Government Approved CX

You Can’t Sue City Hall

I remember hearing the phrase “You can’t sue City Hall” when I was growing up, it is the idea that government agencies have sovereign immunity.  I had some family that included “…all you can do is complain about it” as a standard part of that phrase.  While the legality behind sovereign immunity is continuously in flux throughout our court system, I think most of us tend to still believe that our best option is to just complain about it.  It reminds me of this scene from the 1997 movie “Liar Liar”.      

Sure, we could vote out the politicians, but those that manage the day-to-day operations of our government functions were pretty much considered lifelong bureaucrats.  We probably have all spent time complaining about the service we’ve received, particularly at the DMV.  It probably doesn’t help that we are basically forced to use these departments.  Despite their names – like the Internal Revenue Service and United States Postal Service – most of us don’t associate “Service” with them.  We usually refrain from identifying them as organizations with a great Customer Experience or a customer focused Customer Experience Strategy.  

The Story of Two Garbage Cans

 This is not a story about complaining or giving up on making our services better with our government entities. In fact this is really a story about some shining examples that we can use in our everyday pursuit of developing the great customer experience.

Where I live our refuse service is managed by our city & county – which includes recycling, green waste and basic garbage.  However, our garbage schedule can be a little confusing, alternating days on alternating weeks and sometimes people get confused on which garbage can needs to go to the curb.  I certainly have missed a few pickup days.  

However even from that confusion, a good customer experience can emerge. When my neighbour put out the wrong can, It could have led to his recycling not being picked up for another 2 weeks. However upon driving up the garbage man noticed the error and simply moved the garbage can in and brought the correct one out and then proceeded to usie the automated arm to empty it into the truck. It may seem simple but it made a difference in one person’s day and highlighted something that we call service. Chances are the customer didn’t even notice the difference. Instead the correct can was picked up and the incorrect can was put back.  No heroic efforts, no one watching (except me).

CX Is Not Complicated 

 I frequently mention to colleagues that customer experience is not complicated, yet very complicated. However this provides an example of something very simple making the experience that much better even in a place where customer experience is not known as being positive in general.  Last week I used the “character is what you are when nobody’s looking” quote and this provides an example of that no one’s going to notice the difference that was made except for the person that made the difference and that’s usually what matters most when it comes to the customer experience.

I don’t know if this garbage man will be penalized for getting out of his truck making the change or slowing down on his route but ultimately he did what was right and helped someone have a better day even if they didn’t know they were going to have a better day as a result of his actions.  

Too often we focus on things in customer experience like which touchpoints should be measured, closed loop feedback and which KPI such as NPS+.  We also worry about who we measure and the ways to maximize response rates.  Ultimately the customer experience is about what we do to make the experience better.  Each day from top to bottom of the organization we have an opportunity to make the customer experience better.  

Parting thought:  Take a look at my first article on the GreenBook Blog, “Want Better CX? Don’t Give Customers Your Best”.