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Performance Management Reference Materials

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Agencies Reward Exemplary Customer Service

Many Federal agencies are using their awards programs to support and promote agencywide customer service standards. The types of awards being used include performance awards, special act or service awards for individuals and groups, nonmonetary awards, on-the-spot cash awards, time-off awards, and gainsharing.

Chairman's Special Thanks and Recognition (STAR) Award.

One example of an agency that uses awards to promote customer service goals is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The Commission's program stresses customer service. In particular, CPSC has an award called the Chairman's Special Thanks and Recognition (STAR) Award. The STAR is an on-the-spot cash award for individuals or groups for small but special achievements that are short in duration. The STAR is often given for acts of exceptional customer service.

Perhaps the most visible and unique award that CPSC bestows is a nonmonetary award that has special meaning to the agency. In her first address to CPSC employees as their new Chairman, Ms. Ann Brown noted that the agency mission was to protect the rights of American consumers, especially children. She compared the Commission to the train in the children's book The Little Engine That Could with CPSC working hard and persistently in the uphill battle for consumer protection. Based on her analogy, the Commission created "Ann Brown's Customer Service Express Award". CPSC has hung a picture of Ms. Brown's Little Engine in its art gallery. When employees exhibit outstanding customer service, their names and a description of the act or service are placed on a smoke puff that billows from the engine's smoke stack.

Approaches to Rewarding Customer Service.

Agencies use a variety of approaches to reward customer service. Some use performance awards based on ratings derived from customer service elements and standards. Other agencies have developed incentive plans that focus on customer service, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority's gainsharing program that provides payouts based in part on customer satisfaction measurements.

Recognizing Employees for Customer Service Efforts at the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is another agency that actively recognizes its employees for customer service efforts. Annually, the IRS publishes the Employee Recognition Idea Bank, a newsletter that spotlights recognition given throughout the IRS. The Idea Bank illustrates that one way the IRS recognizes good customer service is by spotlighting and advertising customer praise. For instance, the IRS Pittsburgh District Office has its "Customer Service Wall of Fame" a portable display that holds complimentary customer correspondence. The Columbia District has a similar display called the "Caught Someone Doing Something Right Board" that prominently exhibits customer letters praising IRS service. And the IRS Cincinnati District publishes a newsletter that has a section called "Accolades" containing reprinted portions of complimentary letters received.

The IRS has many other methods of promoting good customer service. Their Newark District encourages employees to nominate a peer for an award based on his or her exceptional customer service. North Dakota's District uses customer response cards that provide customers an opportunity to comment on the District's services. The District gives coffee mugs and memo cubes to employees who provide quality customer services.

These examples only scratch the surface of agency award activity promoting customer service. Many agencies are currently redesigning their programs to align with their new customer service standards established under Executive Order 12862, Setting Customer Service Standards. Because the President's memorandum of March 22, 1995, on improving customer service asks agencies to recognize employees for meeting or exceeding customer service standards, future awards programs will be even more customer focused.

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