Forum on Modernizing Government: Transforming Customer Service 1
>>Deputy Secretary Miller: My name is Tony
Miller, I’m the Deputy Secretary of Education.
And I will be helping to moderate this discussion along
with my colleague Pope Ward (sic) First of all, thanks,
I mean, I know as well as anyone that you all lead busy lives.
And so taking the time out of your schedules to spend time
with us today is a commitment that you all are making of time
and energy, and we really appreciate it, so thank you for that.
And you came with a homework assignment, and so I appreciate your thoughts in advance
and the work in advance. You know, it’s like, can you help us and can
you do homework to help us was asked, and we appreciate it.
I thought first let’s just do a quick go around, so that everybody can introduce each other,
I mean, introduce yourself, and kind of who you represent.
I’d like us to keep it brief so that will give us more time for
a more content-based discussion. And I’ll start.
I’m new to government, like some of my colleagues. My background is entirely in the private sector.
So I started in [inaudible]
and sales marketing with the automotive division of GM Hughes, ten years
with McKenzie and Company, was a partner, was
a COO of a compliance and [inaudible]
software company, and then was operating partner with a major private equity firm
and then made the transition to government. And in essence trying to bring a private sector
operations management expertise as we think about improving
education and helping to really drive education reform in
the country. So that’s my story.
And so I can tell you, government is very different
than the private sector, as you would expect. But there’s a lot of lessons to be learned.
And I think that the crux of it is how do we think about the
customer, right, and how do we think about improving the
customer experience, so we are, in fact, delivering more value.
And frankly, I think thinking about it from a technology
enablement, we know that technology isn’t the answer per
se, you have to say what are you using technology to do to enable it.
But it is a big lever, just because the technology infrastructure that we’re starting with in
many cases is below what you might be used to in the private
sector. And so that’s why in particular we think there’s
some real opportunity and that’s why we’re in the discussion
Mr. Drexler: I’m Mickey Drexler, I’m with J. Crew.
And basically live, breathe and work for our customers.
They actually, and I think it’s the same as government should be.
I also work for all the store managers and I also work for all
the people in our distribution centers. I think a CEO really is the ultimate person,
or in government, the head of the department is the ultimate
person to get things done. I’m antibureaucratic.
The world is filled with bureaucrats in most companies.
Words don’t mean much. Actions do.
And most people, I find, who work for — with me over the
last many years, kind of look at you and do what you do,
not what you say. Too much lip service to all this stuff.
So I may be cynical about service. I return every customer’s call within an hour
or two at most. And we test CEOs around America to see if
we can learn. And we have a game we call see if you can
reach the CEO of a company, even if you’re a customer.
They forget who they are in most cases. So we personalize everything and it’s the
Wall Street Journal had an article on snail mail the other day.
And I thought it was really good, because everything is not just technology.
It’s emotion, it’s connection, and it’s how a person feels
about your business. And setting standards, goals, and all that.
But treat others as you want to be treated. It’s a really simple rule, and kind of tells
you how to get things done.
Mr. Adams: My name is Tom Adams, I’m CEO of Rosetta Stone,
and at Rosetta Stone I guess our quick two seconds on customer
service is that it starts with the product. So we found like in a new release is having
problems, we have lots of customer service issues.
Customers calling and can’t get ahold of agents. So the first thing was to up our QA.
We have a similar to the customer oriented culture,
because we’re obviously accountable to that. And we’ve introduced compensation-based metrics
like net promoter school, which we found to be
extremely powerful in forcing people to really think about customer
[inaudible], wherever they are in the organization.
So even if you’re the CIO in our company, part of your bonus is based on our company
net promotes. And we’ve also found that the most powerful
customer service driver is culture.
And we’ve certainly invested a lot in developing the culture.
>>I think that’s a good point. We’re going to come back to that, because
I think that’s one of the key things we want to
probably kick off the conversation.>>Good afternoon.
Mr. Dugan: I’m Bill Dugan, and I’m National President of the National
Federation of Federal Employees, the oldest independent union
representing federal employees in the United States.
And I’m based out of Washington, D.C. here. When it comes to customer service,
basically I had a 30-year career in the federal government,
I worked for USDA, U.S. Forest Service, I’m a forester by trade,
and at the end of my federal career I worked for our union.
And I’ve got some good and some bad real life stories about
customer service in the forest service that hopefully I’ll have
an opportunity to share with you, as we have some dialogue.
Mr. Candon: I’m Charlie Candon, (ck) CEO of Kelly Services.
We operate globally. We employ, we have customers, about a million
people a year, 150, 200,000 a day globally.
For us, one of the key aspects of getting [inaudible]
down to customer service is the realization there is not a
single answer in terms of how technology intersects. Your employees run from ages 18 to 80 and
when they work in 60 different countries, there are those who want
to be talked to face to face, those who never want to see
another human but want everything to happen on text and everything
in between. And for us to develop
[inaudible] multiple approaches
to technology, so that people can approach it based on what
they want, how they wish to communicate, rather than what is most efficient for us,
will help us in working [inaudible].
>>Hello. Mr. Supelman: I’m Jeremy Supelman and I’m
the CEO of Yelp. And for those that might not be familiar with
our website, anyone is essentially is
[inaudible]. And you can join the site
[inaudible] and start reviewing
[inaudible]. And so, you know, what Yelp shows is the power
of visibility [inaudible].
When someone walks through the door of a business, they can talk about that experience and have
a platform to share that with the rest of the world.
And after [inaudible]
businesses provide [inaudible]
without necessarily spending a dollar with us.
And so it has this Google-esque element to it where the best
businesses, the ones that we list for our customers,
and that changes the landscape. Especially for those businesses out there
where many of the transactions
[inaudible]. So if you think about walking into a car dealer
[inaudible]. And so there’s actually an opportunity to
play hardball [inaudible].
But because every relationship now can result in a review that
lives online, it changes how every business has to provide
[inaudible], I’m with a small company called net customer.
And we do work with big companies in streamlining their
customer service and support. Focus more on technology, giving our locations
[inaudible]. Companies, small and large, including government
and it’s all about service and everything, technology,
streamline service and technology just ends up being a
means to an end. Mrs. Lynn: I’m Debbie Lynn (sp) CEO of BET
Networks. And BET Networks is a media business.
We run several cable networks targeted to African-Americans
and consumers of African-American product. We’re getting ready to celebrate our 30th
anniversary. We’re going to have 30 years.
We are the 14th largest cable network [inaudible].
We’re proud of that. And we just went through an interesting experience.
We do primarily cable television [inaudible].
But we just went through a branding exercise for the past
two years where after 28 years of existence, we just said,
you know, who are we really and who are we trying to service.
And we did a year in depth with my senior team trying to really
define our brand. It used to be anything black.
And that’s the way we grew for 30 years. But then we found that we were getting a lot
of criticism of our viewers, we weren’t giving them what they
wanted. We have a lot of different constituencies,
not only our viewers, we get a report card on every day called
the Nielson ratings. But also advertisers, cable operators, politicians,
almost any group that has anything to do with the
African-American market. So a year or so ago we sat back and really
defined who we are and came up with a different strategy of trying
to be inspirational, representing the black family,
representing our consumers, our viewers in terms of things like
that are happening in Haiti, and what’s happened in New Orleans,
really trying to figure out how to give back. And the great news is in the past year our
ratings have gone up 30 percent.
Our viewers are noticing the difference and we’re really
getting great feedback about what we’re doing and we have a
better way to decide how we’re going to program to our audience
and what we really want them to get from us, not just entertainment, but a way to build
their dreams and be inspirational and build their qualifications.
And, you know, we’re not an educational network, but there’s a lot can we do at the same time
we entertain people. So I think it has a lot to do with how we
connect with our audience, and I think government can
I think the President came in with a great brand,
and hopefully that will overlay the entire government
[inaudible]. Mrs. Hicks: Hi, I’m Angie Hicks.
I’m the founder of Angie’s List. Angie’s List is a member-based review site
where consumers can review anything local, anything about local
service, whether it be home improvement, lawn care,
pet care, even health care providers.
And we’ve been around for 15 years, so we predate kind of the Internet days.
We were a review site before review sites were review sites.
So we started as a call-in service on a single phone.
So we’ve kind of had to incorporate technology along the way.
Obviously today, you know, we’re a web-based business.
And we’re all about, you know, helping consumers find the best
service companies in town and giving them the most credible
information we can. And helping companies grow their business
and really be able to tactically take the feedback they’re getting
and incorporate it in their business.
Mrs. Merrigan: I’m Kathleen Merrigan (sp) I’m the Deputy Secretary of the
Department of Agriculture. And I’ve never really worked in the private
sector. I was in the university system, I was a college
professor for the last 8 years but mainly in and around
government. And but pushing government, because one of
the things I’m known for is organic agriculture and currently
I’m working on a lot of local and regional agriculture.
So it’s pushing the system in ways that it’s not always popular.
Deputy Secretary of Labor Harris: I’m Seth Harris.
I’m the Deputy Secretary of Labor. I am a lawyer and a legal academic.
This is my second time through the labor department. I was there for six and a half years during
the Clinton administration.
The Labor Department is essentially a holding company or
a federation of agencies with three principal product lines:
Work force, investment work force, development, worker protection, OSHA, overtime, things
like that, and benefits.
And so we interact with widely varied groups of workers in a
wide variety of ways, and most of them have no idea that
there’s any relationship between the various ways in which we
interact with them. We have a diversity of services and not a
lot of good quality interaction with our customers.
One of our problems is we have difficulty defining our customers.
But even when we interact with them, it is not in a high touch,
high quality way that leaves them satisfied with the service
that they’re getting. Often we’re dealing with people at the worst
points in their lives.
But I’m not sure that we help to make that better in a lot of cases.
My CIO is here and I think he would agree with the statement,
we are — we don’t represent ourselves as being at the
cutting edge of technology in our relationships with our customers.
But we have a lot to learn from all of you, so we’re delighted to be here with you.
Mr. Wire: Hi, I’m Dan Wire from GW Micro. We’re kind of an unusual type of company.
We produce assistive technologies. So if someone’s blind or visually impaired,
they can use our products, either use a PC or note taking
or some other devices. Customer service is extremely important to
us, because all of our customers are blind.
And so helping them use their PCs, helping them do their job,
they’re using our products to be employed, they’re using our products to go to college.
And so that becomes a very important part of our business.
Mr. Ward: And I’m Pope Ward, and I work for Jeff,
the chief performance officer who you saw earlier.
And in my previous private sector life, I worked for Jeff,
our former CEO, now chief performance officer. So I come from Jeff Town.
Let me just give you a sense of how we’re going to spend the time.
We have about an hour, right, until we — we thought we’d do,
first of all, just summarize some of the take-aways from the
homework, as a frame and as a catalyst to a discussion.
It’s really meant to inform and to jump start it but
not to be restrictive. So that’s what we’re going to do and Pope
is going to go over why we did this.
So that will give us time to engage. What we’d like to do is we need to — we’ll
reserve time at the back end of the hour.
We do want to make sure, part of this is really making sure we’re
engaging and I know sometimes in the pace of a conversation
you can get down a couple of tidbits that you
folks just didn’t get a chance to get out because it didn’t fit in
the flow of discussion.
Having been in that dynamic, we’re going to leave time at the
end to make sure that we can capture other things that folks
think we might have not captured up to now before we break.
>>Do people know what the camera’s for?>>I’m going to come to that.
And so that’s — and as we go back, like in most break-out sessions, we will be
summarizing what were the, you know, one, two, few themes that we
think are kind of relevant and compelling to take away.
I’ve asked, and Angie has volunteered, I’m not sure how that works, to help kind
of capture those key take-aways and report back.
This is, in fact, being streamed. And so the camera is, again, not meant to
inhibit, but it is meant to capture the discussion.
It’s being streamed live on the White House website.
And so, again, I hope it won’t inhibit any candor.
Oh, yes, and yeah, another thing suggested, and I know we’re all busy, but if we could
ask you to either turn down the ringers and/or off your blackberries,
cell phones, just so it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the
discussion.>>And especially down here, the mic.
I notice everyone is being good but they makek them buzz.
>>Okay. So any questions before we jump right in?
>>Let me just give you the briefest overview. From the first section of your homework,
this was the force ranking exercise that you did.
And it was varied across each of them, and that was different than some of the other
groups, that some of the others really clustered quite
a bit. But two really stood out, the culture of customer
service, we’d like to actually start there.
And the second deep understanding of the customer, especially the evolving customer,
and I guess it shouldn’t surprise us that things like
hard wiring, customer feedback, and clear customer service
metrics would be really supportive of these two anyway,
so I imagine that the discussion will blur. But we’ll just use, especially these first
two, as a loose structure to get us going in the
session, if that makes sense to you all.
Does that make good — and so we can refer back to
that if we need. But that’s the high level from your force
ranking.>>So just, Tom, I think you talked about
at the core there’s a lot of things, and I think Mickey alluded
it also earlier on it is about kind of the culture and it’s
about interactions, consistent set of things at
your organization. So when does that resonate with folks in terms
of if you’re really going to be customer centric,
it’s got to be a whole culture, because it’s going to manifest
in both ways known and unknown. And so is that important and what are some
of the things that you do to nurture that kind of culture?
>>[inaudible] I don’t want to pretend.
[inaudible] but I think the company to begin with was
[inaudible] centric, so we would think about a customer
[inaudible] but recently we extended that to include a
[inaudible]. So as we were shifting to that, we sort of
recognized, you know, we needed to shift the culture.
So we actually did a lot of sessions where we had folks
react to, you know, what was the default concept for
us as an organization. We landed on create success, and that’s something
to everyone in the organization. That their job has to be,
[inaudible] if you take the Walt Disney company, that
whole concept is create happiness. And so you just simplify it.
Because part of this is you’ve got to implement on thousands of
people at your organization. And so that was the basis of the culture,
then also having employees be able to trade off different
parts of the experience quickly and [inaudible]. So for example, yes, we’re trying to be efficient.
But it’s more important for us to have courtesy and more
important to have safety. And so
[inaudible] customer on the phone,
even though you know it would be better to just end the call and
go on to the next one, our folks have been trained,
and there are four just different [inaudible]
very happy to [inaudible]
whatever materials we’ve got to. We kind of, the culture of the customer is
something we proactively work at.
We didn’t also wait for it to happen us.>>We did, obviously, you know, our philosophy
has always been if we’re collecting reviews on customer service,
we better be good at customer service. I mean, it would be an ironic situation if
we weren’t. But, you know, for us, I mean, we, you know,
we have a call-in service today. I mean we’re a firm believer that you can
actually talk to a person if you need be.
I mean, I think technology is wonderful. But there’s a certain element of being able
to get the help you need the way you want it.
You know, sometimes we go along about cost saving measures,
let’s move everything online. You know, sometimes just having the capability
to pick a phone up or shoot an e-mail or whatever it is that’s
going to be easiest for you to be able to get the answer
you need, and you know, if you choose the phone,
that you talk to a real person. So in our call center, a real person answers
the phone. Like it’s not automated at the beginning.
They say hello, thanks for calling, and get it routed out to the right direction,
so you don’t have to decide. You know, so for us, it’s about making sure
those customers are taken care of.
And if it means, you know, you know, I’m like Mickey.
You know, if I get a call, you know, even if it is something that it obviously
someone else could handle in the area, but they called and they
asked for me, I’ll talk to them.
You know, that’s just a belief we have. And that if they took the time to ask,
I should take the time to respond. And it’s also a great way for me to help understand
what’s going on in the organization.
Because sometimes they might be questioning a policy or a way we
do things that evolved over time that after you start thinking
about it and get more perspective, why do we do it that way?
And maybe we should think about doing it a different way.
And it just helps you get insight that you sometimes could
miss, especially as the organization gets bigger.
>>There’s a theme that let the customer choose the channel,
or how they want to interact with you, don’t impose it on them.
Brings up a theme that I saw in a lot of your responses in the
homework, which was almost create systems to pressure
yourself to be customer centric. And so, in other words, if you want people
to use self service, you have to provide all the channels that
make self service better.
You know, so that they want to. And I saw lots of ways that you could impose
customer focus culture by pressuring –>>Right.
>>– yourself.>>Because you learn things by having –>>–
[inaudible] your business model, for example.
>>Yeah. I mean, for us, we actually have
[inaudible]. Certainly we monitor that.
The other thing I was thinking about is the complexity of
[inaudible] customer experience requires that your organization
everywhere supports customer service, everyone has to be
really need employee buy in, and they have to believe in what your
goals are, what your strategy is, and
[inaudible] whether it’s a brand strategy or whether it’s
goals for the company. And if it’s customer service, it’s got to
Because if you have, you know, an organization as large as the
government and you don’t have employee buy in,
[inaudible] all kind of goals, it’s
[inaudible]>>Does the phrase customer service
[inaudible]. Substitute teachers are customer.
A teacher who is out sick that day, the customer, the students are the customer, the principal
is the customer, school district is a customer, even the
[inaudible] all those are customers, and then
[inaudible] your Department of Labor
[inaudible] like these are all different customers of
all different ways, different configurations.
And we’ve increased, just in talking about a service
orientation, which is what we’re dealing, no matter what guise we’re dealing with a
service orientation, what are the principles of service
we believe in. We only promise what we intend to do,
always do what we promise. And we move on to our service principles rather
than customer service. Because it gets to be transactional oriented,
when you talk about customer service. And by the way, there’s a cool article saying
[inaudible] whether it’s 29 minutes to check into the
emergency room, you’ll see a doc, that’s a nice little metric.
[inaudible] but it doesn’t define customer service
[inaudible]. I think that we do a disservice to those with
whom we interact when we narrow it all the way down.
>>I’m curious, because this is relevant for us.
How many of you have explicit customer, not meant to be narrowly defined,
but customer type initiatives within your organization?
Because it’s an explicit focus of your organization, right,
that is –>>[inaudible]
>>Focus.>>Product, that’s it.
>>You said the product.>>And service.
>>[inaudible]>>Well, I think we’re starting to — if you
have two organizations and you set the ball rolling,
all other things being equal and you looked in on them five years
later, and one had a customer service culture that is 90th
percentile and one was doing fine, you know, that we’re — we’ve ticked off a few of the
things, comp might be one of those things,
the customer principles might be one of those things,
the organized back from how the customer wants to deal with you,
not how you want to impose yourself on the customer,
the press — the pressure yourself to be customer focused
by getting things public, both feedback and your own principles.
Are there other things that the organization that made it to the
90th percentile would have or be doing, levers they’d be pulling,
across those five years that your average corporation wouldn’t?
[inaudible] look inside.
>>I think they’re also how they handle when things
don’t go right. You know, the mountains about how an organization.
Owe so it’s not just strive to be perfect. It’s that you are willing to admit when you
made a mistake and you’re willing to fix it.
I mean, I think you learn a lot more and you have a lot — you
get a lot more buy in from the customer when you’ve made a
mistake and you made right with it than if you never
made a mistake at all.>>Um-hmm.
>>[inaudible] companies that have been most successful
because they had a major catastrophe of sorts [inaudible]
>>Um-hmm.>>If they actually have an event which gets
and is negative, how they handle it. Actually can make them go much further than
their competition if they never had that.
[inaudible] make you successful but actually how you deal
with it says a lot more about the candor of the
organization and the people than, you know,
[inaudible]>>Quick comment, I think how employees feel
about the company [inaudible].
If they’re not happy, like when the customer does have a problem,
[inaudible] so I mean just one
[inaudible] life experience I’ve had is whenever I fly
on one of the newer airlines, and ten years ago it was Jet Blue, now it’s
Virgin, I always have a great customer experience.
[inaudible] but when I fly on an older airline, sometimes that’s not the case, people seem
more blase about making sure that I’m satisfied [inaudible].
>>[inaudible] I’ve had some large groups of highly dedicated
people desperately trying hard to please the customer but they
don’t understand the customer, and I [inaudible]
when you were trying to do substitute teacher, we were all about checking
credentials and getting them paid on time. It came up to the principle that I just don’t
want anymore 6 o’clock phone calls.
Don’t want anymore phone calls in the morning at 6 o’clock
saying I’m going to be sick [inaudible].
That was a — it was a real simple thing to redefine across us.
We were paying temporary employees and working on that,
we were striving towards what we thought were good
customer service [inaudible].
It turned out what they really wanted was a two-day turn around
from the time they turned in their time card to get a check.
A whole bunch of the stuff that I was fighting for,
advocating for that we thought was duly customer service didn’t
matter, compared to getting the check in their bank
account in 48 hours. We always, we assume that we know what the
customer wants. We often don’t know.
And often the customers don’t articulate it well.
So having a group that’s tasked with really understanding what
really ticks them off about [inaudible]
or what really irks the school district about trying to get a
grant out of the [inaudible].
We think we know.>>I’m going to come back to that as a major
thing. I’m curious, because I think one of the challenges
that we face right, in the government, is who is the customer.
We have a very complex. I’m curious in terms of if you all have faced
the challenge of are your customers clear.
If they are clear, it seems like you lose your identity,
is what you’re saying, you had to kind of reinvigorate your
brand around a renewed definition of who that customer is.
So how have you all dealt with really understanding who your
customer is and –>>You have to identify, you have to market to that specific group.
Because in our case, we have the end users that are using our
products but they may not have purchased it themselves.
In our case, it would be a state generally, voc-rehab or something.
And yeah, we have dealers, you know, most of our business is wholesale.
So we’re selling to dealers and they’re selling to the state.
So really the dealers are our customers, as well.
One of the things I wanted to mention, too, is there’s a lot of technology companies here.
We all do beta testing and when you have customers that don’t
design our own product, and so I think it’s real important to let
the customer help define what the next upgrade should be.
In the case of government, that’s a little bit different —
>>[inaudible]>>I would say that the big thing for us was
that I think we make the customer first before the teacher.
So talking about 95 percent of our development dollars and our
service dollars are now serving that student [inaudible]
and I think that that’s a difference with some companies
traditionally that have sort of understood who has control of
the money and knowing that they need to sell that.
So we found, you know, identifying that, you know,
that child or soldier or individual, and sort of find out what they want to learn,
and how do they want to learn, and then doing extensive focus groups, you know,
[inaudible] and you know, we just keep using more and
more of those kind of tools that give us feedback
Customer is anyone that your product [inaudible] and it really doesn’t
In our case, our client who actually paid the bill are not
the one that you are serving, the end customers. If you don’t do their job right, they won’t
get good feedback for our customers.
And then they won’t be happy in paying us. So it really depends, if you put yourself
in the shoe, who am I serving today, and am I doing as
good a job as I can so in the government context,
[inaudible] but who am I attracting today,
aim doing as good a job as I could, given all the tools I have and what can I
do to make it better. So believe [inaudible]
having dealt with me than they would otherwise. And you know, we have this challenge all the
time of telling our people that we treat every interaction
and you have as an opportunity to build relationship to
wow them, even if they’re dealing with difficult situations,
using that technology customers [inaudible]
usually when they’re interacting with us, there’s something major
so we really need to resolve that issue. But it’s also an opportunity to show them
that we care. So before you move down to the technical side
of it, hear them out, figure out what you can do
to at least put them as ease and then figure out the technical
part of the solution. So in that mind-set
[inaudible] really deal with whatever that you are
[inaudible] most important
[inaudible]>>We seem to be moving to the customer by
the way. So if there are things that you want to make
sure we get on culture, you mentioned the lightning round
at the end, don’t feel antsy if you haven’t gotten that.
>>[inaudible] for us and many of the other companies here.
Every individual [inaudible]
they are multiple customers and they [inaudible]
treated in a unified fashion as a [inaudible].
They’re not asking you to deal with them in a collective sense
the way they interact with you. And again we talk defining the customer,
defining an individual, not an individual [inaudible],
the individual in a role, in your agency, at that point in time.
And via that same process, same situation. Again it’s understanding that role,
what’s their expectation in that interaction. Because the expectation and interact with
the IRS [inaudible]
what they do with the ways and [inaudible]
>>One in six Americans gets food assistance from
the USDA every day.>>Yeah.
I mean, it’s all just different. They don’t have any
[inaudible]>>Could I ask you a –>>I was
just going to point out that, you know, part of the problem and the challenge in the
federal government is it’s really important to remember
agencies in some respects, but also customers. And what I mean by that is a lot of the administrative
services that the agencies provide internally,
their customers are employees of the agencies, that’s very important.
It’s also important when you think about, when you get to the point of talking about
how you’re going to transform customer service and you are
talking about the use of, you know, new technologies and those
sorts of things, you can could have unintended consequences
on the employees in terms of like reorganizing and
retooling new technologies, which might result in better
customer service to external customers.
The costs oftentimes is the work force gets saddled with a lot of
administrative type stuff that they really don’t have the
skills and the tools to do and really it was not part of their
job to begin with, and so you end up with, in some cases,
decreased productivity and decreased output because those
people are having to do this other stuff than what
you hired them to do. So I just want to point out I think that’s
something that really needs to be taken into account when
you start to actually look at how you’re going to implement
transforming customer service.
>>I’m [inaudible] from the Council of Economic Advisors.
I apologize for coming late. They’ve got us going from group to group.
I had just a little bit of a change of pace. But I would be interested, we, in the government,
we have faced for customer service and the customer
interface the following difficulty, which you might give us some insights on.
Lots of pressure to have an online interface, provide customer service over the Internet,
more convenient, new technology, better.
But in some sense requires just double — the infrastructure has
to be doubled, because you can’t replace the ex– there’s still
going to be a whole bunch of people that are not online or
they’re interacting in some other way, and how to deal with,
as the technology is changing, in the transition period,
which can go for years, how do you manage that.
Do you, in the private sector or in, not for profits, or in any,
at any level, do you, do you have any insights that can help
us in the government of how to manage this. Because in some sense, the existing folks
feel like, wait, we’re being short changed so that you can
do this high brow new technology thing and you’re spending all
the money on that. But we have this, you know, big constituency
that doesn’t use that.
And then on the other hand the people say you’re totally
backward, you’re totally behind the times, how are you not providing it.
Do you have any intentions like that in your organizations?
>>[inaudible] retail, bricks and mortar versus online,
I mean, it’s a whole infrastructure if you look at the last
[inaudible]>>Yeah, I think, this is all very complicated.
I don’t think there’s any, first of all, it starts with the culture, the passion, the
commitment. I think all great companies in the world are
companies that are led by a team of people who are extraordinarily
dedicated, day in and day out, to satisfying customer,
and the employee. We don’t call them employees, I kind of don’t
like the name, we call them associates.
Because, you know, and I said at the beginning, I work for all our customers, I work for our
associates, and I work for the shareholders.
Because all of us have the ability, and I’m so cynical about big corporations
today, and I know some of you are quite big,
I used to run a very big company, now we’re much smaller.
But the lip service to customer service and the reality are two
different things. [inaudible]
everyone who comes into head quarters in New York,
we have about 6 or 700 people, everyone from mail service to
receptionists, and if they had another job, I said how often do you see the CEO.
Or even your boss. It’s astounding.
Because, you know, used to call it management by walking
around or whatever. It’s astounding how little interaction there
is in organizations in America.
And in my industry, which is bricks and mortar and online,
we are truly selling individuals only. I don’t like middle people so we deal directly.
We don’t sell anyone but our customers. We, you know, we have our real estate, we
have online. But it’s astounding how remote so many managements
are today to the people that work there.
And if you’re not connecting to the people that work there,
you’re not connecting to the customers, that’s why we have the game.
I tried to reach the CEO of Mercedes North America
for four months. I was a customer.
Now, Mercedes is not a $5 purchase. And I don’t expect on a $5 purchase.
I’ve been on the board of apple since they went into
the retail business. Their service is extraordinary for a $40 billion
company. Because Ron Johnson, who runs retail, every
single day of his life is in the stores out there
and cares. So if you get to online versus, you know.
>>How do you balance?>>Last ten years is, you know, every year
is like, it takes ten seconds for a year to go by.
So whatever technology we have will pretty much be obsolete,
I don’t know anything about this stuff. But it will be obsolete quickly.
So I called on this conference, I spoke to Greg,
I spoke to –>>Yeah.>>And I said, I don’t know anything about
technology. I do know it’s critical to result.
But I do know, and I’ve spent my entire adult life practicing to
help people get the respect along with the associates to get
the respect of who they are. So ten years ago, there was no online.
We have about 30 percent of our business is online
catalog we call direct. So we have about a billion six, a billion
seven in sales this year.
So it’s a nice size apparel online business. It’s gone from the seven years ago when I
took over the company, I think it was, I don’t know if it
was 10 percent, almost 30 percent of our volume is online.
Of the 30 percent, 80 percent is through — I’m sorry,
30 percent is direct catalog and online. Now, 80 percent of all of our business is
transacted online, of the 30 percent.
And 20 is telephone. And so we’re letting the customers direct
us. All we can do is figure out where the puck’s
going on that. So it’s hard.
Especially with technology today. You know, I’ve seen what’s happened, and you
guys, again, I’m not a technology guy, I’ve been watching
apple and all the craziness goes in that whole industry, and
God, I’d hate to be doing that.
I mean, clothes get obsolete quickly also. But so I think you kind of chase the trend.
I think anyone who’s running a good business is seeing down the
road a bit and I say no rear view mirroring in our company.
So but I think it starts with passion, figuring it out,
taking your best guess.>>But when you said that, are the people
that work in the retail stores upset about the online, are
they in some way, do they feel like, hey, wait, this is taking
away our business, we’re not going to get paid or how
is it set up?>>The answer often is yes, but it doesn’t
>>And so, I mean, if you look at every industry in the
country, [inaudible] and you shrink the branch network down
by, as online banking [inaudible] we just increase the radius.
Now in my business [inaudible] online, I used to have 12 branches to cover the Detroit
area, now it’s two.
>>I see.>>Okay. And for those who choose not to interact with
us online, we have found, I found the banking and now
found the [inaudible]
they’re willing to drive further to have the experience they want to have with face to
face communication. And it’s not a duplicate of the cost because
the engine that drives the ability to interact with the customers
is the same engine you’re going to use, whether the person
is sitting at their desk, looking it up on the PC or being
accessed whether the telephones or it’s on
[inaudible] unified database, unified protocols.
But yet we have in the private sector a difference of much
greater flexibility. You can choose to undo 1200 workers in the
and you can have a 200 person call center in south
Dakota or whatever and it’s fine.>>Pretty quickly.
>>I was going to say, you know, I’m in the content business.
And we started as a cable TV network. But every time there’s been a new technology
that allows us to deliver our content in a different way,
we have to be on top of that, whether it’s the Internet,
so we have BET.com, whether it’s global, we have BET global.
We don’t care where our viewers or customers get the content.
But we want them to get it. But we can’t walk away from the television,
even though, you know, ten years ago everyone thought Internet
was going to take over the world.
We do have employees on the old media television side who didn’t
like the fact that we were investing in Internet, and then we had Internet employees who thought
they were going to be the next big thing and that you
know television was the old, but you know you saw what happened
with Internet, it bubbled first and it’s still around,
but it’s never going to be as big as television. So we’ve learned that you can’t walk away
from the old technology.
It’s still going to be there. I mean, people still like the experience of
leaning back, watching a big screen.
But they want to lean forward sometimes and watch a computer
screen and if they’re traveling they want to take their mobile,
and if they’re, you know, on water skis they want
to do something else. So in my duration, in my company it’s always
been every time there’s a new technology we have to stay on
top of it because we don’t want another brand to come along and
take our audience. And our audience is a trendy audience,
and we’re going to always be diversive adapters and when
something new comes out they’re going to be the first ones
there, whether it is ring tones or content or whatever.
So you just have to keep rolling and keep merging
with the technology. You got to stay on top of it.
I mean, to give you an example, my mom passed away in November.
I called Social Security the other day, I could have gone online, but I wanted to
talk to a live person to tell them my mom had passed away and ask
what should I do. After half an hour waiting, I hung up.
I was like okay, I’m not going to talk to a live person today.
I’ll try it again another day. You know, maybe next time I’ll go online.
But it’s never the very simple order, the big TVs,
the original — in some industries it will go away.
But in a lot it’s always going to be there.>>And I think you also, I mean, you incorporate
the folks that are doing it the old way in what’s going to
be the new way. So you pick off low hanging fruit.
So you’re saying, we keep track of everything. We’re very analytical in our organization.
And you know, you know what the most common, ten most common questions are, the ten most
common things people like to do.
Those are the first things that you take online. And then you leave the more difficult things,
the more complex things for your people that are in-house.
And, in fact, they might be the more interesting and
rewarding things to do. It’s not the things they’re doing in their
sleep, it’s the things they’re like, I got to think
about it, it’s a little more complex, I really helped
someone solve an interesting problem today.
>>Right.>>It doesn’t mean, you know, the 80 year
old woman still wants to call in and do the most simple things.
She should still be able to do that and they can still take
care of that. But what you’ll find.
>>It’s a smaller share of –>>You’ll just be able to get — a
lot of people will adopt the online, you know, I mean,
we have a call in service today, we used to be 100 percent call
in service, now it’s about 10 percent of our service.
But those are the people that are helping us decide what new
initiatives and what things are important to the customer to
help improve the online.>>Just want to share one interesting statistic
for all of you as you’re advising us and it perhaps goes
to your question as well.
At the Department of Agriculture where I work, in this administration, 50 percent of our
employees become retirement eligible.
And that’s — we’re not very different from the rest of the
federal government. So we have very much a graying work force.
>>You mean every year?>>No, over all.
So I have 114,000 employees. Of that number, 50 percent in these four years,
across the board, they’ll become retirement eligible.
Before the economic down turn, the office of personnel
management had estimated that half of them would
actually retire. We know that won’t be true because of the
economy now. But we have some major personnel shifts going
on that present a lot of challenges for us, and I try to get
my mind around that, how do I use this flexibility in innovative
ways. But it’s a great opportunity.
>>[inaudible] how you listen to the customer, how you understood
the customer. So if south west listens from biggest issue
to smallest issue to its customers, it would have food on planes,
right, and then it wouldn’t be the low cost fare.
So it clearly has some structure or strategy lens through which
it listens to customers. Can you all talk about either how you — how
you filter customer feedback or how you get to true customer
feedback, or how you get to evolving customer feedback
faster than your competitors?
>>I have just a great story for you. Our software teaches without translation and
without grammar explanation.
That’s the revolution of our method. My first thing when I became CEO was I did
a customer service survey.
Top two things people wanted was dictionary and a grammar book.
The very things that contradict the very — [Laughter] >>It’s
the right thing sometimes to [inaudible].
Ignore it, why are they asking for a dictionary, why are they asking for a grammar book.
That’s the question. So you get to
[inaudible] why do they say that.
And that’s where the insight comes and that’s what’s driven
our innovation. So we made improvements to the content, improvements
in the tools, so that they wouldn’t feel the
need for the dictionary or the grammar book.
But we retained the integrity of our [inaudible].
In terms of how we get to customer insight. I actually, you know, I’m very impressed by
Mickey talking about how he takes all customer calls.
Because I don’t [inaudible]
in the company. And but when I do put a lot of emphasis on
is semiannual surveys which we do in a different way through
the way I’ve seen it done before.
So obviously there’s people across the company interested in
[inaudible]. But what I really focus on is the surveys
where customers answer, you know, maybe 150 questions.
And out of that there’s a statistical analysis. And we really go deep to try to find what
are the factors. If you had strong statisticians
[inaudible] guide you, I don’t know if you’re doing that
already, but it’s totally different than a regular
survey. So I understand what moves people and it is
not what — is it a 9 or 10.
Because we correlate that back to the satisfaction.>>Question.
>>[inaudible] unique thing for us is that we actually focus
on what moves the customer’s happiness rather
than on what’s noise.
>>Customer insight specifically [inaudible]
>>I think this is going to be, again, this may be a take away
for us. Part of this is basics for us, right.
How many people get regular information of some type about
the customer interaction? Weekly, some information, be it say a service
>>You know, I have to say.>>Can I be a little bit controversial here?
>>Please.>>It’s all bureaucratic.
You start reading these surveys, honestly, you take the calls and what happens is everyone
of your associates will then know that their job is
— I would not do business with you as a customer if you didn’t
take my call. Because I would say he has no respect.
And we have been trained in America, big bureaucracies, you look at great companies in America, Now,
Steve jobs doesn’t take calls either, by the way.
But he makes up for it in his product. And I think there’s two things.
Talking about the product thing, you’re right, I agree,
I don’t listen to customers about, I don’t design either,
but what colors are right, no one told apple to do an iPOD,
no one tells us to do ruffly blouses two years ago.
So there’s a product and there’s a vision. But on customer survey, and I don’t listen
to the surveys. I had breakfast this morning after a White
House meeting with our ten store people.
Three of outside best salespeople here in — at the
Georgetown Inn or whatever the restaurant is there.
I do that, yesterday I was in orange county, coming back from California.
Every minute you are getting feedback. And my job is to punch holes in every soft
spot in our company. And CEOs today are hidden, we don’t have any
walls in our company now.
Remember, I worked at a big fortune billion dollar company,
there was walls, there was floors, there was this and that.
I have a loudspeaker on my phone that goes to 700 people.
I talk on it all day about reports and I want everyone of
them to feel that I care about them, they care — they know who I am and I interview
everyone. That’s 700.
So you know, maybe we’re not turning them over that much.
But it’s still fun. But it’s, to me, I punch holes, when I started
gap corporation, they had a customer service department.
So I showed them a letter about a complaint and they said, oh,
the customer service department, dig into the government,
dig in anywhere, it’s a very low bar service in America.
It’s an extraordinary low bar. You know, the airlines, you can talk about
the airlines all day, but, and it’s probably a bad example because
it’s a horrible, difficult call it business.
But, again, I don’t think it’s that complicated. I think it’s treat others as you want to be
treated. Now, I don’t know if you like the calls or
not. But you know, the guy said to me,
I finally got to the CEO of Mercedes North America after
three months by telling every group I spoke to,
I bought Mercedes for 15 years, the guy won’t speak to me.
And I didn’t want to use a connection or whatever. He said, well, if I took your call,
he said this to me finally, I would get calls on squeaky cars
or on this or that. And I said, you know, I take the risk of taking
the one out of 100 fake calls.
You know, you get someone who’s trying to do something.
The whole company knows not to take those. I started my career, I worked in a department
store at one point. The management, they hated being on the selling
floor. They didn’t want to talk to anyone.
Now, it’s, again, it’s I think differently about this.
And I’ve been running companies for 30 years. And now I find I’m much better at the customer
service than I’ve ever been because I’m more comfortable.
And I think it’s respecting associates and people and
in my industry the managements of retail, you try to get to a retail person today,
and all the women who shop, guys don’t shop that much
unfortunately, but the women who shop know it’s hard.
Write a letter, you get an answer. Anyway.
So it’s okay on service. And you’ve got a huge company, Kelly service,
you probably have, you know, all these people.>>But you had an interesting point on the
customer feedback in your homework and about how to make it
accurate by using standard metrics.
Where you talk the call or not, there is a way for you
[inaudible]. I agree with that.
[inaudible] I’m reading through the blogs,
reading everything that’s ever been written that day
[inaudible] and I respond to lots of the
[inaudible]>>And they tell 100 friends.
When you take the call, they tell 100 friends.>>I don’t care where you take the calls or
not, or where you do the blogs or go stand on the
street corner and talk to people in our office.
But establishing some authenticity to the feedback
[inaudible] but the accuracy of that goes back to the
question is critical in several regards.
[inaudible]>>How do you get, because this is a now the
nexus, how do we think about, how important has it
been to have enabling technology to capture that kind of
customer information on a regular, consistent,
and evolutionary way?>>Huge.
>>[inaudible] you can’t market, you can’t build,
all the data possible [inaudible]
>>You know something interest about the government. You have an advantage that none of us have.
You don’t have any competition, right.>>The
[inaudible]>>But it’s an advantage.
You don’t have any shareholders. You don’t have any quarterly reports and you’re
known to be a great bureaucracy.
>>That’s why. [Laughter]
>>So you can only get better and you don’t have to rush.
because they’re not choosing to be relevant. And so in the absence of competition,
we’ll generate competition [inaudible]
so these are the right questions, you’re asking at the right time because that’s
[inaudible]>>I’m curious in terms of technology and
getting this information right there. You can imagine there’s many times.
You can say some is customer perception and some is actual
customer experience data.>>Right.
>>Right. How do you think about how do you balance
those two, what is — and where you are.
Is one more important than the other, is it 50/50.
Because, again, as we think about wow, is it better for us if we start putting new
mechanisms in place to capture information?
Should we focus on customer experience first?>>[inaudible]>>
Okay.>>This is a great story.
I was on a panel about health care. We started collecting health care ratings.
And you know, one of the biggest things is doctors don’t
think that consumers can judge health care. I can’t judge the quality of the dental cleaning
I received. And they used the example of they don’t understand
why I diagnosed that they should use this certain,
you know, method for curing Lyme disease, whatever it
was. I was like, well, if they left that office
and they didn’t understand why you diagnosed and gave the
prognosis that you did, then you failed.
Because they perceived that they did not get good care.
Like you didn’t explain. You might have given them the right care,
but you didn’t close the entire loop. So in fact, it is valuable information, you
know, that’s useful.
That’s useful and it’s useful for the doctor. Because, like, okay, the next time I need
to make sure they understand why I chose.
I’m not going to talk over their head. I need them to understand why I chose the
path I chose.>>[inaudible]>>[inaudible]
it will take a long time to actually put together [inaudible]
to enable the process. But the content of the survey has to be driven
by the internal organization as to what it is you’re trying
to get to. Most people will give you honest answers.
Because if you ask them was this experience positive or negative,
if they say negative, it really doesn’t matter if the person was
knowledgeable over the person or the [inaudible] of the product.
The customer says I had a negative experience. [inaudible]
technology. A lot of technology companies and I am guilty
of that, too, we think a lot more about our product than
about the customers who use that product.
>>[inaudible] [Laughter]>>And that really is not a good
[inaudible] saying hey, products are really the [inaudible].
How useful in their minds, if it is not, something needs to change.
>>I think that’s great. I mean one of our principles is no technology
for technology’s sake.
I think most companies in our field have failed because they
just, they know what the market, customer is asking for a video,
that you may know the [inaudible]
video does not teach. So you sort of have the restraints of not
using that technology. And I think that, I guess what I’m trying
to hit is not the balance of being reactive constantly on the
customer but how can you be proactive?
How can you be ahead of the market. How can you have the customer insight that
is at the end user level, not sort of at buyer level.
And the buyer very often has a very different paradigm of what
they think is important. And so jumping all the way student, and understanding
the student and [inaudible]
making the product exactly the way the teacher would want it I think is
how you can change education, for example.>>But here’s –>>
[inaudible] questions how do we make technology more useful
>>This is like so 1950s. It’s like what is the — as an example,
I would have expected to see the government really
sucks at A, B and C. What technology tools are out there
[inaudible] what can you bring to us that will help us
really dramatically improve customer service in these areas so even the
way that you all were approaching the questions is much more
[inaudible] orientation as opposed to the service position.
>>Something that comes to my mind, too, [inaudible]
very critical because you can give them that new technology, but people need to know how
to use it, how to make use of it, rather than just throwing
product out there. So if they can help their customers by using
the technology, but they have to have the training
in order to do it.>>[inaudible]>>[inaudible]
maybe not so subtle. One thing I’m hearing is there’s the customer
experience, customer service, how they’re experiencing
it, and then there’s the, what does the customer
want from a product’s services.
And I’m hearing it as you should think about those
somewhat differently. Sometimes — you should listen to what the
customer experience is at the top, be sensitive and understand
that, both perception and reality.
But that’s not immediately, and everything the customer says
they want, you need to very much interpret that.
Because what I’m hearing you saying is ultimately what the
customer wants, they may not be as direct with
[inaudible]>>[inaudible] is you can really be an art form.
And so you listen to their frustrations, but they might be leading you down the wrong
path. And you, as the expert in the area,
should be the one that assembles the pieces.>>[inaudible]
really do understand why you are asking for it because under our
[inaudible] you shouldn’t have been asking for it, that’s
kind of — [inaudible]>>
I guess, just before we do a go around, just the one last thing I wanted
to build on and your point and your point, which is back to the culture and engaging
your whole employee work force to be more customer centric, all
right. So that’s the goal.
We say it’s important, tunnel starts at the top,
you’re going to get information, use technology, right,
to get information. But how do you make it transend the entire
organization? All right.
How do you actually, and I guess we’ll be especially if you have
any ideas where they weren’t already, right, if you could think about organizations or
parts of your organizations that weren’t already super customer
centric, how did you become more customer — because
that’s our challenge, right.
We have different customers, you know, we define customers at the state level, right,
or at the university. But what about the students after receiving
financial aid. Okay, well if I’m trying to shift a large
part of the organization to think about the customer differently,
what has been your experience in doing that?>>[inaudible]
one of the things that we talk about the [inaudible]
a lot. And if you have an easy, I mean, need not
be very expensive [inaudible].
If you have a quick way of capturing feedback from the end users
[inaudible]. And making sure that your compensation in
some form is tied across the board in the agency, top to
bottom, not just the [inaudible] but the customer
[inaudible] transaction, starting with the secretary,
down to the service person, that the feedback is important to us
and the end user didn’t have a good experience with us,
something would be [inaudible]
bonus could be tied top down to that feedback. And then of course implements right philosophy
to make sure that the feedback comes back positive [inaudible]
sort of driven by the organization and not [inaudible]
>>Could I just pick up on that quick feedback point.
This is as we’ve been talking about how we go after this
problem in my organization. That’s one of the critical points.
Because unlike most of your organizations, it’s often the case in my business that we
— that the ultimate answer, the end product,
is an answer that’s going to make the customer unhappy.
No, you can’t have those benefits. No, the law was not violated, so you don’t
get that big paycheck you were expecting.
And so the challenge for us is to disaggregate the ultimate
result for the customer, or the worker that we’re serving this
that particular case, from the experience they have in dealing
with our employees. Because they’re often dealing with people,
as I said before, in very difficult circumstances, have developed
something of a calloused attitude in dealing with their calls.
But what we want them to understand that people can have
a good experience and many of them do, let me just say,
they show an amazing amount of patience in difficult circumstances.
But how do we give people a good experience, even when the end result is going to be a
no.>>Just one minor point.
Actual think is a correlation to the technology company,
where you distinguish between product and the service.
So there’s service [inaudible]
are you happy with the product, which in this case
[inaudible] were you happy with this interaction you had
with us, with the [inaudible],
with the phone agent, answering the turn around time on the
negative response. And if you separate out the two you
[inaudible] the actual
[inaudible] constraints of a government versus how they
come across for this person dealing with them.
>>I’d like to talk with you more about that later on.
>>I think the challenge for government is, I don’t think the government and the agencies
have done a very good job of clearly defining within their
mission the customer service as part of the mission.
>>Right.>>And that service is going to vary from
agency to agency, depending on the nature of the work they do.
I think another thing, in order to really engage employees of
the agency in customer service, you need to be able — they need
to be able to clear understand how what their individual job is
contributes to that over all expectation of customer service.
So if I’m — [inaudible]
customer service in that agency. How does the work of the budget person contribute
to that, how does the work of the personnel,
how does the work of the scientists. And I think once people get an understanding
of what it is about their job and the functions they perform,
how that contributes to the over all accomplishment of the
mission, people can relate to that and people will come
together to help make that [inaudible] successful. The problem that we have now is people only
have a good understanding of what the expectation is for
their individual job, and I’m [inaudible] compensated
on whether I do a good job or not, irregardless
or whether that even contributes to accomplishing the
over all mission. So there’s no connectivity there, I guess
it’s missing, and that’s what needs to be put in place.
>>Well said. Because I think the other challenge,
and the difference in the private sector, it’s easier to tie because there’s a consequence.
It’s called market share, revenue, there’s a consequence if the organization
as a whole doesn’t deliver against customer needs.
When you have a monopoly as a government service provider,
it’s harder to make that consequence a reality, right.
So you can say, no, if you don’t do this, then we just have poor customer service.
>>There can also be competition across departments in the government.
I mean, you know.>>[inaudible]
create a sense of –>>Just because I control labor and you control agriculture doesn’t
mean that kind of there are common themes of customer
service that can be measured across departments.
And we’re a very firm believer and there’s complete transparency.
I mean, employees are ranked, you know, here’s how you did this month, and you know,
everyone win — you know you accomplish the goals, you win.
There’s compensation tied to it. You know, you’ve got to be able to set the
metrics that you want to achieve for, you’re not always going to
get those metrics right when you set them out in the
first place. I mean, we have in our front line employees,
I mean, we record calls, and you know the manager
listens to them every week.
And gives feedback, I mean there’s a feedback loop,
because by, you know, there’s the, okay, I’m going to record them so you might think
I might listen to them.
But we actually have a — we do listen to them,
and here’s your feedback, and that exercise for the manager
becomes an exercise in what things they don’t have right and
what we’re measuring. Because you can tell when listening to a phone
call whether, you know, the consumer perceived
that, you know, that the same way you thought it should be.
You know, whether it was, you know, was this the right thing we should be measuring.
And then they can make iterations on that. But we’re very transparent in creating, you
know, great competition.
Great competition amongst the people sitting there
taking the calls. I mean, because it just became, you know,
it becomes a game more that way than just got to
answer the call.>>Couple other comments on this,
then if there’s anything else we haven’t talked about,
give folks a couple minutes to raise it.>>[inaudible]
an enormous challenge, much bigger than any of us.
>>That’s why we’re here.>>We think that, too, by the way.
>>[inaudible] has so many dimensions.
And I think that, you know, I don’t know, I haven’t really thought through how you would
implement what we did within your environment.
But what we did was sort of ask the employees what do you think
the mission of the company is. What’s our purpose.
And you get input from everybody. Our organization has got 1600 employees.
You would try to meet about half of those at least and have
meetings with about 60 people, and it’s kind of town hall,
I just listen, I write, and you get all these ideas about not
just the mission but the values. It’s a kind of data dump on to you as the
leader. And then you’ve got to play it back in a way
that’s true to what they said.
But I think that the employees, the associates or government
employees will know what they’re there for. But if you just — because I think I’ve tried
with top different and different initiatives,
it is extremely hard to push through any sort of directive
down, especially when it’s behavior related. Really needs to just come up through there.
>>[inaudible] I can give employees the ability to self
organize and to try new adventures and you guys can’t.
I can fire a significant number of people or restructure and
shift organizational forms with great rapidity to hit the
changes you all can’t. I can use massively transparent data to shame
the under performing groups.
I don’t know that you all can do that.>>We can do that.
>>[inaudible]>>[inaudible] works really well.
>>I won’t speak for Tony or Kathleen. But three of those four things that you — that
are perceived to be true about the government that you just
described, Carl, are not true.
The only thing that we can’t do, and I don’t think we should do,
is massive dislocations of large numbers of workers.
We can fire people who are bad performers if we have the
systems and courage to actually grade people based on how
they’re performing. But everything else you described, we actually
can do, including using transparent information.
Actually, the biggest barrier that we have is a little item
called the paperwork reduction act, which makes
collecting data from our customers extremely difficult.
And the idea is to reduce the amount of burden that we put on
our customers, including the business community. The perception is that if we ask you a question
that we’re making your life so difficult that we shouldn’t be
— this is Congress’ judgment some number of years ago,
that we’re interfering with the way you do business,
and therefore you can’t help us to fix the way we do business.
But we have far more flexibility and control than even we often
are willing to acknowledge. My HR people tell me that all the time.
It’s just, there are some barriers and it just require as
little bit more work. But a good bit of what you’ve described here,
the data feedback being the hardest, by the way,
we could do. And should be doing.
The place where we have the other biggest problem, frankly,
is in getting the tools that you’re describes, not just the data tools, but the technological
tools. We’re not especially good at technology procurement.
And things move a lot slower for us, for a whole bunch of very very good reasons
that you want your government to procure in a way that’s very,
very, very careful. As a consequence of that, what we were describing,
which is the technology moves very quickly, well, for us,
that means we’re always going to be some number of
steps behind the curve. So but I think we can actually do a good bit
of what you’re describing without violating any of the rules.
And let me just say if we work well with our union partners,
which frankly we do in some cases and don’t do so well in
other cases, most anything is possible, almost anything is possible if they’re willing
to work with us on it and if we can consult them on the fact
that their lives will be better.
I’ll just say one other thing about that. I’m sorry to be filibustering.
But I’m really lucky to work at an agency where the people we
work with share the values, happen to share the values of
this administration, and share the values of their organization.
They want to be effective. They really care about the people that they’re
serving. So they want our help to do better.
And when we get in their way, they’re frustrated and get
unhappy with their jobs and they do a bad job because we’ve made
it hard for them to do a good job. So I don’t think — I think what we’re describing
about a focus on the customers is also something that’s
going to serve our employees very well, at least in my case.
>>Last comment.>>You asked a question, I think,
a while ago about how do you communicate to the
employees and associates. And it sounds like you’re on a mission now,
a new mission. My first question that I just want to say
what I think just briefly is does everyone know what the mission
is in your departments that you’re having this meeting?
So that’s, you know you mentioned town hall. I mean, when I get new to a company, say you
know, there’s a town hall, I used to do it weekly,
now I don’t, it’s monthly.
There’s conference calls with every store manager,
department manager, weekly, now it’s biweekly. Because as the business turns and the culture
gets embedded, you don’t need to do the same thing.
But you are on a 24/7 mission, e-mails, voice mails,
and you just got to keep singing — it’s focus, focus, focus,
and you are on a mission. So I think communication from real life people,
voice, e-mail, town halls, you said you do, we do a town
hall now, not as often, but everything was weekly.
And it became, I look at myself as a teacher. I’ve been doing this a long time.
And then of course you have turn over so you’re constantly having
to tell people what the mission is. And sharing information back and forth.
I think you put some steps until you become very visible,
touchy feely management, and I guess you can do — I don’t know
if you do conference calls. But we have stores, we have Crew Cuts, Made
Well, J. Crew and factory stores, and now the team
presidents run the calls biweekly, but I used to do it personally
myself every week, because you are out there trying to change
thinking that’s been so embedded.
And I just think those are practical things that
are really important.>>[inaudible]
you’ve got to make it [inaudible]
is he we have like, you know, [inaudible]
we have some lunatic who thought we could sell the product from a kiosk and
nobody believed it and we tried it and showed we could make money.
So you know you sort of make it come alive, you have the hero,
I don’t want to underestimate that part of playing
it back and making it [inaudible]
>>I appreciate it. Sorry.
The good news is we were hoping this would be an engaging enough
dialogue, both engaging for you and engaging and valuable for us
and I think it very much has been. I do unfortunately think we’ve got to bring
it to a close because we’re going to transition back to
the larger forum now. And I think the other part of it was actually
allowing you all as peers enough time to start connecting and
to hopefully by cutting it short now we can do that.
>>I have a question, Tony. Do we have everybody’s contact info?
>>Yes.>>Because I’d like to follow up with almost
everybody at the table.
>>Kathleen and I are going to follow up all the time.
But I’d love to follow up with folks at the table.
>>– hear more from Jeff, because part of that is creating
some of those webs of interaction.>>That’s great.
>>Because what the President said at the opening remarks,
think I we are trying to figure out how best to operate.
This was meant to be the beginning of a dialogue. We need in fact to learn a lot from business,
private sector and how can we take some of these practices and
experiences and apply them in the context. Very unique with all its challenges,
but still that’s kind of why we’re here. So [inaudible] want to thank you.
It’s been a good session.>>Thank you.