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Customer Service Standards

Customer Service Standards

Government agencies often have a reputation with the public for poor performance. But President Clinton is attacking that perception head-on. In his Executive Order 12862, Setting Customer Service Standards, the President states: "the Federal Government must be customer-driven. The standard of quality for services provided to the public shall be: Customer Service equal to the best in business." How will this standard affect Federal agency performance management programs? It should have a significant effect! The President has set a high standard that in essence is a goal for all agencies. (In this case, "standard" and "goal" are equivalent.) A successful performance management program supports and promotes the accomplishment of an agency's mission and goals. It does this by aligning team and individual performance elements and standards with the organizational goals. This will aim everyone's energies in the same direction: to provide "best-in-business" customer service.

Examples of Effective Customer Service

For example, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) has set an agency customer service goal to provide Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries with the best information available on health care services. To support that goal, HCFA has set the following standards that carriers must meet:

  • 95% of responses to written inquiries are accurate and issued within 30 days.
  • Telephone inquiries are accurately and timely answered.
  • 97.5% or more telephone calls are answered within 120 seconds.
  • All Trunks Busy (ATB) level is 20% or less.
  • All manual requirements for accuracy are met.
  • 98% of all claims are processed within 60 days.

Another example of both organization and team customer service standards comes from a field office of a Federal agency that has the organizational customer standard: "To consistently strive to exceed our customers' expectations." Some of the team and individual goals they use are:

  • Deliver products and services at the agreed upon time to all customers.
  • Listen to, accept, and act upon customer feedback.
  • Assist all customers in defining their needs and requests.
  • Provide courteous and professional customer service.
  • Deliver the highest quality products and service with the goal of exceeding customer expectations.

As one last example, a private sector financial institution has set the organizational standard, "Customers must be satisfied with each transaction." To do this, they have created employee performance standards that will focus employee efforts on customer satisfaction. One of those standards is: Always answer your own phone by the second ring and any phone by the third ring.

Managing Customer Service

Once customer service goals or standards are determined, employees need frequent feedback on their performance so that they know if they are reaching their goal. Further, to ensure that customer service goals will be met, managers should recognize and reward teams and individuals who demonstrate outstanding customer service or who meet or exceed their customer service goals.

If it's used as it is designed to be used, an agency's performance management program can be a key tool in accomplishing organizational customer service goals. Who knows? Maybe someday the private sector standard will be: "Customer service equal to the best in Government."

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