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"And I owe those on the other side of the service window, the phone line or the email inbox the same courtesy I hope they will extend to me."

Therein lies the rub: the customer service end of the equation, on the part of the government employees, is often the catalyst in citizens' dismay and disillusionment with government employees.

I have worked in customer service, in both the private sector and higher education, for over 17 years. And things that tend to act as a soothing tonic to a seething customer are empathy, courtesy, and respect of the customer.

Yes, it is frustrating to encounter a seemingly endless stream of disgruntled customers in daily work. But it is hard to come across as an advocate for both the customer and your office if the government employee's respons is curt, gruff, and disrespectful of the customer's situation. Empathy is key: put yourself in the shoes of the person on the other side of the conversation, actively listen to their story, and find common ground.

I realize that there are a fair number of government employees who practice good, if not great, customer service. But even in my own experience, here in DC and in other states and cities, there are a fair number of government employees who interact with citizens as if it's their own time that's being wasted in every interaction, showing no respect for the citizens (i.e. the paying customers), and no real respect for the government entity they represent.

It's very tough to not get angry at a government employee who seems to want to be anywhere but where they are, who acts burned out in their job, and who treats citizens as an annoyance. So my plea to government employees: empathy will win you (and often, by association, your employer) support and respect.

Customer service does, in fact, matter.

by randomduck on Feb 17, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

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