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Using Customer Service Goals to Energize Support Organizations

Using Customer Service Goals to Energize Support Organizations

Most agencies have dynamic, driving goals in their strategic plans—goals that can energize employee performance because almost everyone intrinsically desires the outcomes. Examples of energizing organizational goals include preserving our country's natural resources, taking care of America's veterans, or using space exploration to improve the quality of life here on Earth. Employees working in line organizations, which directly affect the agency's mission, may have a clearer understanding of what they do to help the organization achieve its goals when their performance plans align with organizational goals.

On the other hand, support organizations such as human resources, procurement, and information technology groups sometimes find it hard to link directly to an agency's strategic plan, especially when the strategic plan only includes program-specific goals. It might seem that the best linkage a support organization can make is to say it supports the people who accomplish the organization's outcomes. Some agency strategic plans include a general goal that sets broad improvement objectives for internal efficiency and effectiveness. But even then, not all of an agency's support organizations can easily link to the goal, even though they are vitally important to goal achievement.

Communicating Customer Service Goals

Support organizations use strategic goals to energize their employees by developing customer-focused outcomes and communicating them to employees and customers. One support organization that has done an exemplary job establishing organizational goals and communicating them to employees and customers is the Plant Division, National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), Department of Commerce, in Gaithersburg, MD. The Plant Division maintains grounds and equipment at NIST. Most of NIST's strategic goals relate to its mission by addressing desired outcomes for the nation's measurement and standards infrastructure or promoting business excellence. However,.NIST's plan does include a goal to achieve organizational efficiency and effectiveness. From this broad goal, the Plant Division focused on improving delivery of services to its customers and its effectiveness as an organization.

The Division created a management team of shop foremen to develop goals for their shops and to create a way to communicate those goals to customers and employees. The team came up with an attractive, informative brochure that includes:

  • a description of each shop, including location, phone number, and mission;
  • a list of the skills and trades the shop employees can offer to their customers;
  • facts and figures about the equipment/grounds the shop maintains;
  • performance standards that customers can expect from shop services;
  • answers to frequently asked questions; and
  • an intranet location for a customer satisfaction feedback survey.

The Division distributes the brochure to customers and aligns employee performance plans with its customer service standards. Employees and customers alike refer to the brochure to gauge performance. The Division also has been diligent in obtaining customer feedback. Customers have not used the automated survey as was hoped, so the Division also distributes hard copies to those they serve. The Division tracks customer feedback in a database and uses it to improve its performance. It follows up on negative feedback to correct problems and to learn from its mistakes.

By communicating its goals to employees and customers, by aligning employee performance plans with its goals, and by providing a customer survey to allow customers to give feedback, the Plant Division has taken praiseworthy steps towards effective performance management.

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