During the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, customer service experts from across government came together on a panel to share what customer service means to them and their organization and specific ways they leverage it. The other panels were on performance analysis, public private partnerships, and inter-agency work.
The panelists spoke about the strategies they use to integrate multi-channel customer service and the organizational barriers they’ve encountered. The panelists acknowledged that while the the government, as a whole, has room for improvement in providing truly integrated cross-channel customer service, leadership is beginning to recognize the importance and cost-savings, not to mention happy customers, it brings.
Abraham Marinez, Senior Adviser, Federal Student Aid, at the Department of Education, shared how they’ve expanded customer service to new channels to meet customer requests and results they achieved. Abraham explained that StudentAid.gov is meeting users where they’re at—the college students prefer Twitter or live chat but their parents prefer traditional channels of email and phone. Each month StudentAid.gov hosts a live Q&A session on Twitter, which gives the public an opportunity to get questions answered by the experts. They use this opportunity to feature a different topic related to federal student aid each month.
Marcie McClellan, Division of Communication Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shared the biggest challenges they’ve faced, lessons learned and how they met the challenges. The customer service team at CDC uses a database of 6,000 articles to answer most of their questions from the public. They’re looking at opportunities to expand their service through apps and other new media.
Katie Messner, Public Affairs Specialist at the Office of the Secretary, at the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, talked about cross-channel customer service and “what it has to do with our customers’ perceptions of their entire experience with our brands—everything from interacting with our products, services and teams regardless of the channel they choose. It’s our job to meet those expectations and create the best and most cohesive experiences as possible for them.” Katie said. She noted an extra challenge in the health field is the sensitivity around topics that can be difficult for people to talk about, so they are always thinking of new ways to interact and ask for thoughts and feedback.
Hillary Hartley, Lead Designer, 18F, at the General Services Administration, spoke about integrated marketing, what new engagement with government looks like and how people can contribute. Hillary added that, “Great customer service is the new, and best, marketing.” Hillary explained, “If you’re focused on your users, and on providing good customer service, that in and of itself is the best marketing. If users are happy or satisfied, they’ll talk about it and spread the word, becoming champions and brand ambassadors.”
An audience member from HHS’ National Cancer Institute explained how they have unified their customer service branches. This coordination eliminated duplication of efforts and improved customer satisfaction scores.
The panel showed that in a lot of ways we’re in the same spot and our mission is to share where we are, what we’ve learned and the resources we created.