Improving government services in 2020

Martha Dorris offers 10 predictions for how agencies will improve CX this year.

people and data (Lightspring/

In the past several years, both government and the private sector have begun to acknowledge the importance and benefits of improving government services. The current administration, Congress and citizens' expectations are all driving these improvements. The President's Management Agenda, with its cross-agency priority goal on improving government services, and the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) have created a framework for agencies to better understand their customers, deliver improved digital services and determine their maturity in delivering services.

There's much to be done, however. Here are my predictions for the customer experience (CX) in 2020.

1. Agencies will assess changes that affect their working environments (i.e., the presidential election and subsequent leadership changes) and develop plans to defend their success in delivering their missions. Agencies that provide services directly to citizens will collect performance and customer data. Political appointees and career staff will have very different objectives in the coming months, but they have one thing in common: demonstrating the benefits and value of their programs.

2. Senior leaders in citizen-facing agencies will increasingly make improving their customers' experience a priority. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, for example, recently discussed the importance of employee engagement and taxpayer experience. Social Security Administration Commissioner Andrew Saul has similarly stressed the importance of customer service to his agency's mission.

Those declarations should trickle down throughout agencies, resulting in changes to executives' performance plans, the collection of customer feedback, the establishment of metrics to measure success and agency realignments to have someone explicitly responsible for CX.

3. Agencies will continue to assign responsibility for customer issues to an executive or create an organization that is responsible for customer data, metrics, performance and more.

4. Many agencies already have chief customer officers at various levels, while others have identified a person to focus on customer work without creating a dedicated office. Most agencies, however, will not give those organizations and individuals the authority and resources needed to make significant improvements.

5. IT modernization and digital services will continue to attract increased focus and resources. However, without designating an organization that is responsible for the end-to-end customer journey, government CX will not improve to private-sector standards. CIOs who are responsible for digital services under IDEAwill not make CX a priority given their other responsibilities. But by adding digital services to the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act scorecard, Congress will give those services some increased visibility and focus.

6. As agencies begin to implement their CX action plans, they will focus on measurement, culture, customer understanding and service design. Actions will include establishing customer offices, training employees on CX, mapping key journeys and consolidating contact centers. Agencies will also use human-centered design techniques to create future services.

7. The use of digital forms and electronic signatures will receive increased focus once Congress has assessed the reports required by IDEA. Such digitization has been required for years, but the new law gives those requirements considerably more clout.

8. The Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration will continue eliminating barriers so that agencies can collect feedback from their customers. Those efforts will include educating program managers of high-impact service providerson assessing customer data to inform improvements to the services they provide and offering tools to collect feedback that include a waiver for Paperwork Reduction Act requirements. Social media will be monitored for customer feedback as well.

9. Agencies will have a better understanding of the impact employee engagement and culture have on their ability to provide better services to their customers. Agency leaders will increasingly recognize that citizens deserve to interact with professional government officials who are empathetic to their circumstances.

10. Artificial intelligence and robotic process automation will be used more frequently to improve CX and increase operational efficiency. In addition, facial recognition technology, blockchain and sophisticated analytics will be tested for their value in improving services. Best-in-class contact centers will receive additional focus based on the cost of such centers and their importance in delivering digital services.

To make these predictions a reality, agencies should continue assessing customers' major journeys through the services they deliver and design new experiences that meet citizens' future needs. They should learn from the successes of other agencies and the private sector, and celebrate their own improvements. Agencies must also assess their performance through in-depth analytics and customer feedback, connect the data from their contact centers with their digital services to determine where failures are occurring, digitize paper-based services, implement plain language and assess the content that's provided across all channels.