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Know Your Customer on a Personal Level

Contract specialists aren’t trained in customer service. Despite this being a huge part of our job, I don’t know of a single contracts person who has had a class on customer service paid for by the government. It’s just not considered. One way to deliver customer service is simply getting to know your customers on a personal level. Did they just get married? What sports do their kids play? How did they get into their line of work? What do they do for fun? What book are they reading?

In contracts, we have the time to do this. We’re not in a call center where our productivity is measured by number of calls successfully completed in under 5 minutes — we’re in a cubicle working out details on an upcoming procurement. This is good. It gives us the time we need to answer complex issues. There are lots of benefits to getting along with your customer. Here are just two:

  1. The work is easier. The better your relationship with your customer, the easier the work will be. How will your work be easier? Cite personal example Save yourself the headache.
  2. Better value for taxpayer dollars. The better you get along, the more likely you are to get the best value for taxpayer dollars because you’ll better understand your customer’s needs. Interactions with this client will become more rewarding both personally and professionally.

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Samuel Lovett

Good points here. Even if you are not a specialist in something that you often have to do on the job, there are techniques available to help you get the job done in a professional way.

Nicole Evans

Sterling, we trained our entire acquisition shop in customer service a couple of years ago, and we continue to stress the importance of customer service. We also measure customer service (through response times and customer feedback) and incorporate this measurement into annual performance reviews. You make great points about the value of customer service – but don’t think that no contract shop in Government prioritizes this aspect of the job.

Patrick A Reilly

Customer Service is important, but here’s the rub. Who’s the customer? We have internal and External customers. Program offices that need our support are customers, but so are the President, Congress and the American people who count on us to obtain best value while looking out for small business, labor, the environment etc. To your point we in contracting are stuck in these stove piped organization that seem to only be focused on regulatory compliance and we need to reach out better to our mission folks to make sure we are balancing our effort.

Rather then the Provider/Customer maybe we can encourage the Trusted Colleagues approach to interpersonal relationships in procurement. That would take alot of the customer service type development along with the developing stronger procurement literacy and competency. We need to earn the respect of our program partners by demonstrating our acquisition excellence that manages risk and documents great agreements.


Amjad Wyne

I am not in contracting but have spoken with a number of contracting officers on this subject. “We just do what we are asked to do ” is what I was told. My observations may not be representative of anything at all given the small sample size, however, such response is typical in jobs where workers feel they cannot make a difference no matter how hard they try. Such feelings cut into any desire a worker may have to be more useful to its customers.

Nicole Evans

Patrick makes a really good point. Sterling I sent you a message on your question. We use several methods to measure including surveys and keeping a record of unsolicited positive feedback and complaints from customers.

Jaime Gracia

This is a great post, that I will expand on from the point of the deteriorating relationships between contracting officers and contractors. Contractors are customers as well, not just virulent parasites out to rip off the government. Not all of them, anyway.

Stay tuned…