The Government as a Customer Service Organization?
Technology has changed how we interface with companies and brands. Just a few weeks ago, after getting extremely poor service and little follow-up from Verizon, I tweeted my displeasure and received a response within minutes (as opposed to being told on chat that I needed to call, and facing long wait times on the phone without a resolution). While it took some time, my problem was eventually resolved. Customers are increasingly expecting organizations to provide faster and better service. They want near immediate responses, quick resolutions, and not having to be transferred or having to repeat information. They seek omni-channel (chat, phone, twitter, email, etc.) opportunities to connect with customer service representatives and have their questions answered, or better yet, the ability to serve themselves and answer the problem on their own. This is something that the government has struggled with, despite repeated efforts to improve.
Whether or not government agencies view themselves as providing customer service, this needs to become a tenet of government agencies (and will be a key consideration in behavioral and case interviews, and in your consulting projects). Agencies need to consider the stakeholders using their products and services and adapt to meet them where they are. Indeed, a 2016 Forester Report found that the federal government had a “near monopoly on the worst experiences” of customer service. By 2019, Forester’s Customer Experience Index found that American’s experiences with federal services remains “weak and uneven.” While the White House has issued guidance to provide a streamlined experience in line with high-performing private sector companies, there continues to be a gap.
There are some green shoots with improvements being recognized at the Office of Veterans Affairs, which has created a Veterans’ Experience Office and codified customer service as a core organizational value. As expectations continue to be set by leading private sector companies, you can anticipate increasing pressure for better service to be placed on government agencies. Government will need to modernize, adapt, and upskill to keep up with the demands and consultants will play a critical role in supporting these efforts.