Government reformers urge the adoption of a private‐sector‐style “customer focus,” but critics see it as inappropriate to the public sector, in particular because it devalues citizenship. This article first argues that most public‐sector organization‐client interactions differ from the private‐sector customer transaction and offers a typology of these interactions. But second, it proposes that the central feature of the customer model—the notion of exchange—can be broadened in a way that accentuates the importance of administrators’ responsiveness to their publics. In a social‐exchange perspective, government organizations need things from service recipients—such as cooperation and compliance—which are crucial for effective organizational performance; eliciting those things necessitates meeting not only people’s material needs but also their symbolic and normative ones. Engaging in these different forms of exchange with clients is not necessarily inconsistent with an active citizenship model.
Public Administration Review – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2002
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