What Pizza, Lawnmowers and Veterans Cemeteries Have in Common
Lessons in serving customers better.
Federal agencies can learn a thing or two from John Deere and Domino’s Pizza, a leading Office of Management and Budget official said Wednesday.
Federal customer service has been described as “disastrously weak.” But at the Customer Experience Summit in Washington, hosted by Government Executive and Nextgov, Lisa Danzig, associate director for performance and personnel management at OMB, described ways that federal agencies can “delight” their customers in the way top-performing private sector companies do.
The first step, Danzig said, is knowing your customers really well. She spoke of working at John Deere before joining government, in the division of the company that produced riding lawnmowers. The division produced sophisticated psychological profiles of different segments of mower purchasers. The result was “incredible detail in what they know about their customers,” Danzig said.
Also critical to improving the customer experience is setting expectations and gathering feedback on how you’re doing, Danzig said. She noted that Domino’s Pizza has developed a simple online method of showing its customers exactly where their pizza is in the process of preparation and delivery.
“You can debate whether they have the highest quality pizza,” she said. “But they’re doing incredibly well at managing expectations of when your pizza will arrive.”
Danzig also noted the importance of taking the customer’s view of operations, especially in government. Federal agencies, she said, tend to take a “very inside-out” view of their operations. “OMB may be the biggest culprit in this in terms of guidance,” she acknowledged.
Danzig said it’s also important to recognize success in improving customer service. That’s why, she said, the Obama administration has created a new awards program to honor those who provide superior service.
It’s possible for federal agencies to wow their customers, even under difficult circumstances, Danzig argued. She noted the performance of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Cemetery Administration, which achieved the highest score of any organization, public or private, in the American Customer Satisfaction Index rankings for five straight years. When they do things the right way, Danzig said, agencies “can even exceed the private sector standard.”
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