This month Brookings Executive Education (BEE) launched a new course, “Excellence in Customer Service,” taught by Professor Jackson Nickerson, BEE Director and Associate Dean. The inaugural offering of the two-day course focused on how government can work with limited resources to create a culture responsive to the needs of customers and provide excellent customer service. To help illustrate how some agencies are already working towards excellence in customer service, BEE welcomed former political appointee and startup entrepreneur Phaedra Chrousos.
Chrousos co-founded the Technology Transformation Service at the U.S. General Service Administration (GSA) and served as its first Commissioner. The mission of the Technology Transformation Service is to help the government build and buy technology solutions that provide experiences designed for the user first. The new service institutionalizes some of President Obama’s most successful digital initiatives and provides a foundation for the government’s ongoing digital transformation.
One of the first projects Chrousos was tasked with at GSA was evaluating and improving the tenant satisfaction survey process. At that time the nine-month process yielded an average response rate of 30 percent. A yearly survey that took nine months to complete did not leave much time to effectively design or implement any suggestions brought forth from the data. Chrousos and her team got to work and determined that one of the biggest factors for low scores is that people did not know who to get in touch with regarding concerns or issues. Data analytics show that creating a 1-800 number was an inexpensive way to gain momentum on the satisfaction survey quickly, at low cost.
As a member of the 18F Digital Service team, Chrousos and her team were asked to support the Department of Education’s goal to make information it had collected on colleges and universities available to potential students. They quickly realized that the web-based design focused on the wrong audience. Instead of focusing on the students who would actively use the information, the initial design was developed with internal audiences in mind.
Research showed that the actual audience (students), did not want the information via a website, but an app. Within three months the data was made available to outside vendors (up and running with 20 different companies) along with specific instructions on how to interface with the Department of Education’s database apps. This approach to development led to substantial savings over the expected cost of a website.
Each example illustrated the importance and the benefits of focusing on excellence in customer service. In each case not only was customer experience improved, but the activities also saved staff time and money.