Understanding Your Customer

A crowd of anonymous people holding up question mark signs in front of their faces.

How well do you know your customers? There’s a new guide out from the Excellence In Government (EIG) Fellows Program to help you do just that.

Led by the Partnership for Public Service, EIG is a federal government initiative to train future leaders. This year, three hundred federal employees took the EIG journey to learn about Values, Vision, Mission, Driving Results, Leading People, Leading Change, Building Partnership and Coalitions, Business Acumen, Synthesis and Celebration. As part of this learning, teams of EIG Fellows also take on a project that will contribute to better government.

I was one of this year’s EIG Fellows. Our team was called the HCSAM (Honorable Customer Service Always Memorable) Results Team, an acronym derived from the initials of each team member (Herb Suber, USDA; Corliss McCain, DHS; Sharon Ballard, HHS; Andrea D. Williamson, HUD; MaryAnn Monroe, GSA.) We adopted a mission to “support the efforts to enhance the American public’s satisfaction with customer service across the federal government,” and determined to develop some guidance to support the Customer Service Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goal. We decided to create a guide to customer understanding, for inclusion in the CAP Goal Customer Service Toolkit.

Under the CAP goal, agencies are charged with transforming their work environment and culture to deliver world-class customer service, but where to start? Understanding what customers need is an important step in helping government build, buy and deliver better products and services to the American people.

Six Steps to Customer Understanding

A U.S.A. dot gov journey map

The simple Guide to Understanding Your Customer developed by our team covers six key points:

  • Get Started
  • Define Your Customers
  • Document Your Customers and Their Experiences
  • Conduct Research
  • Analyze Data for Customer Insights
  • Share and Take Action on Customer Insights

We also created an infographic (PDF, 3.7 MB) to accompany the guide.

To develop these materials, our team conducted research to determine current thinking and best practices around customer understanding. Some of our sources include:

Once we decided to tackle Customer Experience as our Impact Project, I honed in on Driving Results, because we need to think about the impact of results. This results project is part of a larger initiative to improve the customer experience. We took the path that would leave a trail for others to follow and add to the customer experience they deliver. A quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson inspired us. “Do not follow where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” I trust the trail we leave will improve government and help agencies meet customer expectations.

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