Federal Manager's Daily Report

Achieving the often-cited goal of improving customer service by federal agencies requires effective leadership, but how to do that “is not well understood” in the government because private sector drivers such as profit motive and customer retention “are usually irrelevant,” says a report from the Partnership for Public Service.

“Despite their best intentions to enhance services and meet public needs, government leaders sometimes try to improve the customer experience in counterproductive ways. They may jump to address specific customer pain points—for example a clunky agency website—without stepping back to examine the root causes or larger organizational practices that lead to less-than-user-friendly services. Or they may rely too heavily on their own personal experience—perhaps as a customer of the agency itself—and fail to account for the diversity of their customer base,” it says.

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The report says that based on research with customer service leaders in government, five principles emerged: focus on the mission and set a tangible vision for change; listen to a diverse set of stakeholders and practice empathy; stay curious and seek continual improvement; embrace risk and foster resilience; and make the case to build partnerships.

They “share a common thread: Leaders did more than just fix stand-alone problems; they created organizational cultures that put customers first and continually responded and adapted to changing customer needs,” it said.

It added that OPM could boost customer service by making it part of the “executive core qualifications” for advancement into the SES, while individual agencies could “invest in training leaders on customer experience principles and related strategies like human-centered design.”

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