The “Payoff” For Government Managers Helping Staff Provide Better Customer Service

Apart from the benefits for one’s department or branch, that come from improving customer service, there’s a more selfish reason for managers to play more of an active part in helping staff provide better customer service to citizens. And it’s a hard core, practical reason, that particularly applies to the public sector.

It’s About Time – Improved Customer Service = Time Savings For Supervisors/Managers

One difference between the private and public sector is that customers can’t “go elsewhere” if they are dissatisfied. In many instances, they won’t “go away” because they can’t go away. The stakes are higher for them, and that means they will be more persistent, and in many cases more vocal and aggressive when they are dissatisfied, and are not getting the answers they want, particularly if their requests are denied.

That translates into staff having to spend more time dealing with problems, but from the manager’s point of view it also means MORE day to day involvement, as citizen customers demand to escalate their concerns to the manager, or even farther up the line.

The result is that management ends up dealing with exceptions, and difficult, angry customers more often in the public sector than in the private sector. It’s simple. Dissatisfied or upset government customers aren’t going away, and they want to speak to the highest level in the organization they can.

And that can suck time out of a manager’s busy day.

The Payoff For Paying More Attention To Customer Service In Government

While it’s not possible to change the role government plays, (often saying no), it is possible for managers to make customer service a priority so they don’t have to deal with quite so many irate citizens and users of government services. In short, the better the customer service, the more managers work internally to create that level of service, the LESS they have to spend fire-fighting.

  • Front line customer service representatives who:
  • understand the priorities of their jobs
  • know what the managers expects regarding customer service
  • have enough power to resolve issues more quickly
  • have bought in to the importance of serving customers
  • understand the policies of the organization that come into play regarding what can and can’t be done

are going to be more effective in resolving customer issues WITHOUT the involvement of the manager.

 The Political World of Customer Service

One more related point. Citizens who feel they have not been dealt with fairly, with consideration and with respect, are more prone to use public platforms (social media, print media, radio, television) to escalate their complaints to the political levels. And if they are successful in getting media attention, once again, the time spent dealing with the “splash” can be huge. There’s nothing more frustrating for government managers than to have to spend time fielding questions from politicans about a particular incident or customer service case. It can be hugely time consuming.

So, again, while it’s never going to be possible, in government, to please every customer to the point where one can eliminate the escalation to the political levels, it’s possible to reduce these escalations. And, for the escalations that slip by, it’s easier to reply to political inquiries when one knows that the case was handled as effectively as possible.

Conclusion — Managers, Be Proactive, Be In Touch

Apart from the fact that offering the best customer service possible to government customers is the right thing to do, there are very practical implications for managerial involvement in helping staff provide better customer service. So, be proactive in helping employees, and be in touch with what’s happening on the front lines. We’ll have more specific tactics and strategies to do that in later articles.

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