Governor Sonny Perdue spearheaded the creation of the state’s Office of Customer Service in 2006 to improve customer service across all state government departments and agencies. Joe Doyle, director of the Office of Customer Service, quickly realized that excellent customer service is directly related to motivated employees and initiated a comprehensive employee satisfaction program to accompany a customer service improvement program.
Doyle worked with the Great Place to Work Institute to better understand and measure what drives employee engagement and productivity. Building on this research, the Office of Customer Service developed a three-pronged approach to improving employee satisfaction based on:
- trust – the relationship between employees and management
- pride – high quality and meaningful work
- camaraderie – relationships among employees
To measure, monitor, and report on progress, the Office of Customer Service developed a survey instrument to establish a statistically significant benchmark of employee satisfaction and then track changes over time. This survey has been used annually since 2007 to gauge employee satisfaction.
At the same time, Doyle developed a program to engage frontline employees in improving how they go about their work so as to improve outcomes. This process includes:
- soliciting employee input through an organized review of each step in a work process.
- asking employees to identify opportunities for streamlining and efficiencies.
- acting immediately on the employee input.
The program does not prescribe changes in existing processes nor does it allocate additional resources, as all changes are made using existing resources.
In addition to process improvement, the Office of Customer Service introduced common customer service-oriented values into a statewide performance management program. These values — helpfulness, accessibility, responsiveness, knowledge, and courteousness – are used to set agency and employee-specific performance goals, as well as in strategic planning and employee performance evaluations.
In addition, the Office of Customer Service developed a statewide communications campaign to maintain the focus on the five customer service values and keep employees engaged in the customer service program. Employees can upload success stories and photos of themselves or their work teams, send thank you messages for a job well done, and print materials about customer service values for display.
The Office of Customer Service launched an employee recognition program to help motivate and maintain momentum for exemplary customer service. Every quarter, an award ceremony honors individuals and groups of employees; 16 of the honorees receive statewide recognition at an annual ceremony attended by the governor and 600 state leaders.
- 51 state agencies and 35 university campuses are participating in the customer service improvement program.
- Customer service improvement plans are part of agency three-year strategic plans.
- Customer service is a core component in all management and employee development programs: 45 agencies have trained 25,100 employees on how to provide exemplary service.
Georgia residents and businesses have benefited dramatically from the customer service improvement program.
- Approval time to process children into PeachCare for Kids/Medicaid has dropped from 113 to 15 days.
- Medicaid applications are approved in 12 days (a process that used to take nine weeks), and 33 percent of customers receive same-day service.
- Motor vehicle title processing has dropped from six weeks to five days.
- Low-income pregnant women receive access to prenatal care two months sooner thanks to processing improvements in the Department of Community Health, leading to improved birth outcomes.
With a strong focus on measuring, monitoring, and reporting results, Office of Customer Service annual surveys of customer satisfaction show the program is working. To date, the rate of customer service satisfaction is at 76 percent and employee job satisfaction has risen from 68 percent in 2007 to 75 percent in 2009. While these data are impressive on their own, it should be noted that the rise in employee satisfaction came despite a backdrop of unprecedented employee layoffs, furloughs, and cuts.
Joseph B. Doyle
State Personnel Administration