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Hogan launches Md. government ‘customer service’ initiative

Gov. Larry Hogan. (file)

Gov. Larry Hogan. (file)

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland taxpayers aren’t getting a good customer experience from government agencies, and Gov. Larry Hogan said he is setting out to change what he referred to as the culture of state government.

Hogan said he is requiring every state agency, which covers about 60,000 state employees, to begin developing customer service plans to deal with inquiries made by phone, online and in person. The plans, which will have to be updated annually, will include measurements to determine how those departments and individual managers and employees are meeting the goals. They will be published online so the public can see which agencies are succeeding and which agencies have the worst customer service.

“Marylanders expect the best possible customer service from their government, and that’s exactly what they deserve,” Hogan said.

The governor said the effort was tied to his recent appointment of former state Sen. Robert “Bobby” Neall to oversee an effort to make government more efficient and to the work of a regulatory reform task force he appointed last year that took testimony from people who said government was frequently frustrating and unwieldy.

“Many of the stories we keep hearing all too often are the same. Maryland’s state government has a reputation for being sometimes too slow to respond, sometimes disorganized and confusing and difficult to deal with, and consistently inconsistent,” Hogan said. “We hear that quite a bit.”

Former state Sen. Robert "Bobby" Neall. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Former state Sen. Robert “Bobby” Neall. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Hogan said some agencies have already made adjustments but “they were simply not enough.”

To that end, Hogan said every agency would be charged with focusing on three main objectives: renewed emphasis on a strong service culture; improved and continuous customer service training for employees; and establishment of new service performance metrics.

Additionally, Hogan said, his staff is beginning to examine ways to update “antiquated technology” and improve communications between agencies with overlapping areas of responsibilities. The governor said that Neall, who is charged with finding ways to make government more efficient and responsive, would help usher in some of those changes when he starts his job on July 1.

Hogan said there is no plan for technology improvements yet and no price tag.

In addition to drafting agency specific plans that will include guaranteed response times and business hours that are responsive to the needs of customers, Hogan said he and other officials will regularly honor employees who exceed those standards. Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford honored five state employees for their work on Thursday.

But at the same time, Hogan said, the increased training and new standards will be used as a tool to evaluate and measure employee performance.

“I think right now it’s not one of the things you look at with employees, but we’re going to change that. We’re going to make sure employees are getting rated on their great service,” Hogan said. “If they’re doing a great job working for the people they work for they should be rewarded, and if they’re doing a terrible job, they probably shouldn’t be.”