Civil service jumps while economy slumps

Wednesday - 10/13/2010, 9:31am EDT

David Ham, program director, CFI group

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The latest Government Call Center Satisfaction Index has good news for civil servants.

"The most important finding is that progress is being made," CFI group's program director, David Ham told Federal News Radio.

"Satisfaction is up overall and during a difficult economic period, we would expect call center traffic to be up considerably for federal government agencies, also state and local, and during a point in time when the number of calls is increasing, when the needs of citizens is increasing, government performance is also increasing, so that's great news."

Using the methodology of the American Customer Satisfaction Index allows CFI to compare satisfaction across industries "meaning that we can compare customer satisfaction with government call centers and private sector call centers so it's an apples to apples comparison," while also helping managers help understand what's driving satisfaction.

According to this year's findings, the private sector had the higheer satisfaction scores (77,) while the government rose to a 69. "But the good news," said Ham, "is that the government call centers actually had a bigger increase in satisfaction from 2009 to 2010 in comparison to private call centers, so it actually means that the government is closing the gap."

One of the biggest differences in satisfaction between the public and private sector call centers is what drives that satisfaction. In the private sector, it's all about the speed of talking to an agent. For government callers, however, the interaction with the actual agent is what primarily determines how callers feel when they get off the phone.

"For government contact centers," explained Ham, "the greatest emphasis is on the customer service rep, more so than with private sector call centers, because for many citizens calling a government agency, that customer service rep's kind of a lifeline."

The lesson for federal managers is that because there's so much more on the line, the quality of customer service, the quality of training, and good tools are the real keys to call service success.