For governmental enterprises, there oftentimes are services being provided for which there is little or no competition such as: How somebody applies for food stamps. What the process is for somebody to pay their annual business taxes. What needs to be done to change an address on a vehicle that somebody owns.
These are all services or processes that government agencies deliver in which they have no competition.
In most organizations outside of the public sector, a strong reason to try to improve your customer service is because it leads to higher client retention and helps to stave off the competition. But in some government agencies the question can be asked “why do we need to care about customer service, since we have no competition?”
If that question is even being asked, then it is probably because you have a management team that does a horrible job of conveying the importance of customer service to its employees. But that’s a topic of another blog posting. For today, let’s talk about why customer service matters to government. First of all, customer service is not just about the smiles and the eye contact. Customer service is also about process. And anybody who understands great customer service realizes that the most efficient and effective processes typically accomplish both goals of saving the organization money and delivering a high quality, consistent experience to the customer. So the first reason to care about customer service is to realize that by delivering service in a highly effective way for the customer, organizations typically also provide more cost-effective delivery of services.
Let’s also look at it from a positive side relating to employee attitudes. Employee attitudes are another characteristic of customer service along with processes. Much of how a customer feels about their experience is related to the attitudes of the employees who engage them.
As an employee, if you think about working in a department that has horrible customer service, you’d envision yourself dealing with constantly complaining customers, having to deal with waiting rooms where there is a huge backlog of customers, having too much work to do in the time to do it, and having slow manual processes to work with to deliver those services. Everybody in your department is putting out their own fires, so they won’t help you; other departments are too focused on themselves, so they won’t help you either. It’s an environment that if you work there, your stress would be high, your workload would seem to be increasing, there would seem to be no flow to the work, people would be saying nasty things about you or your department, and your co-workers would be testy when interacting with you. It would be a lousy work environment.
But imagine working in an environment where the processes were very efficient, and things got done right the first time. Imagine that the customers only had to fill out their information once and that the waits were shorter, and therefore the complaints were fewer. Imagine knowing how to deal with irate customers because you’ve gone through some great customer service training, so you’re very comfortable in those situations. Imagine people saying great things about your department and thanking you for your service. And imagine your co-workers and other departments jumping in to help and being sincerely supportive of you and having great attitudes when working with you.
There is a personal benefit to great customer service. This applies in any industry, but it’s especially important to talk about and understand in the government sector.
Move the customer service needle to improve your organization’s efficiencies, the customer experience, and your own personal work environment.
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