Measuring Customer Service in Government

The first post in this series discussed how government customer service is good governance. That begs the question – how do you define good customer service, particularly in the public sector?

Both commercial and government organizations need to define and measure customer service. Unfortunately, there’s often a disconnect – the customer (or citizen) has a different perspective than the people tasked with providing customer service, particularly in a traditional contact center.

The customer view of customer service
From the customer view, customer service is about resolving problems or issues.  In government, these can be a wide variety of issues, from finding the status of a tax refund or license reinstatement to filing for financial aid or small business loans.

Many government engagements will have several interactions. For example, earning unemployment benefits takes multiple steps, starting with filing for eligibility.

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The contact center view of customer service
The customer service industry has developed a whole set of metrics for managing service levels within traditional contact centers. These focus on the individual interactions with customers calls, emails, etc.  Traditional metrics include:

  • Hold time
  • Average handle time
  • Redial rates

The attraction of these metrics is that they give you something to track and manage.  The problem is that they do not address the customer’s broader perspective of multiple interactions that may cross channels.

A customer will judge the customer service they receive on the entirety of the problem or issue resolution, not a single call.  If it takes three distinct calls and an email to enroll in a government program, the citizen will not be happy with the service, no matter how promptly the calls were handled.

Looking deeper
Commercial organizations can use measures such as customer churn, shopping cart abandonment, and Net Promoter Scores to get a handle on the customer’s perspective through their behavior.  With this understanding, many commercial businesses are rethinking their customer service strategies – and raising the bar for everyone as a result.

For government agencies, these types of measures are harder to find. You don’t have many choices for revenue services when paying your taxes, for example.  As a result, many government agencies are stuck measuring individual interactions rather than real customer perceptions and issues.

As citizen expectations for service escalate, government organizations will have to find new strategies for defining and measuring what good customer service looks like. I plan to explore this topic in future posts in this series.

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