National Archives plans CX research

Harvey Meston/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The National Archives and Records Administration says that a new research agenda will help it understand what people who use the archives need, want and expect – and how the agency can meet those demands.

The National Archives and Records Administration released a draft customer research agenda on Monday. Now, it's asking for feedback.

People have until Oct. 21 to contribute. A final agenda will be released by the end of fiscal year 2024 and then updated annually.

"We are deeply committed to learning directly from our customers and working together to design and deliver equitable and effective services for all," said Stephanie Bogan, NARA's chief customer experience officer, in a statement. "Your collective experience with us matters, and we are working to better serve you."

The agency says that the new research agenda will drive customer research meant to help it understand what the people and organizations that use the archives need, as well as the actions NARA takes to improve services to match those demands. 

The draft has three focus areas: the quality of services; the process of getting those services and the people delivering them with specific questions.

One example of the questions NARA is looking at: how easy – or difficult – is it to initiate archive services?

"We've learned that we may be losing some potential customers before they even start using our services because it is too difficult to figure out how to interact with us. Even if customers know they want a specific service NARA offers, they may struggle to find an entry point to begin the process," the draft says. 

Other questions center on what people want from the archives in the first place and how they prefer to get what they're looking for.

One goal the agency has in mind for this work is improving access to the archives.

"NARA's goal is to ensure that its services are available to all, including groups that have been historically disadvantaged or excluded," it says in the press release announcing the learning agenda draft.

The new research agenda is part of ongoing efforts at NARA to improve its service delivery.  

"Connect with customers" is one of four goals the agency laid out in a four-year strategic plan released in March. The agency wants to improve customer experience by better collecting and using feedback.

NARA also released an "action plan" for customer experience in July that includes a list of goals like institutionalizing customer experience in policies and standards across the agency, better understanding customers with more research and using human-centered design.

"NARA is fully committed to providing easy, effective, and equitable access to the records in our custody through the broad range of services we provide for our diverse customers—educators, federal agencies, genealogists, researchers, students, veterans, visitors, and more," wrote acting archivist Debra Steidel Wall in that plan. "Ensuring NARA has the organizational capacity to consistently deliver the experience our customers expect and to do so with the excellence they deserve is one of my highest priorities."

All of these efforts are in line with the White House customer experience goals to improve how the government delivers services to citizens by way of modernizing programs, reducing the friction individuals go through when they get government services and more.