Every company, business, and government agency/department should have a set of core values. These core values stand as an ethical code for your work place, and a set of values that your office culture evolves from. For me, and the City of Philadelphia, specifically Managing Director, Richard Negrin, we aim for excellence, passion, engagement, integrity, and encourage strategic and smart risk taking. In this, core values are not merely an ideal, but a set of attitudes and behaviors to strive for. It is with our core values in mind that we assess what we need in terms of competencies.

The way you do your work is just as important as what you accomplish. That’s the importance of competencies. Competencies are realistic, observable behaviors that relate to your goals. In other words, they are the skills you need to fulfill the responsibilities of your job. Core competencies are branches of your organization’s core values in the sense that the strengths of those values are extended and, eventually, complemented by the technical skills and capabilities of your team. While core values are the backbone, creating a foundation for a company, core competencies are what determine the advantage. Having a clear idea of what your organization’s core competencies are, result in going above and beyond average profits.

Adapting this model–one that’s often applied to the world of finance and product based corporations–to customer service, leaves us with a unique challenge. When we adjust our concept of profit to mean customer/citizen satisfaction, the elements that contribute to that satisfaction become our core competencies. In a government contact center, excellent customer satisfaction is what brings us to that number. We must ask, on behalf of our internal or external customers:

What does the customers need?
How can we assist in meeting those needs?
How can we assist in meeting those needs more effectively and efficiently?
These questions, in sum, point to what the U.S Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has defined as customer service core competencies; a commitment “to satisfying internal and external customers.” In appropriating HHS’s definition, we discover the cyclical nature of the core competencies and core value relationship within government. Our values become our key behaviors in customer service that, in return, establish government’s effectiveness which generates an above average service levels. For example, when you have a leadership team driving their work with values like excellence, passion, engagement, and integrity, government’s overall improved service delivery excellence reflects that.

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