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Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative (CDSI) Initiative 5

Initiative 5 - Establish tools and processes for interacting with clients that are resource-centric, enhance customer service, and increase NRCS' efficiency.

Many field staff indicate that the increased availability of Farm Bill funding has resulted in a change in the perspective and motivation of clients, who at times view NRCS’ conservation assistance with a “shopping list” mentality associated with programs and cost-share. In some cases, NRCS’ policies and procedures have reinforced this perspective. This presents challenges to NRCS planners, especially when clients do not readily see the value of a conservation plan or technical assistance.

Likewise, NRCS policies, procedures, and tools have “trained” NRCS employees, especially those hired since 2002, that the Agency’s primary mission is to administer financial assistance funds, and may have less appreciation for NRCS’ mission and responsibilities associated with technical assistance.

It is important that NRCS’ business model and processes reinforce NRCS’ mission in conservation assistance, and align with NRCS’ lines of business in a logical manner. The Agency’s interactions with our clients, and products and services delivered to clients, must reflect that conservation planning is the foundation for all conservation assistance.

STRATEGY 5.1 - NRCS will implement a Client Service Gateway concept that utilizes a variety of technologies and approaches to enhance customer service and increase NRCS’ efficiency in serving its clients.

When NRCS spends more time in the field, there will be an overall decrease in the opportunity to assist clients through office telephone calls and walk-in traffic. In order to maintain customer service in a mobile-enabled business model, it is critical that NRCS provide alternative and effective ways for clients to interact with NRCS.

The Client Service Gateway concept initially focuses around the establishment of a self-service website, but could eventually encompass an array of technologies (telephone, kiosk, etc.) that will allow clients to perform many transactions without direct interaction with NRCS staff. Not only will this strategy allow NRCS employees to utilize their time more efficiently, it also presents the opportunities to provide more flexible, 24/7 services to NRCS’ growingly diverse clientele. Key concepts for a Client Service Gateway include:

The Gateway will allow clients to enter varying levels of detail, from basic contact information to more detailed data about their operation. The Gateway will be geo-enabled to facilitate clients to identify their area of interest or provide additional geographic information. The Client Service Gateway will also incorporate a screening component as described in Strategy 4.2 that will assist clients to determine their basic eligibility and the applicability of NRCS technical or financial assistance to meet their objectives. It is envisioned that the Gateway will be designed as not just an entry point for clients, but also as a tool that NRCS staff will use to gather initial information from a client requesting assistance.

  • The Client Service Gateway will be designed to clarify the relationship between technical and financial assistance, and reinforce the focus on addressing natural resource concerns.

  • The Gateway will be designed to accommodate a full range of services for the client, with flexibility to utilize the Gateway to provide more information as their comfort level in working with NRCS in this manner grows.

STRATEGY 5.2 - NRCS’ conservation assistance product line will be redesigned to reflect the steps in planning and more effectively communicate the information needed by clients.

Even though the Conservation Plan and its associated documents are the primary deliverable left in the hands of the client, the quality of these documents often does not reflect the valuable technical information or expertise of the Agency. Rather than providing a clear roadmap for clients, NRCS’ Conservation Plans are more often an assemblage of documents of different styles, formats, and levels of detail, without a clear message of expectations to clients. Redesigning NRCS conservation planning and support documents to more effectively communicate the results of the planning process is critical for reestablishing the Agency’s role and interaction with customers, and enhancing customer service.

The Conservation Plan should be customer friendly; provide the information in a usable, consistent format; and help clarify the relationship between the Conservation Plan and financial assistance. It is envisioned that the redesign of the Conservation Assistance product line would be a collaborative effort, involving technical, programs, and communication specialists, as well as clients and partners.

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