Public Service Essay

9445 Words Dec 9th, 2013 38 Pages
Philip H. Jos College of Charleston Mark E. Tompkins University of South Carolina

Keeping It Public: Defending Public Service Values in a Customer Service Age

New Ideas for Improving Public Administration

Notwithstanding the persistence and proliferation of to the breaking point with a RAND Corporation calls to serve “customers,” these relationships incorporate study that exhorted the military to engage in “customdistinctively public priorities and performance er-informed decision-making” and to work on instillexpectations—priorities and expectations often shaped ing “customer satisfaction” in Afghanistan (Helmus, by a desire to reduce customer vulnerabilities and Paul, and Glenn 2007). prevent seller strategies that are deemed
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These alternatives produce interaccalls to serve their “customers.” Despite the considerable literature explaining the conceptual and ethical tions—between those we will characterize as profesproblems with this metaphor (see, e.g., Box et al. sionals and clients, guardians and wards, facilitators 2001; Carroll 1995; deLeon and Denhardt 2000; and citizens, regulators and subjects—that incorporate Frederickson 1996; King, Feltey, and Susel 1998; distinctively public values, priorities, and performance Moe 1994; Moe and Gilmour 1995; Piotrowski and expectations. Our analysis concludes by exploring Rosenbloom 2002; Terry 1993), the idea that public strategic opportunities for defending these values in administrators should relate to the public as “customan increasingly market-oriented public service. ers” persists and proliferates. The Internal Revenue The Realities of Transactions between Service conducts a routine “customer satisfaction Customers and Sellers survey” of those who contact the Taxpayer Advocate The well-established literature examining the operaService (see FCB and Russell Research 2005). The tion of an unfettered marketplace (see, e.g., Kuttner U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducts a Customer 1999) documents many constraints on consumer Service Survey, with most responses coming from permit applicants (Connolly 2007). The U.S. Depart- choice (e.g., imperfect information, a lack of customer ment of

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