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Leveraging a customer-focused leadership approach to delivering effective public services

As we continue to face the challenges posed by the pandemic and increased demand for public services, a renewed effort toward enhancing public service delivery is needed to ensure that government can continue to meet the needs of our nation.

To develop a construct that helps government leaders more responsively serve the public, we joined the Partnership for Public Service to conduct interviews with federal leaders who use a customer-focused approach to deliver effective public services. The resulting report, Leading with Experience: A Framework for Customer-Focused Leadership in Government, includes leadership competencies directly related to the Partnership’s Public Service Leadership Model as well as actionable takeaways for leaders seeking to leverage a customer-focused approach to their services model.

Five key leadership approaches emerged from the 16 interviews conducted with leaders from 14 agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Customs and Border Protection, IRS, Census, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. These approaches share a common thread: Leaders did more than fix stand-alone problems; they created organizational cultures that put customers first and continually responded and adapted to changing customer needs. For each of the five key approaches, the report delves deeply into specific respondent input ahead of presenting the actionable takeaways associated with each approach.

This framework for government leaders balances principles from the Partnership’s Public Service Leadership Model with anecdotal inputs from agency leaders and guidance for best practices for implementing the takeaways.

Creating this report and generating its guidance relied heavily on a singular focus on our shared goal: building an improved, more consistent public sector customer experience. In conducting the interviews which form the basis of the report, several key themes arose that provide value to both our public and private sector partners:

  • Empathy stands at the heart of a positive customer experience. Tapping into people’s deeper emotions and understanding the reactions people experience when they engage with a service are critical to improving CX.
  • Employee engagement and morale have a significant impact on customer experience in either the positive or negative direction.
  • Feeling a sense of connection to the mission is necessary to develop a strong sense of engagement among employees, particularly those in direct customer service roles.
  • Public trust cannot be restored and maintained without a concerted effort to lead with a customer focus.

In developing the report with the Partnership, our shared vision was to create a roadmap that could be easily digested and its tenets implemented by leaders across agencies with different missions and public-facing focus, all validated by the most robust and trustworthy source available: their colleagues.

Our shared hope is that the guidance provided within the report will also spark an important and ongoing dialogue among the public and private sector about best practices for continuing to improve ways we can partner on and jointly deliver services to the public.

We look forward to the conversation we hope that this report will generate. Access the full report here.