Friday, January 29, 2016

Next Generation Customer Service for Government Employees




Recently I have been working with federal agencies that are adopting commercial customer service techniques for helping government workers be more productive.

The new trend I am seeing is to add self-service functions to traditional help desks.  Government workers are telecommuting more frequently, and for some agencies can be scattered around the country or around the world, leading to challenges in call center coverage.

Younger government employees in particular are often more comfortable searching online than picking up the phone to call a help desk.  They expect from their government agencies the same kind of customer care that is offered by companies.

Here are some of the ways agencies can increase self-service for employees:

  1. Publish FAQs and Troubleshooters on websites and intranets.   By providing step-by-step instructions, you can forestall some help calls and provide service even when the help desk is closed. You can seed the FAQs by analyzing historical trouble tickets and identifying those that are both common and can be resolved without intervention by another person such as a network administrator.
  2. Organize your knowledge base.  The answer is out there, but it may be difficult to find.  Search engines are part of the solution, but creating a visible taxonomy (set of categories) for topics can make it much easier for users to navigate to the right web page or document.  
  3.  Treat employees like customers. If you adopt a mindset which is similar to a commercial company, you can measure and reward behavior that improves employee satisfaction.
  4. Deflect calls. Phone calls to a help desk are one of the most expensive types of support, and sometimes you can avoid them by providing information as the customer requests help.  For instance, an online form can ask the employee for the problem type, and show links to possible solutions.  
  5. Allow multiple paths to support. Employees appreciate options of different ways to get support at different times.  Some people have strong preferences for a particular support channel, while others will use many.  For instance, when I interact with my phone company, I have used phone, email, live chat, and knowledge base searches depending on the issue at hand.   Live chat is especially good when you need to communicate a computer problem and describe what is on your screen.  Sometimes email is best when I want to "fire and forget" because I need to move on to another task.  
In an earlier post, I wrote about Microsoft's new Employee Self-Service Offering brings this approach to customers.  A white paper "Justifying Knowledge Management in Customer Service" by CRM analyst Esteban Kolsky is available.    

I expect this trend to continue in order to enhance productivity and retention of government employees despite budgetary pressures. 

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