris Dorobek moderated the hour long session which included the following expert facilitators:

  • Joey Hutcherson – Deputy Director of Open Government, Office of the Secretary, Department of Commerce
  • Abraham Marinez – Customer Engagement Adviser, Department of Education
  • Bruce Marsh – Director, Office of Inspector General Risk Analysis Research Center, USPS

After each facilitator had an opportunity to introduce themselves, their organizations, and the successes they have had in addressing the Customer Service mandate, Mr. Dorobek asked the facilitators (paraphrasing) “What is the biggest challenge to developing a customer service strategy?”. The responses to this question were broad but telling. Some agencies struggle with recognizing internal employees as customers while others struggle with organizational culture changes that may be required for this mandate to be successful so silos can be broken down and information shared more freely intra- and inter-agency. Others responded it requires incentives and the ability to measure results (metrics) in a useful way. Mr. Marinez discussed that Millennial customers had very different needs than older internal staff who initially shunned the idea that mobile applications were a means for increasing customer service. He also discussed the need for metrics noting that they can be “noisy”.

Mr. Marinez’s response came the closest to answering Mr. Dorobek’s question but I would have added the following:

The best customer service strategies start at the beginning; the customer. Specifically, the customer(s) must be defined (and over time redefined) in great detail. Generational data is only scratching the surface. Customer profiles must be compiled that address the needs of every customer the agency may serve through a variety of channels (e.g. web, mobile, social, call center, etc.). This takes good, old-fashioned market research, and at times ethnographic research. Only then can an organizational customer service strategy be established to meet the needs of the organization’s customers. With in-depth customer profiles useful metrics can be established to track progress and measure both successes and failures in customer service initiatives cutting down on the “noise” and ensuring the metrics are relevant and actionable. With relevant and actionable metrics smart business decisions can be made that ensure proper customer service with the goal of driving costs down over time.

It might take some up-front leg work but getting to know your customers intimately is the key success factor to any and all customer service strategies in both the private and public sectors.

Want additional information on The Customer Experience? Check out this link to Sapient’s Idea Engineer Blog and view the Gartner podcast.

Originally posted on by Bill Annibell

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