Biden's CX order puts new momentum behind longtime efforts, leaders say

Kiyoshi Hijiki / Getty Images

Officials at an ACT-IAC event explained how a recent White House executive order on customer experience is helping to unify disparate CX efforts across government.

President Joe Biden's executive order on customer experience, issued last month, named CX as a key modernizing government programs and to decrease the time and difficulty Americans face getting government services. 

Work had already been happening on CX across the federal government, experts say, but the White House's attention has helped these efforts garner attention and prioritization.

Amira Boland, federal customer experience lead at the Office of Management and Budget, said at an event hosted on Thursday by ACT-IAC that she and other Biden-Harris officials acknowledged during an internal call the day the order was released that the order wasn't "a finish line" but is "definitely a refreshment station." 

She added: "There are just so many pockets of amazing people that have been working on this for decades."

Now, the hope is that the executive order can unify disparate efforts to improve federal government CX. 

"These are not separate initiatives in isolation, but part of like, 'let's stitch these together to really be amplifying and making this a priority of the government machine,'" Boland said. She noted that the order embeds CX into  "all the ways the government works," from strategic planning to budgets.

Martha Dorris, founder of Dorris Consulting International and a former General Services Administration employee of over 30 years stressed that the measurement framework and accountability measures enshrined in the order set it apart from past efforts to improve CX in government. 

"It establishes it as an administration priority, which then asks agencies or encourages them to do agency priority goals, putting them in Senior Executive Service performance plans. That's one of the ways you're going to get this stuff to trickle down into everybody's plans and performance across an entire agency," Dorris said. 

At the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the executive order has more people "paying attention to the work that we're doing" and has spurred momentum in getting agency buy-in, said Jonathan Kraden, customer experience branch chief.

"It's helped open some doors that might otherwise have been shut," he said.

Ed Walters, chief customer officer at the General Services Administration, also echoed that point, saying more people have been calling him asking for help.

At GSA, work is going on both internally and in relation to how GSA is supporting other agencies with centralized platforms and tools. 

One key public facing aspect of the CX push is work being done to make a "front door" where citizens can access a variety of government services from that one site, Walters said.

The plan is for the website to be organized around key events where citizens use the government, like having a child. This strategy is also evident in the administration's management agenda.

GSA is also looking into how it can better provide a good customer experience to other agencies as customers, Walters said. This is especially in relation to GSA's own digital footprint, which at last count included 238 websites, he said.

"The breath of the digital ecosystem definitely frustrates people," he said. "But we have to even internally make sure that agency customers aren't jumping over all different websites."

As far as what comes next, a new OMB notice to be published on Thursday, sets out how OMB designers and staff can work across agencies on key life experiences of citizens that span agencies to collect data, which in turn can be used to improve service delivery. This is under CX efforts outlined in the management agenda.

OMB is collecting comments on this process until March 15.

There's also the potential, and need, for more legislation on CX issues, especially when it comes to enabling flexibility for agencies working together in statutory areas that overlap, said Boland.

She flagged the Trust in Public Service Act, which would establish a Chief Customer Experience Officer and establish CX as an agency performance standard. Boland also pointed to the Federal Agency Customer Experience Act, which would require agencies to get voluntary feedback on their services. 

"Having access to internal government talent that knows how to do really good design work is really important, and that's a thing that I think Congress could support as well," she said.