Experts Call for More Chief Customer Officers in Government

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Witnesses told Senate lawmakers that customer experience practitioners need representation within key federal agencies.

A panel of federal customer experience experts told Senate lawmakers Thursday that the federal government and select federal agencies that provide services to citizens should have chief customer experience officers.

A federal chief customer officer, they argued, would provide accountability in service delivery initiatives across the entire federal landscape, while similar roles would provide the same kind of accountability in customer experience at the agency level.

“CX needs a guaranteed seat at the table. There must be increased accountability within agencies for customer experience,” testified Matt Lira, who served as special assistant to the president for innovation, policy and initiatives under former President Donald Trump.

Lira suggested the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs direct agency heads to empower an official to oversee customer experience efforts.

“I believe this committee should direct agency heads to designate and empower a senior official with CXO responsibilities for every High Impact Service Provider within their agency, with the budget and operational authority to match those responsibilities.” Lira testified. High impact service providers, or HISPs, are those defined and identified by the Office of Management and Budget “due to the scale and impact of their public-facing services.”

In an exchange with Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., Martha Dorris, founder of Dorris Consulting International and former senior executive at the General Services Administration, said her top recommendation would be a singular office to provide accountability in customer experience across the entire federal government.

“Having a federal chief customer office to drive these changes and improvements would be my number one ask,” Dorris told Peters.

In her remarks, Dorris suggested oversight bodies create something akin to the FITARA scorecard for customer experience. The FITARA scorecard—FITARA stands for the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act—is a biannual effort that measures agencies’ efforts in implementing statutory requirements and important IT issues. In an exchange with the committee’s ranking members, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Dorris said the existing FITARA scorecard could include digital services as a metric to measure agencies by.

“I do think the FITARA scorecard should include a digital services component, but I think customer experience should have its own scorecard,” Dorris said.

Historically, the federal government collectively provides poorer customer experiences than private sector industry. Witnesses told lawmakers the benefits to improving service delivery and customer experience across government have a direct correlation to improving public trust in federal institutions.

“When interactions [between the public and government] aren’t good, it’s bad for public trust,” said William Eggers, executive director of Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights. Eggers added that agencies “can’t address trust with a one size fits all approach,” because of the varying missions across the federal landscape.

The hearing follows some major moves in federal customer experience. President Joe Biden signed an executive order regarding customer experience in December, following significant policy changes made to OMB’s Circular A-11 guidance. Customer experience is also a key priority in the President’s Management Agenda.