MeriTalk - Where America Talks Government
Steve O'Keeffe

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Posted: 9/21/2010 - 13 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


Windsor. Pratt. Four in hand. To say nothing of the bow, bolo, and ascot. Is the neck tie the ultimate statement of respect or, like the dial-up connection and the dongle before, has the noose's time passed? Men around the Beltway are pulling at their collars and wondering if it's safe to cut the knot.

Men's fashion is, well, let's face facts, it's pretty boring. We don't have purses and shoes that sashay in and out each season. No bright colors here - it's all grey and blue suits. The tie can be the only expression of a fella's personal style. That is unless you account for pocket squares, waistcoasts, and - heaven forbid - brown shoes, for those on the bohemian edge. In fact, we can get away with wearing the same suit every day - nobody would even notice. But, if you pursue this Spartan line, you have to get creative with your ties - or do you?

I've worn a tie every day for the last 20 years. But recently, unless I'm visiting the Pentagon, I've started to leave it in the car. It seems that people react differently today to a man in a tie. The tie says formality. It says distance. Sans tie says comfort. It says genuine and approachable. Heck, even Secretary Gates slipped the leash when visiting troops in Iraq earlier this month.

John F. Kennedy turned America's milliners into mad hatters when he left his wide brim in the White House. Today, silk worms are shivering at the uncertainty of their fate. Is the tie still de rigueur or a millstone around our necks? Does losing the tie say I respect you less? Ladies and gents, please take the quiz - let's send GQ a message. Stay tuned - MeriTalk will publish the results next week.


Is the tie still required to do business in D.C.?

Do you work in government or industry?

Are you male or female?


Posted: 9/14/2010 - 4 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


Nothing coherent this week, just six stats that caught my eye:

  • Bandages for Bullets: Defense Secretary Gates diagnoses military healthcare malaise. Veterans' healthcare expenses up almost 300 percent since 2000. Chart shows bill to hit $50 billion in fiscal 2011 and $65 billion by 2015; that's more than 10 percent of total defense budget - Medic!
  • Googley Eyed: More Americans are making eyes at each other on Facebook than searching on Google according to a new comScore research study. In August, people frittered away 41.1 million minutes on the social network - 9.9 percent of their Web surfing minutes for the month. That means we're spending more than 400 million minutes a month on the Web - No wonder there's a recession...
  • Cyber UnCERTainty: IG report finds 202 unique high-risk vulnerabilities in DHS US-CERT's mission operating system - Einstein disappointed.
  • All the News That's Fit to Print: New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger acknowledged that the company will kill printing the paper in the future - The Grey Lady's blushing.
  • Who Wants to Be a Billionaire? After a troubled childhood, GSA's Alliant contract posted sales of $1.2 billion for Federal year 2010 - Cha-ching!
  • Lay on the Horn: All State Insurance's 2010 America's Best Drivers Report ranks D.C. drivers worst in the nation for the second consecutive year - Anyone for telework?

Please post back your own vital stats and trivia. Who doesn't love numbers?

Posted: 9/7/2010 - 1 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]


Which is the odd one out - Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, or the Internal Revenue Service? None. You see, they're all brands that focus hard on customer service. A new MeriTalk study on Federal customer service shows that, despite the noise from the Tea Party set, Americans don't all see Uncle Sam as Ugly Betty.

There's a new fall Federal fashion line - it's customer service. And, agencies like IRS, State, and the Social Security Administration are strutting their stuff on the catwalk. All scored high on customer satisfaction across a basket of metrics covering courtesy, responsiveness, and most importantly, overall issue resolution.

Sure there's a muumuu or two on the rack - 83 percent of Americans say that Uncle Sam can do better, and overall Fed customer satisfaction still trails the private sector. So, I hear you ask, how're govies supposed to make over their wardrobes while trying to balance the checkbook?

Well, the new hip is frugal fashion - and new tech accessories are catching on in D.C. The chic on the customer service frontier is new self service, enhanced consistency, and Web 2.0 socialization capabilities. In fact, 63 percent of customers who interact with agencies over the Web are satisfied with their experiences versus 45 percent on the phone. And, while social media and texting are all the rage, customers are questioning the Fed's implementations - avant garde channels report the lowest levels of customer satisfaction.

Considering the macro trend, it's all about open lines - 85 percent of Americans want access to more information on the Web so they can help themselves.

Consistent with responsible budgeting, 42 percent of Americans are prepared to pay $10 more for better service - so it's not just about doing more with less. Interesting opportunities for new designers...

With Martha Dorris, Sheila Campbell, and Kelly Olson at GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, clearly style is on the menu. Tune in to a free Webinar to review the study with GSA and talk about what's hot in Federal customer service on October 6 at 1 p.m. EDT.