VA’s search for customer service ideas leads to Craigslist

WASHINGTON – Veterans Affairs officials are looking to Craigslist for answers to their customer service problems.

No, not in the “men seeking corporate administrators” section.

The VA Center for Innovation last week tapped site founder Craig Newmark as their new “nerd in residence,” with the goal of “pursuing creative ways to bolster a customer service culture and capability.”

It’s a volunteer position, but one that extends Newmark’s existing relationship with the bureaucracy. He has been a voice on military and veterans issues in recent years, and a supporter of VA efforts in reducing the disability claims backlog.

Newmark said he would rate VA’s customer service right now as “remarkably good,” an opinion not shared by many of the department’s critics.

Veterans advocates have blasted the department in recent months for lacking clear, trackable timelines for case processing and frustrating inefficiency with many of their customer service hot lines.

The Center for Innovation boasts 135 new project ideas in recent years, many through internal and external competitions. Newmark hopes his 18 years of customer service expertise will generate a few more key fixes.

He said the department’s goal should be improve both the information they put out and the manner in which they do it.

“Above all, treat people like you want to be treated,” he said.

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