There are countless roles in government that are overtly customer-centric, from call center representatives to 911 dispatchers and TSA agents. You can argue that every role in government impacts the public in some way, even if people can’t immediately see it.
But more important than the job descriptions are the individuals who occupy those roles. What mindsets, beliefs and empathy — or lack of it — do they bring to their work? What makes them feel motivated or demotivated? To what extent do they feel empowered to make decisions that fall in the grey space of their daily roles and responsibilities?
My colleagues and I explored the various aspects of customer experience (CX) in government in our latest editorial guide, including how to foster a customer-centric mindset and values. We wanted to provide examples and mini frameworks that government employees can use to move their CX efforts beyond memos and turn their good intentions into actions.
Kelly Brown, Interim Chief of Staff and Special Assistant to the Director at the Office of Unified Communications in Washington, D.C., was among the thought leaders we featured in the guide (Use the button below to download the guide and read Brown’s full interview on pg 15 of the resource).
Brown shared how important it is for customer service professionals to be self-aware and to understand what makes them tick and how that influences the way they respond to diverse public requests and personality types. She took the conversation a step further by sharing how customer-centric employees can and do thrive in environments where they are given top cover to do impactful work and test new ideas. This is especially true in roles like 911 dispatch where social media and technology developments are enabling professionals to think outside the box and extend beyond the traditional boundaries of service through features like text and video.
She shared one story about a 911 dispatcher who went beyond what was required to provide what was needed. Below is a lightly edited version of what Brown shared:
Someone called 911 to say that they were watching an Instagram Live of someone who said that they were going to commit suicide, they were going to hang themselves. Our call taker stepped outside of the protocol to provide exemplary customer service. She notified her supervisors, and then she got on Instagram Live. The person hadn’t provided their location, and the people who were watching Instagram Live weren’t in D.C.
Long story short, the person ended up being in Montgomery County [Maryland], and we were able to figure that out based on our call taker going above and beyond to do this. And the Montgomery County Police were able to intercept this situation and cut the person down because they had tried to move forward with, unfortunately, hanging themselves.
The call taker could have just said, ‘we don’t have an address, there’s nothing more we can do.’ That happens sometimes. But just taking it a step further and looking outside of yourself for a moment, to go above and beyond, is a critical piece.
Brown shared an observation in the form of a question: “What makes you maintain that same level of I will do whatever I need to do every single time? Even when you’re tired. You’ve helped somebody deliver a baby, you gave them CPR instructions, you’ve done all these things times 20 on a single shift.”
Delivering the same level of exceptional service time after time goes beyond training, she said. It’s innate, yet aspects of the work can be learned. Having the capacity, willingness and support to provide stellar customer experiences make all the difference, as was the case with the D.C., 911 dispatcher.
“You have to want to provide good customer service and want to be different or perform in that way,” Brown said.