Building a Customer-Centric Approach in Public Service

Being a public service worker is more than a job — it is an opportunity to improve the lives of the American people every day. Federal employees need to adopt a customer service mindset to do this well. While the programs and services differ, the federal government interacts with members of the public to solve problems and provide needed services.

These services may be routine transactions such as renewing a passport, or they may be incredibly high stakes, like providing disaster relief to people during the worst days of their lives. No matter how big or small, any interaction is an opportunity to build trust with the public and show that the government is carrying out its most critical mission: to serve the people.

The Biden-Harris Management Agenda Vision seeks to strategically advance federal public service workers’ customer service skills and combat a history of challenges in delivering high-quality services. While it can be difficult for those seeking assistance to navigate the complexities of the government, federal agencies also struggle with outdated systems and a need to focus on addressing internal agency needs that prevent them from meeting the public’s high expectations for seamless service delivery. Agencies and individual staff can improve service delivery by considering the customer experience and lived experiences of those coming to them for help.

Foster a Public Service Mindset

Create a culture of public service. While many employees come into the federal workforce because of a strong desire to serve their country, this can get lost in running the government’s stressful day-to-day business. Successful public service workers align personal motivators and values to the broader agency mission, so reinforcing this mindset in individuals and as a team keeps the mission to serve the people at the forefront of everything agencies and staff do, improving employee morale and meeting the expectations and needs of the public.

Focus on Customer Experience and Reduce Barriers to Services

Adopting a public service mindset goes hand in hand with improving the service delivery process. Put yourself in the shoes of the people trying to access your services and take steps to reduce barriers that create inequitable or difficult situations. Customers may face obstacles in completing complicated or redundant paperwork, be unable to contact someone for help, or struggle to identify how to access services.

For example, when you contact your internet service provider with a problem, you expect that you will be able to connect with them quickly and that your issue will be solved without jumping through hoops. The same should be true of government service delivery. Map out the customer’s experience from the ways they find out about your services to the steps that need to be taken to achieve a successful result.

Build Customer Service Skills

Strong customer service skills ensure the smooth delivery of services and foster trust in the government. No matter how experienced we are at interacting with others, there is always room for growth. One successful interaction with a member of the public can end up changing the public’s perception of an agency. Customer service skills are just as much about knowing yourself and how to build strong relationships as they are about customers. Better customer service equals better public service.

The mission of all federal public service workers is to improve the lives of the people around them. Public service is at its best when it focuses on adopting a customer-centric mindset and allowing the experience of the people we serve to lead every decision.

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