Federal Customer Experience 'Downright Bleak'

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Six federal agencies earned an average of “very poor." HealthCare.gov scored the lowest.

If the federal government had a customer complaint box, it would probably be overflowing by now.

The overall customer experience for half a dozen key federal services was rated “very poor,” according to a new report from Forrester.

“Compared with dozens of auto, banking, retail and retail companies we also ranked," federal customer experience "looks downright bleak,” the Nov. 7 report concluded.

Forrester’s annual "CX Index" measures government agencies -- and more than 15 other sectors -- across three components that make up great customer experience: effectiveness, ease and emotion.

The six federal agencies and programs rated earned an average of “very poor,” with HealthCare.gov scoring the lowest.

So why the dismal scores? In short: Government customers don’t feel appreciated.

Of the 1,300 U.S. adults who interacted with a government agency online in the past 12 months:

  • Less than half said these agencies made them proud of the U.S. The Internal Revenue Service scored the lowest, with only about one-fifth of its customers saying their interactions with the agency made them proud of the nation.
  • Less than half said government customer experiences make them feel like important citizens. (VA scored the highest, while the IRS ranked lowest.)
  • Less than half said agencies satisfy their expectations of government. VA, again, scored highest by meeting expectations of about 40 percent of its customers. The IRS came at the tail end, with 15 percent.

Why does bad government customer experience matter? It can erode much more than just faith in the public sector, the report argues. 

“...[ B]ad federal CX hurts people’s attitudes about their country, their feelings of importance as citizens, and the achievements of government,” the report concludes.  

Ouch. The good news is, next year is looking a lot better. A movement toward hiring chief customer officers and newly launched efforts such as 18F and the U.S. Digital Services Playbook could help boost customer service scores in 2015.

But if agencies want to be proactive and revamp their customer experience in the meantime, the report suggests creating “positive emotional connections with customers.”

“This means getting to know them not as numbers, but as real people,” the report says. To achieve this, the report suggests, federal customer experience professionals should take a page from other leading companies’ research methods to gain better insight into their customers.

In addition to qualitative field research, agencies should implement "voice of the customer" programs to seek feedback via surveys, social media, emails and calls. They should also look to customer journey maps, which "view the experience from the customer’s perspective.”

(Image via Bloomua/Shutterstock.com)