Don’t Let the “Bureaucracy” Stand in the Way of Great Customer Service!

Don’t Let the “Bureaucracy” Stand in the Way of Great Customer Service!

Posted by Ray Esonis, March 14, 2015. In preparation for delivering a series of Customer Service Skills Workshops for a city in Southern California, CSA, Inc.’s President and CEO Wendi Brick kicked-off the project with a 60-minute presentation on the critical role that great customer service plays in public sector agencies.

As Wendi and some of the audience pointed out, government workers are all technically bureaucrats, but it’s very important that we not consider that fact in a negative light. As part of the take-away from her presentation, the Assistant City Manager asked that the attendees submit their own interpretation of what it means to be a “bureaucrat” – and what they as individuals do in order to dispel the negative connotations that the term might inspire. Here are some interesting responses:

  • I consider myself to be far outside the mold of a typical bureaucrat. Though City government is a bureaucratic organization that must exercise mandated procedures, policies, and regulations, I make every effort to dispel the well-known, pre-conceived reputation of being just another lazy, careless, robotic government employee by providing courteous, prompt, quality service with a pleasant demeanor and commitment to excellence.  It’s true; we should be treating the service recipient just as – or even better than – we would dream to be treated if the tables were turned.  Though I may be asked a question for the 100th time, it’s the first time this caller is asking so my attitude should reflect that.  When I end a phone call with a resident, I’m not happy until they are satisfied with the resolution, and I always make a point of replying to their “thank you” with “it’s my sincere pleasure.”  A few kind words really do go a long way.
  • I work within a bureaucracy (an administrative system, especially in government, that divides work into specific categories carried out by special departments of non-elected officials) and therefore by definition I am a bureaucrat. Unfortunately, the negative stereotype associated with being a stereotype is what I avoid. I believe in building relationships and providing the level of service I expect from others. It is my intent (with every interaction), whether internal or external , to provide assistance, accurate information, to be pleasant and helpful to the person or persons I am dealing with. I do have regulations, laws and parameters in which I must abide by, but I believe that no matter how I am regulated there is a way to deliver information. It behooves me to be professional, informative and to always listen to the other party and their concerns or issues. How can I assist you is how I always begin my interactions… I will seek every alternative within my legal framework; however, there are occasions where the answer is not what the other party wants to hear. My goal is to make even the answer “No, I am sorry we cannot accommodate that request” palatable. I am not mechanical, monotone or methodical in my delivery of information. I believe in being collaborative and having a discussion around the topic we are discussing. The end of the interaction should leave the other party with significant information as to how we arrived at the final resolve. Hence, I am a bureaucrat by definition. I do not carry out my duties as described by the  negative connotations associated with that of a bureaucrat .
  • No because I exercise intelligent judgment .
  • I believe I am a bureaucrat, in the sense that I work for a government entity.  However, I’m not always the rule-follower that the negative connotation implies.  If I’m able to stay within the legal boundaries, but there is a beneficial workaround to speed up a process or to assist someone, I’ll do it.  Every day is different and everyone that walks through our door is different, we just adapt and serve.  While it may sound hokey, it makes my day when someone says, “Wow! I wasn’t expecting that from the government.”  It lets me know I’m doing my job.