5 Ways Private Sector Customer Service Best Practices are Paying Off for the Public Sector


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What does the government have in common with Zappos and Amazon.com? Probably more than you think. Over the past few years, the government has taken an active interest in using the private sector’s customer support best practices to better serve its own customers, the general public. And this strategy is paying off for many local, state and federal agencies and the citizens they serve in five key ways:

1. Improved and Easier to Access Information

The government’s new information-centric approach is changing what used to be a government-speak, online data dump into a more organized, transparent information center. Agencies are now writing for the customer instead of for each other and making their news and information accessible 365/24/7 through online portals, social media and other mass communication tools.

According to the State of the Federal Web Report published this time last year, almost half of all federal agencies were not using CMS solutions for publishing content online, leading to manual, inconsistent data entry across various online properties, with very few sites maintaining real-time updates and information.

The new information-centric approach adopted by the government encourages agencies to develop consistent, plain-language content which can be “tagged, shared, secured, mashed up and presented in the way that is most useful for the consumer of that information.” Just like many businesses’ product and service FAQ pages, government agencies are using similar back-end knowledgebase solutions to provide organized, self-serve access to forms, contact information, frequently-asked questions and more.

2. Service at the Public’s Convenience and to its Real-Time Benefit

Agencies are now adopting service channels that reach far beyond the standard phone and email options. Visit the Utah or Texas state government sites, and you can start a live chat conversation. Ask DFAS a question via their Facebook page. Cloud computing, social media, mobile and search are rapidly changing the consumer landscape and just like their commercial counterparts, government service and support agencies are stepping up to meet and greet customers on the channel of their choice.

In times of crisis or when real-time information is key (for example, during a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy), many government agencies have shown just how beneficial their presence on social media can be. Some are now even rivaling the response times of retailers Zappos and L.L. Bean, and the possibilities for government’s use of social media in this fashion are impressive to consider.

(Click here to read Information Week’s Tip 14 Government Social Media Initiatives.)

3. Shared Resources Create Shared Best Practices

A decade ago, data silos and departmentalization formed the glue in government red tape. A new decentralized approach, however, is allowing government agencies to collaborate, route questions and issues to the department or individual best able to answer, and share service and support best practices for greater efficiency, effectiveness, consistency and first contact resolution.

The shared platform approach allows for a “company-wide” customer service approach in government agencies, providing consistency across departments and allowing best practices to be more-readily shared and implemented.

4. The Ability to Do More with Less

For years, the secret sauce of commercial customer service agent efficiency was equipping staff with the technology to answer an email or help desk ticket while simultaneously engaging another customer on live chat, while also deflecting 20 more easy-answer questions with online self-service information. Now that the cloud has made this technology more affordable, the government can use the same centralized multi-channel customer service solutions that the private sector uses to provide more and better service without having to add staff.

5. Feedback and Reporting to Incite Improvement

Post-sales and service surveys have been a staple of retailers, hotels, auto dealerships, software companies and more for as long as memory serves. Now it’s the government’s turn to keep score on who’s doing what well, and who’s doing it better than others. The Government Customer Service Improvement Act of 2012 would require agencies to solicit and publish customer feedback. Said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), “This legislation ensures that federal agencies are responsive to the taxpayers who fund them by requiring the development of customer service standards and performance measures at each agency.

“By embedding the concept of customer service into government operations, agencies will ultimately become more efficient and effective. This is just common sense.”

To standardize and streamline how agencies collect and report on service and support data, the Digital Government Strategy is requiring agencies to implement common performance and customer satisfaction metrics for all federal executive branch .gov websites. Last year at this time, the State of the Federal Web Report showed that only 10% of the 24 major federal agencies were using the same performance metrics to consistently evaluate websites agency-wide.

Customer service – it isn’t just for the private sector anymore. Local, state and federal agencies are stepping up their game – and it’s the public who will come out winning.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.


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