Federal Agencies Improve Customer Experience Scores But Still Lag Behind Private Sector

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The coronavirus pandemic had little impact on agencies' scores, according to Forrester’s 2020 U.S. Federal Customer Experience Index.

Federal agencies improved their customer experience scores in 2020 as compared to 2019, though the federal government continues to trail leading private sector organizations by a wide amount.

According to Forrester’s 2020 U.S. Federal Customer Experience Index, 15 key agencies and programs measured earned an average score of 61.1 out of a possible 100—up 1.4 points from 2019. Collectively, the 61.1 score was the federal government’s highest ever in Forrester’s federal customer experience index—which dates to 2015—though agencies still rated as the lowest of 14 verticals studied this year.

“Unfortunately, the federal government’s CX remains weak and uneven compared with the private sector’s,” the study said. “The federal average is 10.7 points behind the private sector average and lower than any other industry or sector we studied.”

Forrester compiled the index from polling almost 98,000 Americans aged 18 or older who interacted with any of the 250 brands measured in the index. In its research, Forrester contends the coronavirus pandemic “did not have any meaningful influence on a federal agencies’ CX index results, as only “infinitesimal changes” to scores occurred after President Trump declared a national emergency in March.

Five federal agencies and programs improved—the National Park Service, the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs, Medicaid, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the IRS all made “statistically significant gains” in 2020, and no agencies’ scores declined. NPS, which manages the nation’s national parks, maintained pole position in Forrester’s index among federal agencies, receiving a score of 77.2. Other high-scoring agencies included the United States Postal Service (69.6), Bureau of Consular Affairs (66.8), Tricare (66.5) and Medicare (64.4). Comparatively, NPS—the highest-rated federal agency—scored on par with the average multibank channel.

The only comparisons to the lowest-scoring federal agencies were airlines and utilities, “but even the poorest of these disappointing industries outperformed the worst federal agency.” USAJOBS.gov, the government’s jobs portal, received a score of 46.9, dead last among all 250 brands surveyed. Four other agencies finished in the bottom ten of all brands surveyed: Healthcare.gov (51.5), Education Department (52.4), the IRS (56.2) and the Transportation Security Administration (57.3).

Despite progress across federal customer experience under the Trump administration, some pain points remain. Among the most glaring is the government’s struggle to produce positive digital experiences to the millions of Americans who interact with critical government systems annually.

“Only 38% of federal customers who used digital-only channels considered the experience emotionally positive,” the report states.

In addition, 49% of digital-only federal customers were able to accomplish their goals while interacting with an agency. The digital divide is stark between high- and low-performing federal agencies. NPS, for example, helped 65% of their customers achieve their goals, providing the most effective federal digital experience. Conversely, only 26% of USAJOBS.gov customers reported their interactions were effective.