Here in the United States, we just finished a presidential election, and it got me thinking about government efficiency and effectiveness. This post will not be political (and I hope others will embrace that spirit in this discussion), because it does not matter what your ideological beliefs are — I think we can all agree that, in most cases, government could do a better job of delivering its services.
Polling generally proves out that citizens have a poor view of not only their elected representatives but of most customer facing agencies. The acronym DMV is a punch line for standing in line. The post office is used as the example of a financially and operationally mismanaged business concern.
Government customer service is, in general, a contradiction in terms.
Now, this is not a swipe at the many local and state agencies that have made concerted efforts to better serve their customers, the citizens. Nor is it meant to demean the many government employees who want to do a great job but are hamstrung by bureaucracy and excessive policies.
This post is merely a quick question about the state of service across the governmental spectrum as a whole.
Does Government Customer Service Exist?
We have written about oligopolistic firms and how they are able to be successful without good customer service due to the lack of competition. Government takes the dynamic a step further, because, for the most part, government is a monopoly, subject to no competition at all.
Bad service or good service — government remains.
And that is exactly the problem, most governmental agencies do not think of their citizens as customers, because they do not have to.
So, the question I pose: Can a focus on customer service help save government?
- What if the longest wait at the DMV for anything other than a driver’s test was ten minutes?
- What if government employees were evaluated and promoted based on their service delivery?
- What if county zoning officials were required to respond to contractors in one business day?
- What if government communications focused on the options you have and not the penalties you face?
- What if government employees were, heaven forbid, actually empowered to solve customer issues on the spot?
This election season has garnered a lot of discussion about how disenchanted people are with both the political process and government in general. Sure, the vitriol of campaign season is a turn off to many, but it is the everyday interactions citizens have with governmental agencies at all levels that cement this feeling on an ongoing basis.
If going to the DMV was the best experience of someone’s day, their attitude towards government would be better — campaign ads or not.
In the end, customer service will not determine whether an agency is funded or a program is created — that is what the political process is for.
What customer service can do is make sure that once agencies are created or programs are in place that they deliver their services effectively and efficiently, making for happier customers and a more satisfied citizenry.
What do you think? Can customer service help save government?