Providing a Human Touch at Federal Government Buildings
In an effort to make all who come into contact with the Federal Government feel welcome, safe, and professionally served, GSA Assistant Regional Administrator Paul Prouty created the Ambassador Program, a concierge-type information service for visitors to Denver’s four-block Federal District. Inspired by a similar program enacted at the Denver International Airport, Prouty envisioned the Ambassador as an outgoing, customer-service representative who would greet federal customers; informally meet with building tenants; and, in all, be a friendly face to the U.S. Government. In 2000, Dave Mowers became the first Ambassador; he remains the sole, in both the region and the country, although he now is assisted by a handful of students and interns. Mowers keeps the concierge desk at Denver’s Byron Rogers U.S. Courthouse and the Federal Office Building staffed from 7am to 2pm each weekday, covering the busiest periods of building activity.
An example of how the Federal Government is attempting to re-invent itself by “listening” to the American public, the GSA’s Ambassador Program aims to provide public relations and goodwill; address perceptions that “the government” is unapproachable or unfriendly; and positively change the way the public views the government. It is not designed to produce revenue, at least not directly.
Above left: Dave Mowers, Ambassador of Denver’s Federal District.
- How the Program Works
- Setting Up an Ambassador Program
- Program Components (including job duties and program promotion)
- Future Plans
Denver’s Ambassador Program is unique in many ways. Because of the Federal District’s central location within the city’s metropolitan area, the Ambassadors reach a diverse population from all walks of life. An on-duty Ambassador is a visible sight; he or she makes a point of becoming the first contact for all coming to the Federal District, and welcomes both the general public and employees alike.
After the Ambassador Program was introduced, visitors and employees at the federal buildings were asked for their thoughts, including what they felt the long-term effects of an Ambassador would be on the community. Responses have been consistently positive. “Definitely worthwhile,” “I hope it will be continued into the future,” and “Will it be expanded?” are the most frequently heard comments. Most wonder why such a program has been so long in coming.
“Definitely worthwhile,” “I hope it will be continued into the future,” and “Will it be expanded?” are the most frequently heard comments about GSA’s Ambassador Program in Denver.
Since this Ambassador Program is client-based and service-oriented, it can be implemented by other government agencies (or even private sector businesses). Ambassadors can also have the dual benefit of serving as role models for other employees.
In order for an Ambassador Program to be truly successful, the Ambassadors needs to be located in a permanent, highly visible location. This has been Mowers greatest obstacle thus far, as he and his staff lack a fixed location. In the summer, they are outside, on the plaza, situated behind a podium; in the winter, they are in the lobby. Eventually, Mowers hopes to amend this situation with a designated Ambassador desk or kiosk; in the meantime, though, he plans to install signs — including at the light rail stop and possibly the parking lot — directing visitors to the Ambassadors.
According to Mowers, the estimated cost of this program is charged to Federal Agencies at a rate of $.08 per square foot, with increases built in as the program continues to grow. This rate covers the salary of the Ambassador/Program Development Supervisor. Mowers is also exploring the possibility of hiring retired federal employees to staff the Ambassador’s desk, which could prove a low cost/no cost solution to personnel.
Ideas based on the experience of Denver Federal District Ambassador Dave Mowers and GSA clients in Denver.
Ambassador Job Duties
(Both current and projected)
- Answer Questions/Give General Information
- Give directions to federal offices
- Alleviate unnecessary calls not directly related to GSA functions (e.g. “Why is the flag flying at half-mast?”)
- Provide Local/Tourist Information
- Distribute street maps and tourist guides
- Provide a list of nearby restaurants, stores, and eateries
- Provide local transit schedules and promotional materials
- Offer walking tours of the downtown area and of federal buildings
- Provide promotional materials educating the public about what services are available from the Federal Government
- Serve as Liaison to Building Tenants
- Distribute and collect IFMA (customer-service) surveys
- Talk to tenants, answer any questions they might have, and relate their concerns to the property managers
- Other Duties
- Gather and update information on hotels, events, and local activities
- Promote tours for metro schools
- Host musical programs and/or picnic lunches on the plaza
- Schedule art exhibits
- Provide change for parking meters
- Organize promotions for upcoming Denver events (e.g. Taste of Colorado)
- Develop and/or enhance a customer-service program
- Develop program that can be used by other federal agencies, jurors, etc.
- Assist other agencies in seminar planning
- Offer Customer Comment Cards
- Measure the success of the Ambassador program
- Give the public a means to provide feedback
Promoting the Ambassador Program
- Grand Opening Kickoff
- Advertise in local newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV
- Provide press releases for local newspapers and TV stations
- Promote volunteer program
- Create a new Ambassador’s website and have it link to the region’s GSA website
- Make promotional buttons to create public curiosity about program (e.g., “Dave Knows Denver,” or “Do You Know? Dave Does!”)
Suggestions based on the experience of Denver Federal District Ambassador Dave Mowers and GSA clients in Denver
- Create a visual identity for the Ambassadors. Make them easily identifiable through a specific-colored blazer or other uniform.
- Formalize the Ambassador Program within the Federal Government. This would help attract funding, promote consistency, and ensure all Ambassadors were trained in the art of community outreach.
- Increase interaction with local businesses and BIDs
- Expand the Ambassador Program to other U.S. cities and regions.
For further information about the Ambassador Program, contact Dave Mowers.