Customer Service Training In Government – What Works, What’s Needed

Generic customer service training for government staff is looked on as a waste of time, and “out of touch”, by employees who are forced to attend.

Customer Service Training In Government – What Works, What’s Needed

Q: When we talked about the challenges government faces in delivering quality customer service to its customers, I got the impression you thought that the skills needed on the part of government employees were either different from, or more advanced than those for, let’s say, someone in retail. Did I get that right?

Robert: Yes. On both counts. Some of the skills, and what’s taught to Walmart staff as an example should NOT be used by government staff, or don’t work, or backfire. Similarly, most staff outside of government may deal with difficult customers on occasion, but in government, not only are they more common, but employees working in government are much more often victims of physical attacks. So, the skills are different. The training process must be different.

Q: Do you feel that the training governments do with their customer facing staff is effective?

Robert: No, but mind you, I’m sometimes skeptical about the usefulness of any customer service training. My colleagues and I used to call most of these seminars “smile training”. You know, smile even if you don’t want to. Smile when you answer the phone. Smile when you have a pee.

Back to the question. I’ve worked with thousands of public service employees in my “Defusing Difficult Customers” seminars, which, by the way are built from the ground up FOR government, and what they tell me is that most of the previous training they had was not only useless, but grossly insulting to their intelligence.

It’s usually too basic, way too generic, and government staff quickly assess that the seminar leaders know nothing about government.

Q: Do you think that trainers who offer seminars in customer service to government should have had experience working IN government?

Robert: Of course they should. If only to have some credibility. That experience isn’t the be all and end all, because one could have worked for government and still have little understanding of it, but yeah, I think it’s important. Of course, I’d like to see incompetent trainers say¬† no to government invites as an ethical practice, but let’s face it, if government hires incompetent people, well, it’s easy to see where the blame sits.

Q: Are there a lot of trainers and consultants around who specialize in customer service within a government context? I mean, where would you find them even if you wanted them?

Robert: Darned few. I’m not sure why. I’m probably one of the very few. I haven’t come across many others. There are people who don’t specialize quite so much and probably do an ok job in both private and public sectors, but, they’d still have to have some experience in the public sector as employees.


Author: Robert Bacal

Leave a Reply