Customer Experience News & Trends

5 ways the government shutdown can improve your customer experience

The recent government shutdown irked nearly every citizen in one way or another – something no good business ever wants to do to its customers. So there are plenty of things smart customer experience professionals like you can learn from the government’s shutdown.

The government worked against everyone involved — lawmakers, employees, taxpayers. If it were a business, its actions would’ve been bad for management, employees and customers.

“The government’s recent actions — or lack thereof — serve as lessons in how your business can improve or kick-start your internal and external customer experience plans,” says Brad Smith, executive VP of customer experience at Sage North America.

Here are five lessons companies can take from the government shutdown and use to improve their customer experiences:

1. Work together for a resolution

125556499The two legislative parties refused to negotiate to reach a solution for the common good of customers. Their stubborn heads caused them to lose sight of what was most important: their constituents (or customers). Those people might fire them — like upset customers fire companies — when it comes election time over their failure to work swiftly toward a resolution.

Good CX move: When customers need solutions, people within a company must come together and compromise to achieve what’s best for customers. What may look like a solution that will immediately cost the company money and time will likely pay off in loyalty and increased business down the road.

2. Meet your deadlines

89940422Meeting deadlines and expectations are the basic rules of creating a great customer experience — and the government failed its customers miserably in these categories.

Good CX move: Follow the old adage, “under-promise and over-deliver.” Give customers estimates of deadlines based on what you know is the absolute longest something will take. Then surprise them when it takes the absolute minimum. You’ll never disappoint!

3. Create standards

155405320This is so ironic: The House of Representatives passed the Government Customer Service Improvement Act of 2013, which makes it mandatory for government agencies — such as the Internal Revenue Service — to set and meet customer service standards and become a more taxpayer-friendly organization. Yet, the lawmakers didn’t heed their own advice and mandates. Instead, they didn’t even live up to the standards — such as speed to respond — they asked agencies to meet.

Good CX move: Set standards and, more importantly, publish them. Let customers know on your website, in company literature, within your core values and in all correspondence the standards you set so they know what to expect. For instance, Zappos prints its core values — almost all of which are centered around serving customers — on the boxes it delivers to customers.

4. Be credible

trustThe government and many individual lawmakers lost credibility with citizens (their customers) over its failure to deliver services for nearly two weeks. Many citizens felt the government is untrustworthy because they were willing to essentially disappear for some time. On the extreme end, hearts were broken when the military couldn’t give grieving families the proper treatment when their deceased soldiers were brought home for burial.

Good CX move: Present customers with the truth at all times and avoid surprises — especially when it’s bad news you must deliver. Customers will trust you more for coming clean, then fixing issues.

5. Be practical, not spiteful

web-addressIn some cases, government agencies even came across as spiteful — toward lawmakers and their inability to pass the budget and toward their customers. They shutdown websites — many of which were up purely for informational purposes and wouldn’t have to be supported by personnel.

Good CX move: Make it convenient for customers to get help, even when you’re short-staffed. Maintain information for them to access, and let them know why they’ll experience delays and when they can expect timely help again.

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