A majority of Americans view government employees in a negative light; we are viewed as overpaid and underqualified according to most polls of the general public. While research shows that this isn’t true (see my last blog post), how do we improve public perception of government employees?
For those of us that interface with the public and for those that lead others that do, I have a novel idea to improve the public’s perception of government employees- a grassroots, one-at-a-time approach: aim to do one bureaucratic act of kindness per day, or if you are a government leader, make this the culture in your organization
I’m a biologist, but a small part of my job involves customer service for a system that is used by the general public. To say that a roomful of scientists are not customer service experts is an understatement. Listening to the phone calls of a select few colleagues and their general unwillingness to go above and beyond inspired me to start improving my own customer service skills and to spend a few minutes each day going above and beyond the call of duty and helping at least one caller navigate the bureaucratic landscape of the federal government. Every day I started trying to assist a caller with some other issue that they were having that went beyond the scope of what my office does.
For example, one woman was having trouble getting her printer to work one day, so I walked her through a quick fix. She was so grateful and left the conversation in such a great mood that I am relatively sure that she is one less person who will contribute to our negative poll numbers in the future. In another instance, I called another federal agency for a woman who was having trouble with something that was out of the scope of what my office does; she was similarly surprised and grateful. Seeing the effectiveness of these small, quick, almost effortless bureaucratic acts of kindness, I started to implement the idea in our training and it’s really caught on! My office now frequently gets verbal and written praise for our customer service, without any formal customer service training.
For this to be effective it is important to make it part of your training plan and it is crucial to empower employees to go above and beyond. If employees are not empowered to go the extra mile, customer service and public perception will inevitably suffer.
I would love to hear your ideas and examples of bureaucratic acts of kindness that we can all use in our daily work. Share yours below!
Samantha McCormick is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.