WE always are in need of services from government offices and it can be a frustrating experience for citizens who need those to get a great service.
Personally, I have suffered the same fate and frustration. Generally, government offices are meant to serve the public and provide various services to people, including issuing diverse permits, different certificates, licences and providing information about government programmes and policies.
However, poor customer care skills can create a negative perception of the government and lead to a lack of trust in government institutions.
There are several reasons government officials may lack customer care skills, including lack of incentives, poor remuneration, lack of recognition, insufficient training, lack of accountability and bureaucratic red tape that can slow down service delivery. All those issues lead to people paying bribes to speed up the service provision process.
The paying of bribes is seen in offices such as the Vehicle Inspectorate Department for one to get a license or at the passport offices just as an example.
Additionally, government employees may not always be motivated to provide excellent customer service due to a lack of incentives or recognition for doing so.
There are many solutions that can be implemented to improve customer care skills in any office in general and government offices in particular.
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Government offices need training to equip employees. When there is a change in employees, it will improve confidence, and trust in government institutions, thereby increasing satisfaction, and promoting more efficiency and effectiveness in the government.
The training topics include, but not limited to customer care, communication skills, conflict transformation, and handling difficult customers.
People will agree that government offices lack professionalism, and urgency in providing services and they need ongoing support, training and coaching.
We need accountability in government offices. There is a need that we establish clear performance metrics and hold employees accountable for providing excellent customer service and that can motivate them to improve their skills.
So there is a need for regular performance evaluations, feedback, and recognition for outstanding service. What are the key performance indicators or key result areas in your office?
Ride on technology
Technology is inevitable and we need to leverage it. It has been accelerated and improved by artificial intelligence. Technology brings speed, precision and efficiency.
Leveraging technology to streamline processes and reduce wait times can improve the overall customer experience.
For example, providing online services, implementing automated appointment scheduling systems and utilising chatbots can reduce the time customers spend in queues and improve efficiency.
Soft skills or transferable skills help employees handle customers. Employees are dealing with different people with different emotions and that will take more than just offering a service but offering an experience.
Encouraging employees to show empathy towards customers can help build trust and rapport. This can be improved by training employees on themes such as emotional intelligence, listening actively, knowing customer needs and providing personalised solutions.
The feedback loop
One gets to ask, do government officers really care, let alone listen? The best way to provide personalised experience is through listening.
Feedback from customers or people as it helps to identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments.
Getting feedback is not easy through the use of technology. This can be carried out through online surveys, analysing social media, creating in-house comment cards and online feedback forms. The advantage of online analytics is that it can be automatic and instant.
The quality of services in government offices has been a thorn in the flesh and that includes parastatal offices and city councils. The service is deplorable for lack of a better word.
Improving customer care skills in government offices requires a comprehensive approach that includes swift training accountability, leveraging technology, learning agility, emotional intelligence and understanding the feedback loop.
There is a need to build confidence and trust in our government offices and this can improve the brand Zimbabwe.
Jonah Nyoni is an author, speaker, and leadership trainer. He can be contacted on Twitter @jonahnyoni. WhatsApp: +263 772 581 918