Delivering cross-agency customer service.

Author:Danzig, Lisa

We've all had customer service experiences that exceed our expectations--whether it's receiving a delivery on Sunday from Amazon Prime, being able to track a pizza as it's made by your local Domino's, or getting a brand-new Patagonia rain jacket because of a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.

However, unlike Amazon, Domino's, or Patagonia, the services of the federal government are usually not focused on generating repeat customers. In fact, most people only interact with many government agencies out of necessity.

Good customer service can be a very different thing in these contexts. However, some of the same fundamentals apply, including:

* knowing the customers and their needs

* focusing on the customer experience when designing programs and service delivery

* setting customer expectations and getting their feedback

* celebrating employees who do this well.

Customer Service: A Cross-Agency Priority Goal

Unfortunately, satisfaction with federal government services is the lowest it's ever been, scoring 64.4 on a 100-point scale in 2014 compared to 67.8 in 2007. There are a lot of possible causes: a declining number of federal workers relative to the population, rising customer expectations for excellent service, and increasing expectations that customers should be able to access government services both in-person, online, and via mobile devices.

Improving customer service is a cross-agency priority (CAP) goal, and is one of eight management priorities of the Obama Administration. In collaboration with Carolyn Colvin, the acting commissioner for Social Security Administration, I am co-leading the implementation of this goal. We report progress quarterly on and to the President's Management Council (PMC), a monthly meeting of agency deputy secretaries.

Knowing the Customers

Although many companies have a chief marketing officer or a vice president of customer service, most agencies do not have a single person responsible for identifying customers and creating a strategy to ensure they are satisfied.

Additionally, federal agencies may be able to generally identify their customers, but few have a deeper understanding of their customer segments. This is a fundamental first step to any good customer service strategy.

The Veterans Administration (VA) is a good example of an agency that has identified the different types of customers they have. The VA has segmented veterans into several different types, including the veteran who...

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