With a new President in the White House, installing a new administration, there is perhaps no better time to consider how best to serve citizens. Maybe newly minted President Barack Obama should take a page or two from "Leadership in Customer Service: Creating Shared Responsibility for Better Outcomes," a new report from consulting firm Accenture. The report details the ins and outs of government customer service as researched in 21 nations over the past eight years. The good news is that the United States achieves high marks in all categories covered by the survey. The bad (or at least less-good) news is that it leads in none of them.
There has been ongoing improvement in the area of customer service when it comes to government agencies -- in addition to the Accenture study, a series of reports by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) reveal gains -- but the focus has shifted. According to Accenture, governments are seeking to forge a new sort of relationship with citizens, one that not only improves the delivery of services, but makes government decision-making more transparent (and more relevant), leading to deeper trust. In a passage mirrored by President Obama's inaugural speech, the report finds that "the need now is to redefine the relationship between public services and citizens, from one of dependency to one of shared responsibility."
"High-performance government organizations understand that, while customer-centricity is crucial to the creation of public value, stakeholders are more than just customers," said Greg Parston, director of Accenture's Institute for Public Service Value, in a statement. "For leaders in public services, the notion that an individual's engagement with government is similar to a commercial one -- in which taxes are paid in exchange for high-quality services -- fails to address the full range of an individual's interactions with government as a citizen, voter, and member of a local community, as well as a customer and taxpayer."
To accomplish these goals, Accenture recommends the following:
- Leverage customer insight to meet people's specific needs and improve equality of outcomes;
- Engage citizens, service users and other stakeholders to define outcomes and design services;
- Coordinate resources across and beyond government to deliver outcomes; and
- Focus on improving transparency and accessibility of information, so that customers can hold governments accountable.
It's worth noting that the Obama administration's Change.gov—which became the new whitehouse.gov at the very moment President Obama took the oath of office on January 20—is intended to do precisely these things. Perhaps the new president saw an early copy of the report.
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