Can improving CX help restore trust in government?

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COMMENTARY | To protect benefit programs from abuse while delivering a cohesive CX, agencies need to take an omnichannel approach that harmonizes online, mobile, call center and in-person contacts and incorporates robust remote identity proofing.

Surveys show that Americans’ trust in government is at near record lows. This mistrust is the cumulative result of many factors — from the dramatic (wars and scandals) to the more mundane (inefficient services and technology failures) — that have tarnished the government’s brand. So, what can federal agencies do to help rebuild trust?

Government agencies may have little power over politicians’ behavior, but one crucial aspect they can influence is the quality of service provided to constituents. As the Biden Administration recognized with its 2021 executive order directing agencies to improve service delivery across the government, transforming customer experience will be critical to increasing trust in government programs.

Taking Aim at the ‘Time Tax’ 

It’s well understood that negative customer experiences can quickly diminish brand trust, and the Executive Order acknowledges that excessive bureaucratic red tape creates a significant “time tax” on those interacting with government agencies. Confusing application processes, conflicting information and difficulty accessing help all cost constituents time, and many individuals never receive the services they need because they’re unable to overcome these hurdles. 

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is working with agencies to streamline service delivery and reduce the administrative burden, published a progress report in July 2023 highlighting more than 100 active initiatives from 20 agencies.

These ongoing efforts represent real progress, but they are not enough. Most initiatives have focused primarily on providing more program education, enabling online benefit enrollment and making support information more accessible. On their own, these improvements to administrative practices will not be able to truly transform the federal CX for government programs, and online benefit administration may even introduce new opportunities for fraud, as seen with the emergency COVID-19 pandemic response programs.

To protect benefit programs from abuse while delivering a cohesive CX, agencies need to take a more holistic, omnichannel approach that harmonizes online, mobile, call center and in-person contacts and incorporates robust remote identity proofing.

A recent TransUnion survey showed that 70% of constituents today prefer to apply for government benefits online (using a computer, tablet or smartphone) — compared to 15% in person, 8% via phone and 7% via mail — and of respondents planning to enroll in a government program in the next three years, 79% intend to do so online. However, when responding to an unexpected notice in the mail from a government agency, two thirds (66%) of respondents prefer to call the agency, and when struggling to complete an online application, a slight plurality prefer to call the agency (29.3%, compared to 28.8% who prefer to use the chat function on the agency’s website or app). 

These data suggest that agencies should invest not only in meeting the demand for (and streamlining) online enrollment but also in bolstering call center operations to better aid those applicants and enrollees in need of assistance. The bar for consumers’ expectations has been raised and they now expect a more efficient experience across channels, as individuals value the ability to use multiple contact methods. 

A win-win for constituents and agencies 

To ensure a consistent CX and boost agency efficiency, government agencies must invest in omnichannel enrollment and remote identity proofing strategies. 

A multipronged approach which relies on device fingerprinting, device-to-identity linkages, user-behavior analysis, and phone intelligence will allow agencies to flag potential risk early in the enrollment process, decreasing friction for trusted constituents while simultaneously reducing fraud risk across multiple channels. With these robust phone and device reputation analyses in place, agencies can quickly and reliably serve eligible constituents while subjecting high-risk interactions to additional authentication procedures. 

This will also help reduce false positives for new enrollees with limited history, ensuring that those who may have the greatest need for services are able to access them and navigate hurdles more easily. Not only will this deliver an improved CX for constituents, but it will also reduce the internal administrative burden through less manual reviews, shorter call wait times and faster time to resolution in the call center – all of which mean increased efficiency for the agencies delivering those benefits. It’s a win-win for agencies and constituents alike.

The most trusted brands deliver an on-demand, omnichannel experience that sets the benchmark for consumer expectations. While federal agencies have made significant strides in reducing the administrative burden for users, there is still room for improvement on the CX front. A true omnichannel approach that enables eligible individuals to access needed benefit programs easily and efficiently, while reducing fraud and abuse and protecting personal data, will go a long way toward restoring constituents’ trust in government programs.