President Obama’s executive order to improve customer service across the federal government is political pabulum, but little else.  If it were that easy, it would have already been done.

Corporations across the world struggle with same issues, and have for some time.  For them, the drivers to improve service are:

  • Reduce Costs
  • Improve Revenues
  • Improve Satisfaction and Retention

But the government (acting as a monopoly) and federal employees have little incentive to change.  The government shouldn’t be improving revenues through services, though cutting costs would be welcome.

Improving customer service in the federal government will require sweeping changes across the government… changes for which political parties of all persuasions have shown little appetite.  If the government is intent on this path, here are some “must haves”:

  1. Eliminate Redundant Agencies – I wouldn’t use a politician’s view on “redundant” here.  Focus on the outcome, or intended benefit, the organization purports to deliver.
  2. Simplify Existing Processes – It is possible that such simplification may make things somewhat unfair for various special interest groups.  Err on the side of over-simplification… we can always re-create the processes if necessary.
  3. Train People – Do Steps 1 and 2 first, to help slim down the number of people to train, and the complexity of the training that must occur.
  4. Offer Meaningful Incentives – This notion will violate some unspoken rule of fairness since some will be compensated differently than others.  But find the incentive that will cause people to seek change, rather than avoid it.  The government of the world’s greatest free market economy has shown amazing resilience to operating by its maxims.

The pivot point is that change in customer service must span organizational boundaries; it can’t happen at a departmental level.

Customer Service Government Style – That Was Easy!
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7 thoughts on “Customer Service Government Style – That Was Easy!

  • 22 June 2011 at 13:44

    As with all activity, unless there are consequences to the wrong
    action, an activity will progress in every direction, good or bad. Anywhere the
    free market is effective, it is because there is a reward for the right balance
    between effort, quality of service, and customer loyalty. When there is no
    penalty for poor effectiveness, efficiency suffers. When there is no penalty
    for quality of service; service suffers.

    Government agencies can provide valuable service when there
    is no balance in the market, as in the cost to a business for water and air
    quality. Air and Water Quality regulation provide the balance to make sure
    business cares about the cost of a commodity when there is no market driven

    Where there is a market balance, such as the quality of
    food, the government adds very little balance to the product or service. If a
    business produces bad food products or service, they will not stay in business
    very long.  The issue is self-correcting.
    For the government to change the quality of service of the federal government
    requires the same risk, reward balance as the public sector, and executive
    order does not provide that balance.

    • 22 June 2011 at 13:56

      Exactly… your last sentence sums up the folly. Executive order, even by the world’s most powerful person, isn’t enough to change behavior in a meaningful (i.e. with results) way.

  • 18 July 2011 at 07:43

    Customer Service in a Government organisation is a tough thing, as nobody wants to take the responsibility. Something like who will give me directions to do???

    • 18 July 2011 at 20:32

      Exactly but I don’t view this as the employees’ fault. Instead, overly burdensome rules and regulations stamp out a person’s natural creativity and drive. What you are left with is the person who does only what is required, no more.

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