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When Government Employees Are Better Than Their Leaders

by Andrea Di Maio  |  December 15, 2010  |  2 Comments

As I have often being griping about government disservice to exemplify inadequate use of technology, I’d like to share a positive example, just for a change.

I had to go to the closest Tax Agency branch for a boring administrative obligation. I took my ticket from a kiosk and started my presumably long wait before being called. As I was unsure about the forms to be filled, I asked one of the two employees who were staffing the information desk and he kindly advised me about what to do.

As time went by, the kiosks started returning a “service no longer available” message for the customers who could not be served before the closing time. One of them, clearly in a very bad mood, started shouting and swearing, accusing the employees at the information desk (who were not responsible for service delivery) of all sorts of sins. Then he left and nobody at the desk made any comment.

A few minutes later he came back, still pissed, and addressed one of the employees in a less violent but still impolite manner. The information service employee patiently listened to him, and calmly advised about what he should have done, what he could still do to make the best use of his time, and how to reserve an appointment to complete his case. It was clear from the conversation that the customer had not carried all the necessary documents and information, and the employee explained in great detail what was missing. All this, while also answering questions from other customers who were looking for direction, keeping an eye on the door to see whether some of the officials who were booked on appointments were showing up (in order to direct them to the booth customers were waiting for them), and directing customers to the right booth for the next appointment.

Both this employee and his colleague staffing the other half of the desk, were smiling when helping customers, deflecting potentially unpleasant situations, making sure that people with disabilities or with small children would get priority, and so forth.

For how disappointing my online experience with the Tax Agency had been the day before, I was awed by the friendliness and professionalism of these employees.

Once again, government employees prove to be the fuel of service delivery, despite billion of dollars spent in technology. Ironically, while their political leaders were fighting for overturning or saving the current government, and giving one of the worst performances of the recent years, these folks showed us all what caring about people actually means.

One more reason to reflect about how important it is to use technology to empower and reward government employees, rather than simply replacing them.

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Category: e-government  

Tags: employee-centric  

Andrea Di Maio
Managing VP
19 years at Gartner
33 years IT industry

Andrea Di Maio is a managing vice president for public sector in Gartner Research, covering government and education. His personal research focus is on digital government strategies, open government, the business value of IT, smart cities, and the impact of technology on the future of government Read Full Bio

Thoughts on When Government Employees Are Better Than Their Leaders

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jovi Umawing, Iñaki Ortiz. Iñaki Ortiz said: Posible? RT @andreadimaio: When Government Employees Are Better Than Their Leaders – #gov20 #egov […]

  2. Antônio Neto says:

    That was an outstanding example of a valuable service experience. By the way, I read a few weeks ago K. Douglas Hoffman’s Principles of Experience Marketing – a Brazilian version, where Hoffman said exactly what you did: friendly, honesty people make the point when the business is service. I wonder today what is not a question of service?

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