16 Tips for a Better Federal Customer ExperienceStart
The struggle for federal agencies to satisfy customers and provide top-notch customer experience is real.
Four years after the Obama administration made federal customer service a management pillar and priority area—and almost two years after the Trump administration committed to continue that push—the average federal agency provides a worse customer service than airlines, telecommunications providers and other maligned industries. According to Forrester’s 2018 U.S. Federal Customer Experience Index, only one agency—the Veterans Affairs Department—and one federal program, Healthcare.gov, improved their scores from the previous year.
For agency customer experience champions, the challenges are myriad. Getting buy-in from leadership, securing funding for pilots or programs and designing those programs to prioritize users are all hurdles CX leaders have to clear. We’ve compiled advice from current and former government CX leaders to address these and other challenges across government. It’s clear by now there is no silver-bullet solution to improve customer service across agencies, so we’ve tried to solicit and share ideas on a wide range of CX topics.
- CX's Building Blocks
- First, Understand Your Agency's Focus on CX
- Set Team Expectations
- Sponsored: Agile Customer Experience - Applying Best Practices to Government
- When Hiring, Look for Credentials
- CX Needs to Be More Than One Team
- Focus on Internal Customers First
- Become a Customer of Your Own Service
- Treat Citizens Like Customers
- When Agencies Are Customers, Know Their Missions
- Get Feedback and Use It
- Involve the Whole Team in the Customer Experience
- Know Which Metrics Apply to Which Part of Your Agency
- Sometimes the Best Tech is What You Already Have
- Link Your Success to Your Agency's Strategic Plan
- What to Do When You Find a Surprise
- CX is About the Bigger Possibilities
- Meet the Experts
CX's Building Blocks
"Foundational CX components are data, tools, technology."
First, Understand Your Agency's Focus on CX
"To get started, you need to understand the environment within your agency in terms of understanding the importance of customer experience and their appetite for change (transformation vs incremental changes).
Look at what data is available in terms of performance and customer satisfaction data to be able to assess the current customer experience. This could include data from websites on what the customer’s searched on, where they abandoned the site, how long they stay on the site, whether they jump to a contact center agent, etc. You can also look at the search data and how people navigate to find specific information. For contact centers, you can look at key performance indicators if they are collected.
The data will begin to tell the story."
Set Team Expectations
"Building a customer-focused team begins when they are hired. You should ensure that you are hiring someone that not only has the skills you are looking for but has the attitude and aptitude for customer experience.
A team should be onboarded properly to ensure they are getting updated information on the agency’s customer experience priorities and the expectations going forward. Continual training is also important and sharing of best practices. Harder skills that serve you well in a customer team are around data analysis and lean management."
Sponsor Content What's this?
Agile Customer Experience - Applying Best Practices to Government
In an era where personal assistance is just a smartphone app away, technology has rapidly changed citizen expectations. As the sole provider for many critical services, the public sector must modernize how it interacts with customers, whether they be citizens, researchers, farmers, students, other agencies, or even agency employees. But with limited resources and high demand for government services and information, providing seamless experiences is no easy task.
The good news is, 2018 has been a banner year for government customer experience (CX), from the CX Center of Excellence, to the first round of Technology Modernization Fund dollars, to the President’s Management Agenda. Agency leaders can use this momentum to provide experiences on par with the private sector.
The key to improving CX, used by every iconic experience brand, is agility. Companies like American Express, Porsche, and JetBlue consistently gather feedback about customer experiences across every touchpoint, and quickly resolve problems when they arise. By consolidating data from those channels on a single platform, CX teams can drill into early warning signs before they become newsworthy problems.
The Qualtrics Experience Management Platform is FedRAMP authorized and used by more than 60 federal agencies, including GSA and HHS, to capture real-time citizen, employee, and program data in one place. From small CX initiatives at independent agencies to enterprise CX programs deployed across entire departments, Qualtrics helps its users close experience gaps to drive mission success.
Visit this website to learn more about our work with government agencies and trusted private sector brands to measure the impact of programs, improve existing services, and better engage employees.
When Hiring, Look for Credentials
"Anyone can call themselves a customer experience “expert.” Look at the person’s credentials and certifications. Customer experience is a management discipline that includes understanding several core concepts and principles.
A true expert will understand how all the concepts and principles—not just pieces of it like surveys or journey mapping—fit together to become a business discipline. In government, the experts you hire should also understand the nuances of what it takes to balance the realities of being a government organization with the expectations of customers."
CX Needs to Be More Than One Team
"[It's] important to hardwire CX into the organization at the strategic, programmatic, operational and tactical levels."
Focus on Internal Customers First
"You should start by serving employees before you try to improve service to customers."
Become a Customer of Your Own Service
"Gain a first-hand perspective on how your service meets—or does not meet—a customer’s needs. Identify those pain points and make the necessary changes to satisfy users.
Anticipate technological advances and trends. Stay current on how the service environment is changing, rather than trying to play catch up with outdated or antiquated technology."
Treat Citizens Like Customers
"In many cases, citizens don’t have another choice on where they get the product or service. That said, it doesn’t mean that it’s not important to treat citizens as customers. Providing an outstanding experience to the public has many benefits, from improving employee engagement to increasing revenue to decreasing spend not to mention increasing trust in government."
When Agencies Are Customers, Know Their Missions
"When serving other agencies as customers, it is key to go into the relationship with the understanding that it is likely they have different missions, policies, procedures, and culture. To effectively support them, you must be open to adapting to their needs and becoming part of their organization at least in spirit."
Get Feedback and Use It
"Understanding your customers drives the ability to provide a good experience. Getting and using customer feedback is one way to fill in the gaps in customer knowledge. There are many tools that can be used to obtain customer feedback, from surveys to focus groups, to analyzing workload data."
Involve the Whole Team in the Customer Experience
"Ensure the entire team can participate in research activities, at least as observers. Reviewing summary reports is helpful, but there is no substitute for first-hand observations and interactions with real users. When the whole team connects with real users of a product or service, the team is better equipped to apply research insights and design the best solution for those users."
Know Which Metrics Apply to Which Part of Your Agency
"Metrics and measurement are useful to driving the desired behavior. They can also drive the wrong behavior.
Different metrics are applicable to different layers within the organization. For contact centers, key performance indicators are used to measure the performance of the center and the customer service reps. Rather than spending time penalizing agents whose metrics fluctuate with the business, spend the time on solving the problems in the online system that are driving calls to the center. Calls to a contact center are of two types: value demand or those that service the types of business they are set up to do and failure demand which are those calls/emails made because there’s a failure in the system.
By focusing on eliminating the failure demand, you can improve customer experience and reduce cost."
Sometimes the Best Tech is What You Already Have
"This is more about being resourceful than it is about a single technology. Especially if you’re just getting started, maximize existing tools within your agency and the data produced by those tools. Remember it’s not just about the measures. It’s about the timing, nature and frequency of how you share the CX measures and the human experiences behind the measures."
Link Your Success to Your Agency's Strategic Plan
"In the private sector, successful companies link measures of success to their company’s brand strategy. In government, link and roll up your CX measures to your agency’s strategic plan, charter, or other founding documents. That puts you on common ground—on the same sheet of music, so to speak—with your colleagues who ideally also use the agency’s strategic principles as a guide for their own work."
What to Do When You Find a Surprise
"Be open to unexpected results.
Oftentimes we go into user research activities expecting to hear about specific user problems. But sometimes users tell us about problems we didn't even know about. Be open to this—and open to changing your project goals to address the new problems (vs staying with the old problem)."
CX is About the Bigger Possibilities
"Customer experience is the single most important component of the government’s success in delivering shared services in the future. If an agency doesn’t provide a good experience (i.e., quality product with outstanding service), why would they not go commercially?"
- Start Over
Meet the Experts
Rick DeLappe is the Recreation One-Stop program manager with the National Park Service.
Martha Dorris is the founder of Dorris Consulting International and former General Services Administration official.
Elizabeth Hunt is a designer with the U.S. Digital Service at the Veterans Affairs Department.
Barbara Morton is the deputy chief veterans experience officer at the Veterans Affairs Department.
Stephanie Thum, CCXP, is the former vice president of customer experience at the Export-Import Bank of the United States. She is the executive strategist for the Customer Experience Professionals Association.