Customer service guidance

Having frequently and publicly stated that we should make more of the experiences of our Canadian and Australian counterparts, rather than the UK government fetishization of the US model, I am reporting on the fact that some weeks ago President Obama signed an executive order, “Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service”, which was unfortunately lost in the mass of other budgetary issues the US government was dealing with. This was followed on June 13 by guidance from the US Office of Management & Budget (OMB) entitled Implementing Executive Order 13571 on Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service (6 pages, 2.37 Mb!).

This is the reason why I am for promoting Canadian practice. The Canadians went through a recession some years ago and as a result they looked at government services in-depth and how they might improve them. As a result they developed guidance and a sample was in one of my blog posts in January 2008. In June 2011 the White House issues its own. These are some of the key demands –

“Establish mechanisms to solicit customer feedback on government services and use such feedback regularly to make service improvements, such as:

Collect ongoing, timely, actionable customer feedback to identify early warning signals of customer service issues; and conduct customer satisfaction surveys and report the results publicly to provide transparency and accountability.

Improve the customer experience by adopting proven customer service best practices and coordinating across service channels (including on-line, phone, in person, and mail services), such as:

Develop a process for evaluating the entire customer experience, ensuring consistency across service channels; coordinate with other agencies serving the same customers, identifying opportunities for using common forms and application materials and processes; analyze customer preferences for interactions and redirect resources from less preferred and more costly channels (such as printed materials) to preferred, less costly, and more widely accessible channels (such as Internet and mobile services), where appropriate and applicable; and ensure access and usability for people with disabilities and hard-to-reach and disadvantaged customer populations.”

I have often heard it said in central government that local government is frequently more advanced than central government. I think that these six pages demonstrate that local government (including in the USA) is further advanced in serving the citizen than central government.  So why do we keep looking west, when locally or north-west may better provide solutions? In fact Lisa Nelson who is responsible for Research and Strategic Partnerships within Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the American GSA has pointed the W3C e-Government Interest Group towards a new Deloitte report for the Canadian government “Innovation in government – Conversations with Canada’s public service leaders“. The report spells out what are essentially cultural changes to the way government behaves, not unlike the recently published Socitm strategy for UK public services – “Planting the flag“.

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