Reimagining Citizen Services in the Government in 2025

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As citizens change, so will their expectations. 

As we reflect on where and how the federal government is implementing the business discipline of customer experience, we find that we are at the very early stages. While some agencies are making progress, many other agencies are just recognizing they have customers. They are identifying who their customers are and determining what their current and future experience is and should be. Some are beginning to collect feedback in pockets, though few are transcending agency siloes to have the full picture of their customers’ experience. Other agencies have been focusing on their customers and are about five years down the path with considerable progress to report. 

It’s not a surprise that progress is slow: CX is a disruptor that touches every person and function in an agency.

The focus over the past decade has been on improving digital services, which can reduce costs and increase citizens’ satisfaction or overall experience. But sometimes digital services don’t meet their needs and citizens want to interact with a person via their channel of choice. That could be via the phone, email, chat or another channel within the contact center. Many agencies don’t have multiple channels and if they do, they don’t transfer the content of the issues across the channels. That means when the citizen interacts with the government through multiple channels, they have to start at the beginning each time. Citizens want to solve their problem at the first contact, easily, with quality information. When the experience is fragmented, inconsistent and difficult to navigate, everyone loses—the citizen loses, it’s not efficient for the government, and it reduces trust in the government.

Last fall, 15 agencies and industry participated in three workshops to reimagine citizen services in 2025. What will the citizens’ expectations be in 2025? Where will technology take us in the next five years? What channels will be available? What will the demographics of the population be in five years?

In 2025, baby boomers will be 61 to 81 years old. Gen Xers will be between 46 and 60; millennials will be 31 to 45 years old and Gen Zers will be between 10 and 30 years old. The non-English speaking population is increasing each year making it necessary to provide information in other languages. 

How will the experience in citizens’ personal lives impact their expectations of the government? Will they expect to be able to conduct all transactions online, securely and privately? Will citizens expect to be able to interact with the government and provide their information one time to be used across the government or certainly within one agency? Will they expect that if they change their name and/or address in one agency that it carries to other agencies? Today, services are impacted because an address change is made in one part of an agency and it isn’t changed in all of the agency’s systems because they aren’t integrated. 

Today, citizens expect an experience that allows them to interact, engage and transact with the government anytime, anywhere on any device. This requires an omnichannel experience that protects their privacy and security, provides consistency between channels, and easy to use. Citizens should be able to interact with government personnel who are empathetic and helps them to solve their problems or complete their transactions. We know that this isn’t the case. We also know that most agencies have little ongoing knowledge of their customers’ expectations.

As we proceed into the new year, agencies will begin preparing for the year ahead that includes a presidential election and possible changes to leadership at many levels within agencies and departments. Program managers of the government’s highest impact services are continuing to assess their maturity in delivering services that are comparable to the private sector, understanding their customers through ongoing feedback, and implementing the action plans they created and submitted to the Office of Management and Budget in September. In their plans, the high impact service providers are focused on governance, measurement, organization and culture, customer understanding and service design. Their plans included a range of actions, such as establishing customer offices, training their employees on customer experience, mapping key journeys, consolidating contact centers and implementing a robust customer feedback program. 

Going forward, agencies should continue assessing the major journeys within the services they deliver and design new experiences that meet the needs of citizens for the future. They should learn from the successes of other agencies and the private sector. They should recognize the successes within their agencies and celebrate those successes. Agencies should also assess the performance of their digital services through in-depth analytics and customer feedback, connect the data from their contact centers with their digital services to determine where the failure is occurring, digitize paper-based services including digitizing forms, implementing plain language and assessing the content that’s provided across all channels.

Martha Dorris is a Cisco Fellow and founder of Dorris Consulting International where she focuses on providing strategic consulting to the government and private sector on how to improve the services the government delivers to the public.