Do ‘Captive Customers’ Deserve Customer Service Excellence?

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A government employee questioned whether my service teaching had any value for his department.

After all, he reasoned, why bother providing customer service excellence to “captive customers” who have no choice?

I’ve got many answers to this loaded question. These three pack a punch:

First, captive customers may have no choice about whether or not to work with an internal department or government agency, but they have plenty of choice about the attitude they bring to the interactions.

The Department of Motor Vehicles in Connecticut, United States has made a profound effort to increase speed of service, upgrade office atmosphere and improve attitudes of the staff.

What’s the result? Customers wait in line with appreciation rather than frustration. They speak on the phone with patience instead of displeasure. And they approach the counter with a smile instead of a frown because of the customer service excellence they are treated to.

Who wins from this effort to upgrade civil service? The customers and the staff both benefit from customer service excellence.

Second, how do government agencies attract and retain good people? It’s not by profit sharing, and stock options don’t exist.

In government service (and many private organizations) extraordinary staff build long-term careers when the organization is ambitious and attractive. People want to stay when the organization is aiming for better performance, working for better results, making it easier for people to do a good job and feel fulfilled when the job gets done.

This means creating a culture where customer service excellence is a top priority, where continuous improvement becomes a passion.

Dead organizations collect only dead wood.

Third, I am always surprised when government employees think they have no competition. Don’t they understand that every country and city must compete for investment, for tourism, for immigration and retention of best talent, for improving the quality of life?

Where would you rather build your factory, open your regional office, launch or expand your career, or settle and grow your family? Would you prefer somewhere with a dynamic and progressive civil service, or some place with a government bureaucracy that’s stuck in the ancient past?

Government employees who think customer service excellence is only for the private sector have their heads buried in the sand. Quicksand.

Key Learning Point For Customer Service Excellence

Don’t take “captive customers” for granted. They deserve customer service excellence. Your payoff may not be in profits, but in the pride and pleasure you give, and receive.

Action Steps For Customer Service Excellence

Examine the attitudes and standards you use when serving customers who “don’t have a choice.” Be sure they are up the same level you would apply if your job or career was on the line. Customer service excellence has no boundaries.


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Copyright, Ron Kaufman. Used with permission. Ron Kaufman is the world’s leading educator and motivator for upgrading customer service and uplifting service culture. He is author of the bestselling “Uplifting Service” books and founder of Uplifting Service. To enjoy more customer service training and service culture articles, visit

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