Government leaders are all hyped about integrating the newest technological innovations into their agency to improve customer service, but we may have forgotten a step or two along the way. Although technological advancements do provide some avenues to bettering the services govies provide to their constituents, we have to remind ourselves about the basics of customer service. Citizen engagement is necessary in providing positive customer service experiences.
Customer service starts with employee engagement – not technology, according to Abby Herriman, Senior Vice President of Delivery and Innovation for High Point Global. She sat down with Christopher Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER to discuss her take on employee engagement in accordance with the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte's research on the The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government based off of the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) 2014 Federal Viewpoint Survey (FEVS).
Better employee engagement leads to better customer experiences. “The external element of citizen experience…is directly related to how government employees feel when they come to work…. there are two people in every interaction,” Herriman said. She focused on the other side of the equation by evaluating how govies can better the citizen’s experience from within the agency.
She explained the correlation between employee and user happiness: “If you look at some of the longitudinal studies you can see that for every 1 percent you gain in engagement of your employees, you see a 1 percent increase in customer satisfaction measurements.”
This hypothesis is proven by evaluating the “Effective Leadership: Empowerment” category of the FVS. According to the Partnership for Public Service this category “measures the extent to which employees believe leadership at all levels of the organization generates motivation and commitment, encourages integrity and manages people fairly, while also promoting the professional development, creativity and empowerment of employees.” By looking at the top three agencies leading in this single category, we come across some of the best places to work within the 19 large agencies evaluated. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration ranks #1 in the Best Places to Work with also the highest index score in this category-64.0. The Partnership for Public Service described the index score as “weighted according to the extent to which each question predicts “intent to remain.’” The second highest in this category was the Intelligence Community with an index score of 52.2 and ranks fourth overall in the best places to work. Third highest in the category, with a index score of 51.9, was the Department of Commerce which ranks second overall in the best places to work. Therefore, one way of looking at is that those who provide effective leadership by engaging their employees are also considered to be the top places to work in the federal government.
Then, of importance is how govies can continue to engage their employees more. Herriman highlighted several different ways to do so:
Step one, make the mission of the agency or organization clear upfront. In other words, “Craft a culture [around the agency’s mission and goals] that needs to be cared for very consciously. This happens a lot during the interview and talent acquisition process,” she said. Make sure you hire people who are in line with the mission and are truly motivated by the mission. In other words the candidate you hope to employ needs to have that “mission centric passion,” Herriman said. Hiring mission centric individuals will ultimately help govies maintain a culture that cares about serving its constituents in the best way possible.
After you’ve hired them, “keep the mission focus,” Herriman continued. People in government tend to be very passionate about what they do. They are highly motivated individuals who can quickly get bogged down by the red-tape. Bureaucracy or day-to-day management of all the rules and regulations within government can become harder to deal with if you don’t keep your employees involved in the process.
Herriman pointed out that you have to “give people the opportunity to see change happen very tactically, very tangibly. Talk about quick wins.” In the end, an employee will feel more involved in the process if they see the change for themselves.
“When you start to get people reinvigorated about what they do, those problems that would be hindrances and roadblocks, when they weren’t engaged, will be given more attention,” Herriman concluded. “They will take the extra time and effort to work through the problem when they see the importance of getting through it…when they feel like they can make a difference.”
By focusing on employee engagement , you will end up with happier and more engaged employees who are in turn more engaged in their work and the customer service they provide. Therefore, don’t forget to keep the fire lit and remember that good customer service starts with your employees.