November 7, 1997
Department of Public Administration
University of Kansas
Notes for Greater
KCASPA Chapter Workshop on Customers and Citizens
- What is a Customer
- Defines a relationship between a willing buyer and willing seller
- A person who willingly purchases goods and services to maximize
individual benefit from a seller in a competitive market of sellers
- What is a Citizen
Differences between Customers and Citizens
- Defines a relationship between individuals and their government
- Designed to produce collective decisions for community benefit that
are fair to individuals
- Markets consist of unlimited buyers and sellers vs. Government is
- Sellers compete for buyers and try to meet buyers/customer's needs
because their ECONOMIC survival depends upon it vs. Government does
not have to compete for customers; incentive for customer satisfaction
is POLITICAL legitimacy
- Customers can choose what to buy, when, and from whom vs. Citizen
have no choice in what, when, and from whom (Diversity)
- Sellers choose niche and customer base vs. Governments serve all
including victims and prisoners and the otherwise unwilling (Diversity)
- The market place efficiently allocates resources vs. Government
responds to an array of values including representation, equity and individual
- Customers focus on value to buyer as well as cost vs. Citizens focus
on value to community as well as cost; taxpayers focus on cost
- Markets meet individualized needs of customers vs. Government meets
collective needs of citizens
- Loss of customers indicates seller has undesirable product vs. Citizens
cannot leave; public voice indicates service delivery problems (Conflict
- Customer reinforces private choice, individual freedom, and personal
- Citizen subordinates individual interests to array of interests
and individual decision to majority rule;
- Citizen builds sense of community through individual participation
and collective responsibility;
- Citizen's sense of personal fulfillment comes through collective
- Citizen builds critical reasoning thinking deliberately and publicly
- Customers have no obligations to other customers or to sellers vs.
Citizens have obligations to majority rule and collective good
- Markets maximize individual cost/benefit vs. Citizens invest without
expectation that return to them individually will equal their investment
Are the differences important?
- Customers seek to fulfill individual interests through private
decisions and express their dissatisfaction passively
- Citizens seek to fulfill community interests through public
participation and decision-making and express their dissatisfaction
through public voice
- This issue has nothing to do with the way we lead our lives.
Who experiences the dissonance? What is our objection? Frustration?
It is solely and ideological matter where ideology expresses value
of what we do. "Customer" devalues government work by extolling
business. Emphasis moves from the public part of public servant
to the servant part.
What is the "story" of customer service?
- When you approach government as an individual, can YOU think and
talk as a customer AND a citizen?
- Don't you do this?
- DMV hours? Why not in supermarket?
- Recognize need for traffic control and licensing of drivers?
- Can YOU treat people like a customer AND a citizen?
- Utility calls residents customers and charges according to use
- Collectively decides where wastewater treatment plant will go
- We can manage these differences in our daily lives. But when we
search for the meaning or value in what we are doing, the conflict takes
on a mighty significance. Questions our work as public servants.
- Political stories combine reason and emotion in a captivating way.
To show power of stories ask if IRS reform is data driven or story
- Powerful stories deal with meaning in our lives
- They are simple, speak to us deeply, tell us what we want to hear;
they are compelling compared to counter-stories
Customer service story is part of a bigger one
- How many people x how many tax returns = opportunity for abuse.
How much abuse has actually occurred?
- Story of government abuse and the underdog; it is a story people
are receptive to today
Another story is about power and who is in charge. Citizens see
a gap between the way they struggle to lead their lives and how imperious
government seems to be to them. This is the underdog story.
Another story is about the inability of government to produce what
it sets out to, e.g. police protection; race relations; education.
- Business is efficient and caters to customer needs
- Government is inefficient, wasteful and disregarding of citizen
- If government were more like business it would not only be more
efficient; it would produce more customer satisfaction
- Turn the syllogism on its head and say "if we can satisfy our
customers, we will have become more efficient."
- All are political. Politics is about stories
Community Building as a Compelling Counter Story
- Disregard the story
- Try to produce counter-story
- Business is not that efficient
- Resident as citizen
- Government can produce; compelling story of government today has
to be connected to results
- Integrate the story into your own purposes
- "Customer service as a value has helped our image" David
- Customer service and threat of privatization provide stimulus for
internal change in entrenched departments: Eric Anderson, Des Moines
- Turn resident/customer loyalty and trust into obligations as citizen
- Subsume customer/citizen into one story
- Strong communities require self-reliant, independent people (Private)
who are willing to think and act in ways that acknowledge that their private
lives do not constitute the universe (Public).
For more on stories
and other presentations and cases