Government Agencies Ordered to Improve Customer Service
President Obama ordered all federal agencies to create a plan to improve customer service to be compared to these companies that are the best in business.
President Obama ordered government agencies to develop a plan to improve customer service within 180 days. This means that by October 24, 2011 all public sector agencies should have a plan to use technology to improve their efficiency and customer service. This is good news for all Americans who must use their services every day. If asked, most people will say that customer service from local or federal government is getting better, but compared to private sector service it is still poor. While private companies have been forced by their competition to find ways to improve customer relations, governmental agencies has had little pressure. Despite decades of daily customer complaints government agencies continued to provide slow service, rude responses, and lackluster communication.
This Executive Order was good news to my ears since I recently had an extremely bad experience with a federal agency. Since I’ve told all of my friends and family about my experience, I might as well share it will anyone who reads this article. Recently, I called the agency using a number I’d found on their elaborate and confusing website. The woman who answered explained in a hasty voice that I had called a wrong number for the department I was trying to reach. She then transferred me to someone in her office who could supply me with the correct number. I was relieved when after waiting twenty six minutes someone finally picked up. The person who picked up the phone didn’t bother to say hello or inquire why I was calling. Instead, the person laid the receiver down on their desk and for six minutes I heard the office background noise before the receiver was finally placed back on the phone and I was hung up on. This is an excellent example of customer service by a government employee. I hope you’ve had better experiences than this.
The Executive Order by President Obama states that the federal agencies must be able to compete with the “Best in Business.” This is a pretty tall order, and for this reason, I looked up the best in the business to see what they are doing to make their customers happy. Thankfully, Bloomberg BusinessWeek publishes an annual list of Customer Service Champs. Bloomberg’s list was my resource to see what we have to look forward to from our federal government. Below are some of the areas these “Champs” are offering great customer service.
Technology is being used to allow customers to make deposits by taking pictures of checks via their iphones and using an app to email the picture to the bank. Publix Super Markets has acquired an inventory software system to automatically place reorders. The system reduces out-of-stock situations, and allows employees to spend more of their time with customers.
Amica Mutual Insurance has installed an advanced telecommunication system that allows agents in local offices to take calls from offices receiving particularly high volume of calls. This allows customers to receive service more quickly and efficiently.
In spite of the recession, these companies continued and even increased customer service training to their employees. In fact, American Express provided more soft skills training to their call center employees. American Express also found that by hiring employees that had experience in hospitality rather than call centers they were able to provide better customer service.
Many of these companies also found that by improving their office environments their customers and employees were happier. By making the environment more pleasant customers increased office visits and employees provided better service.
It’s true that happier employees really do provide better customer service. This is the attitude of Panera Bread that offered cash bonuses to their hourly employees, and long-term management incentives to salary employees.
These are just a few examples of how the government can improve their services. The plans for the customer service improvements is due in October, however no date has been imposed for implementation. Hopefully, we will all see better customer service from our federal government by 2012 and will no longer be placed on indefinite hold.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Huffmon is a keynote speaker and corporate trainer. She speaks to corporate managers, executives, and business owners. She helps them solve their 3 biggest problems: employee retention, productivity, and manager employee communication.