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Veterans Affairs Has a New Chief Customer Officer

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has filled a role critical to continuing the agency’s push to better serve veterans, announcing the appointment of Dr. Lynda Davis as its chief veterans experience officer.

Davis replaces Tom Allin, who was appointed as VA’s first chief veterans experience officer by former Secretary Robert McDonald.

“It is critical that we create a seamless Veteran experience across the entire organization,” said Secretary David Shulkin in a statement. “VA must proactively engage Veterans and their families to ensure their voices are heard. Lynda brings the energy and expertise to develop Veteran-centric solutions that will allow VA to build trust with Veterans and the American public.”

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VA’s push to better service veterans has already resulted in improved call center responses, consolidated websites and other pilots, including a real-time veteran feedback dashboard. Overall, VA scores poorly compared to other organizations as most federal agencies do. Yet in addition to  VA’s early efforts under the Veteran Experience wing—which Davis now heads—the department is also home to the National Cemetery Administration, which achieves higher customer satisfaction ratings than any public- or private-sector organization.

One of Davis’ top priorities will be improving the experience of the more than 300,00 employees at the department, according to Scott Blackburn, interim deputy secretary at VA.

“You can’t have a great customer experience unless you have a great employee experience,” said Blackburn, speaking Wednesday at ACT-ACT’s Customer Experience Summit. “We need to provide a psychologically safe environment for them to be principles-based rather than rules-based.”

Davis’ background is veteran-centric. Before she came to VA, Davis served as deputy undersecretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy; deputy assistant secretary for military personnel policy for the Department of the Navy and was the designated lead for the joint Department of Defense and VA response to the recommendations of Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors.

“As a former Army officer and the mother of a Veteran, I am thrilled to be able to support Secretary Shulkin’s efforts to make VA the organization our Veterans and their families deserve," Davis said in a statement. "Through state-of-the-art technology and innovative solutions, we can ensure Veterans are consistently provided a high-quality experience that earns their trust.”

Davis will be among approximately a dozen chief customer service officers across government, following a push to improve federal customer service in the later years of President Barack Obama’s second term. The position is extremely common in the business world.

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