Should Local Government Offices Develop Customer Service Plans?

On April 27, 2011, President Obama issued an Executive Order titled Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service. The Order directed each federal agency within 180 days to develop a Customer Service Plan that addresses how the agency will provide services in a manner that seeks to streamline service delivery and improve the experience of its customers.

The Customer Service Plan must include the following:

  • One major initiative (signature initiative) that will utilize technology to improve the customer experience;
  • Establishing mechanisms to solicit customer feedback on services and using such feedback to regularly make service improvements;
  • Setting clear customer service standards and expectations by way of performance goals;
  • Streamlining agency processes to reduce costs and accelerate delivery, while reducing the need for customer calls and inquiries;
  • Identifying ways to use innovative technologies to accomplish the customer service activities above , thereby lowering costs, decreasing service delivery times, and improving the customer experience.

A friend of mine went to a local government office to pay a bill and was told no one was there to provide an adequate receipt as the “girls went to lunch.” When asked when they would return she was informed that one employee sometimes never comes back from lunch. My friend eventually made her way to the Treasury office where she was bounced from one line to two others since she came in from the front door but the signage was at the rear entry.

Frustrating experiences like the above happen everyday in government offices. If you are a County Executive, Mayor or town Supervisor you have the ability to issue a directive to your department heads requiring them to develop a Customer Service Plan. If you are a Legislator, Councilmember or Board member of a local government, you have the ability to introduce a Resolution requesting that department heads be required to prepare a Customer Service Plan. If you are a concerned citizen you can send a letter/email to your elected officials explaining why developing a Customer Service Plan is a good idea. If you file your request in writing with the clerk for the Legislature, city council, town or village board, your request can be on the agenda for discussion at an upcoming meeting.

Many elected officials talk about creating government that is customer friendly but few actually require their department heads to take steps in writing and in practice to actually improve the delivery of services and customer service.

What do you think about the idea of local government department heads creating a Customer Service Plan?

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Steve Cottle

I think this makes a lot of sense. My guess would be that a significant (but reasonable!) upfront effort followed by a relatively low level of ongoing effort would provide departments with a tremendous amount of information that could not only help improve the customer experience, but also improve operational processes. The latter benefit could be a selling point to departments who are less inclined to devote resources to improving the customer experience.

Altin Paulson

I am a Commissioner for the city of St. Paul and the former Chair of the Park and Rec Commission, excellent customer service is essential when providing city services to the customer (the tax payer), and the investment is minimal when compared to the improved community realtions and positve PR it adds….. sometimes it could be nothing more than a pleasant smile or making an empowered decision in favor of the customer. Like in projessional sports.. or in any sports for that matter, team training is needed to change attitudes and improve these skills. I have a client, a 40 year old international company, that has developed excellent tools for customer service training and they market these products and technologies internationally. Their Feelings program and the Attaining Excellence program would be a good investment for any local governemnet department that interacts with customers or the public. If interested, check them out at

In my expereicne from sitting on various city commissions, much of the lack of service or poor service complaints come because staff has not been properly trained, and/or having these skills occasionally refreshed, on how to deal with irate customers or demanding customers, or how to make empowered decisions rather than kick the can down the road to their supervisor.

John Magruder

Paul, I agree, with hundreds of letters, e-mails, faxes, and telephone calls every week, government staff face the challenge of responding to each inquiry in a fast and effective manner. My Division created an off-the-shelf tool for this exact process. Intranet Quorum® (IQ) helps government (and elected officials) meet that challenge with a suite of feature-rich applications designed specifically for the unique demands of government organizations. If you care to learn more here is a place to start IQ Website:

We have many Governors, Mayors, Counties as well as Federal Customers that have been using our application for over 25 years. We have a great story to tell and a long list of satisfied customers.