Let’s put an end to complaints that say “great government service” is an oxymoron.

The public sector has a very unique relationship with customer service because everything you do must somehow tie back to serving the public. That means you’re always going to be judged more harshly and that your entire team will be a face of the government, so that they’re always performing some aspect of customer service.

That’s a really big ask of the people who help make our daily lives better. At Novusolutions, we focus on customer service to make meetings better, because we think that can make any day a little brighter. We work with a lot of government agencies, municipalities and more, which means we’ve heard a lot about how difficult it is for you to be seen as the champions of customer and public service that we know you are.

We’ve taken those conversations and put together a few thoughts that might help you and your time put customer service in a new light, and take some steps that will be more apparent to the constituents you serve.

Create a Profile of Your Citizens

Different governmental departments tend to have different groups of people who they interact with most. Take a look at the demographics of the people that you serve and those more inclined to contact your organization.

Other things to consider include how often you are dealing with new citizens or if it’s usually the same people; what are people contacting you for, such as results or general information; and what do your constituents expect when they finish your interaction.

If you don’t have a handle on their lifestyle, age ranges, needs or other information, filling these gaps can help you to better expect future concerns.

Create a Mechanism for Active Listening

We’re in the age of social media and that thankfully gives you a tool to let people know that you’re listening. Responding to tweets or Facebook posts is a public way to show that you’re considering what’s being said.

Active listening should also be used during regular interactions with individuals, because it allows your team to find out the purpose for the interaction, determine the best way to deliver requested information or service, and gives you an opportunity to collect feedback.

Whether you’re a business or a government agency, people want to feel like they’re being listened to when they speak. Active listening, which involves summarizing someone’s problem and telling them steps you’ll take to resolve it, is a perfect tool to not only appease but to generate real results.

Save Money Through Improved Service

Let’s imagine that a citizen called you this morning and it took one hour to resolve their issue, which was a fairly common one for your agency.

If you’ve spent time training your staff and provided them the tools they need to solve that problem, then the citizen will leave more-or-less satisfied. The cost it took you to resolve their concern was roughly the hourly rate for your staff member.

That means your annual audits will look great and you can honestly say you’re working to reduce workloads and costs to citizens.

But, what if you provided a poor customer service experience? What if your team member was as frustrated as the citizen and only focused on a solution that got them off of the phone, instead of one that solved their issue?

In this case, today’s cost of “solving” the issue was the same hourly rate. But when they call back tomorrow, or when more people call tomorrow about the same issue, you’re spending more time and money trying to fix the problem.

When these issues go on and only get solved on the surface – such as filling potholes sporadically or only after they’ve damaged a vehicle – that’s when groups form or the local news shows up. Not only do your costs increase, but the poor public image can create job risks.

People Share

Another compelling reason for you to provide positive customer experiences is that people are willing to share their experiences and social media makes it easier than ever to share with more people than ever.

This is just as true for governments as it is for businesses.

Some 60% of people will share the details of a bad experience and they tell an average of 21 people in-person (plus posting on social media). That’s compared to just 46% of Americans who share good service experience stories, and these folks tell an average of 8 people.

That means you need to have three to five positive service experiences to balance out each negative experience that gets shared.

Improve Through Tracking and Data

One of the best ways to track your customer service and create a quality control platform to improve it is by tracking and recording service calls. A robust support system can help deliver detailed reporting on how well your team is doing and how fast you’re able to provide reliable, high-quality service.

At Novusolutions, we’re big believers in tracking and metric management. We actually use Desk, from Salesforce, to perform our call quality analysis. It’s data collection capabilities allow our team to look at customer profiles and match success rates to each problems, a good barometer for customer service.

In case you’re in the position to guide procurement for your agency or municipality, we would like to offer a few suggestions for choosing customer service software:

  • Simple installation and integration with your platform – that means making sure it works with current equipment too.
  • Support across all of your main interaction points such as phone, email, social media, and websites.
  • Automatic reporting and data gathering.
  • Automation for repetitive tasks such as pulling up agency information or grabbing phone number lists.
  • An understanding of what governments need, including security and proper records keepings so you can easily comply with rules like FOIA requests.

We know that we remember the great service we get, whether that’s from a software provider who makes training easier, that time at the DMV where we got a license quickly and with a good photo, or just getting a really great salad for lunch at a place where everyone’s always smiling.

Keep your staff happy too by giving them the tools they need to make the people you serve happy.