Trying to keep the customer satisfied

Tuesday - 4/21/2009, 2:58pm EDT

Max Cacas

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By Max Cacas
FederalNewsRadio

The Gallup Organization is out with a new study that examines citizen perceptions of how the federal government does its job.

The preliminary findings from the study were discussed yesterday at the Excellence in Government Conference, sponsored by the Government Executive Media Group and held at the Reagan International Trade Center in downtown Washington.

The survey, entitled In the Public We Trust, was co-sponsored by Gallup and the Partnership for Public Service.

Josh Joseph, a program manager for the Partnership, told the audience that there was an overriding goal for the study.

Public interactions with agencies, good or bad, don't affect just how people view those agencies. They can affect how we view the federal government overall, and they can affect how we communicate to other people how we feel about the federal government overall. You have a sense of how all the 'viral marketing' stuff works, if I have a good experience, if I have a bad experience, its not going to stay with me, I'm, going to tell people about it.

Denise Delahanty, a Stratgic Consultant with the Gallup Organization, says the survey breaks new ground in determining how different age groups, and groups of people, interact with the government and how those interactions affect citizen perceptions of the government.

You find out that people interact via a lot of different modes. Yes, websites, which are huge and on everyone's radar so far. We tend to think that the younger generation, the 18 to 20 year olds, are interacting via websites. But look at that! 21 percent of the seniors come via website. That's a pretty interesting finding, which I think you'll find interesting.

Delahanty also says that their study reveals that more traditional ways of communicating with the government remain important.

She says that people still, "call 800, toll-free numbers. People actually mail things. Some of the requirements of the IRS come through the mail. You find that 'in person' shows up very often, local phone calls also happen very often. And with e-mail, the seniors aren't reaching out very much."

She adds that the survey suggests that agencies not put, "all their eggs in one basket, but that all modes of communication are important. "

FederalNewsRadio asked both Josh Joseph and Denise Delahanty what the survey might suggest for managing the new federal workforce composed, as some have said, of such a wide range of generations, from matures, to boomers, to gen-X and gen-Y'ers, and even millenials.

Joseph says that the study, while mostly complete, is still awaiting analysis of survey data to pinpoint attitudes and trends by federal workers of different geneations when providing services to the public.

Delahanty says an early analysis of the survey data so far suggests that for "millenials", the generation that came of age within the last three years, money is not as significant a factor in workplace satisfaction as it has been for other generational groups.

"They are looking for opportunities to use what they know," she explained.

"So, as you're looking at ways to manage them, make sure you give them opportunities to show what they know, as early as you can. So ask them what they're bringing to the party, and then figure out a way, even if its not in their specific job description, to tap into that and give them an outlet."

The complete report on the Gallup-Partnership survey of citizen perceptions of government service is expected to be released early this summer.

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