In customer service, it is imperative to know the difference between private and public sectors, because it helps define your customers’ needs. Though the terms are important, it’s not uncommon to see people use them incorrectly. But both the sectors have distinct characteristic that distinguish them from each other.
The private sector is privately owned
The primary differences between the sectors are who they employ and who they work for. The private sector is usually made up of privately owned organizations, like corporations. However, the private sector is not limited to big corporations and can include local business, credit unions, non-profit partnerships, and charities.
The public sector serves the public
This sector mostly operates through organizations owned by the government, and as a result, workers are paid by the government. These organizations can include: holding political office, the U.S Postal Service, and federal, state, or municipal governments. The public sector provides services that directly influence their governing province and/or country.
Private provides tangible products, while the public sector often outputs “anti-products.”
Ron Ross of The American Spectator put it nicely when he said, “The private sector’s products all around us – food, shelter, clothing, automobiles, home appliances, entertainment, for example. The public sector’s products include defense, the justice system, roads and highways, public schools, income redistribution (welfare), laws, and regulations… ” It’s easy to recognize the private sector because of its products, yet it’s important not to overlook the significant services that government provides.
We see that both sectors have their clear distinctions, yet they often find themselves in communication with each other. Customer service methods are a great way to share a dialoged between the two. Part of Customer Service Senior Leadership team is understanding that there are different approaches when it comes to customer service in both sectors.
A customer is a customer regardless of the product, yet in the public sector, when your customer is the public, it is a little bit different. As a customer of Wal-Mart, if you are dissatisfied with the service you have experienced, you can go shop at Target. Most of the time, with government services, you can’t shop around. There are long-term customers and the challenge is to provide them with the best customer service available.
Providing citizens with great customer service in government often means borrowing strategies from the private sector. Using social media as customer service tool, for example, is something that many successful businesses have done. Many government customer service centers have also implemented strategies directly connecting citizens with city services. Understanding what is being referenced, and being familiar with the distinctions, between both sectors, ultimately helps the public sector better meet citizens’ needs.