It always makes you proud when a member of your family does something awesome, right?
Well, GovLoop has a member - Wendi Pomerance Brick - who's about to release a brilliant book geared toward government on December 15. It's called “The Science of Service: Six Essential Elements for Creating a Culture of Service in the Public Sector.”
As soon as I learned about the book, I asked Wendi a few questions about it so that I could share it with the community. Below are her responses.
1 - What's your background? How did you get involved with customer service in the public sector?
I started working for the County of San Diego as a student intern, and loved it so much I decided I was never leaving! I had no idea that so many people (government employees) came to work everyday simply to make everyone’s quality of life better. I was young and impressionable, and quickly adopted the County’s motto “The Noblest Motive is the Public Good” as my own.
After nine years on the front line, in 1998 I became the County’s first Customer Service Manager, and was responsible for developing what became the award winning Customer
Service Center. The Customer Service Center programs incorporated the Six Essential Elements in this 17,000 person organization. In 2006, I was engaged by the City of San Diego, and organization of 10,000, as the Director of the Customer Services Department.
All of the success over the years is not mine alone. I had the privilege to lead wonderful teams of people that supported and carried out these programs. They were all wonderful contributors and they should be recognized as part of what has become of all our hard work.
2 - Tell us about the book!
“The Science of Service: Six Essential Elements for Creating a Culture of Service in the Public Sector” is intended to be a blue print and resource for any person or organization that provides services to the public. It’s different from books on customer service as it offers practical approaches based on real-world experiences by a former government employee.
Customer service in government can be different from the private sector – we
are regulatory or enforcement-oriented much of the time, our customers are not always right, we sometimes have to say “no”, and there is tremendous additional stress added to the interaction because the customer usually has to receive that service from us, i.e. they don’t have a choice.
The concepts shared in this book are framed specifically for public organizations (local, state, regional, and federal governments). Whether you are the City Manager, CAO, front line supervisor, or line staff, these concepts all apply to you and will make your lives as public servants more successful and fulfilling.
3 - Can you share any public sector success stories - agencies, cities or departments that apply the six elements?
Sure – both of the organizations I worked for – the County of San Diego and the City of San Diego, had extraordinarily robust programs and the Essential Elements became part of
the way they did business.
Since being a consultant, I’ve worked with multiple organizations to implement pieces of the puzzle. I’m working on several proposals right now with forward thinking organizations that realize touch economies provide even more urgency in implementing components of the Six Essential Elements. The requests I’m hearing most frequently are for front line training on working effectively with difficult people or people in difficult situations.
4 - If you had to pull a short excerpt from the book that captures your favorite insight, what would it be?
Anything can be accomplished if you believe and have the right attitude. I think everything in this book, and in my life, aligns with this sentiment.
What is your job really? If you think it’s to process reports, you will behave a certain way. If you think the noblest motive is the public good, you may behave differently. On Page 13, there is a quote from Archimedes – “If you give me a lever and a place to stand, I can move the world.” The lever is you. Management is a title, leadership is a choice.
The second point (and I realize you only asked for one) is so crucial I am compelled to include it here. Treat your employees as your first customers, and your employees will take care of your external customers. I have been absolutely sickened by some supervisors and managers I’ve met along the way. They treat their employees like they are subhuman - really abusing their power to hold people down. Do you really think someone is going to give you 100% every day if they can’t stand you? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about being friends with everyone. I’m talking about respect, courtesy and valuing a person for their contributions. How about even asking your staff what they think, and then implementing their suggestions? To you and me, that’s a no-brainer but it’s not happening most of the time.
Share you vision, inspire your people, have their back, help them grow and learn and be successful – a loyal supportive team will bend over backwards to do their best in providing extraordinary service because they are treated well and want to make a great impression on others.
5 - When did you feel that first nudge to write the book? How long did it take from conception to completion?
It’s funny, I started the book in 2005, and then put it aside for several years. In 2006 I became consumed with my new job at the City of San Diego, and spent the next two years really focusing my efforts to implement these programs, rather than write about them. I didn’t really pick it up again and get serious until 2009.
At that point, I had no idea how many steps are involved in producing a good read! Writing that first draft is just the beginning. I worked with an editor which resulted in a higher-quality more readable book. All the great theories in the world won’t amount to much if your delivery isn’t smooth and interesting (and grammatically correct). And writing a book about great customer service in government, well, let’s be honest, there needed to be a lot of attention paid to keeping the reader engaged. I hope people enjoy the read and find it entertaining as well.
6 - Any early feedback on it? Got some testimonials from folks who've had a chance to read an advance copy?
Absolutely – I used these two amazing endorsements on the back cover:
“This book is relevant because government is a business, too…and many forget that. Wendi grasps the key elements and the importance of customer service in government better than anyone I have ever met in my 40+ years of public service.”
– Ronne Froman RADM US Navy (ret)
“Wendi Brick has found ways to create an atmosphere where employees WANT to provide great service and are rewarded for doing so. She has earned respect from her
colleagues and clients and, more importantly, customers along the way.”
– Cindy Gompper Graves, CEO, South County Economic Development Council
And here are some comments from Public Sector Employees:
“This book is great nourishment for those in charge of, or interested in, the care and feeding of a successful organization.” - Chris Gonaver
“Over the years I have worked with Wendi, I have seen firsthand her ability to get positive results through improved customer service. Using a very common sense approach, this book provides excellent building blocks that readers can use to improve customer service in their own organizations.” - Richard Haas Jr.
“Wendi Brick helped me see that I interacted with customers all day long - external customers coming in to do business as well as internal customers, and my fellow employees who needed information or assistance from me. The lessons I learned and the tools I received from her continue to help me on a day-to-day basis.” - Holly Simonette
“In her book, “The Science of Service,” Wendi Brick shows her readers how to improve customer service in their organizations in tangible, measurable ways. Even more importantly, she also makes a compelling case for why public agencies should make the effort.” - Janice Graham Heather
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