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For nearly 30 years, presidential administrations have attempted to crack the code to exceptional citizen experiences. President Clinton’s 1993 executive order Setting Customer Service Standards was the first in a long line of various initiatives aimed at bringing the highest quality service to American citizens. While these executive orders and CX agendas have provided valuable guidance for government entities to build out improved experiences, they often lack the ability to facilitate and enforce progress. As the Biden administration picks up where previous presidencies left off, however, customer experience initiatives in the federal government appear to be reaching a critical turning point.
In the aftermath of in-person service shutdowns during the initial peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many federal agencies found themselves unable to bridge the gap to convenient digital service and support. President Biden’s December 2021 executive order, Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government, recognizes how far behind many federal experiences have fallen compared to their private sector counterparts.
What the executive order gets right
The executive order spells out, in detail, some of the specific initiatives federal agencies can execute to drastically improve the experiences they deliver to citizens. All told, it highlights 36 customer experience initiatives across 17 federal agencies. More importantly, these 36 experience initiatives map to the moments that matter most in a citizen’s life—like turning 65 or filing an annual tax return—rather than focusing on individual technology challenges within these journeys. As a result, the order goes farther than past executive branch CX initiatives by considering the collective steps that make up a citizen journey and the ways these steps need to be woven together. Additionally, the order solidifies a process for accountability—using service quality, process efficiency, and employee interactions as the barometers for success and mandating transparent reporting.
Where CX improvement gaps still exist
Even for those agencies not explicitly named in the executive order, the importance of exceptional customer experiences in government has become crystal clear in the post-pandemic service landscape. In 2022 and beyond, federal agencies will need to prioritize CX to meet customer expectations and live out their service-oriented mission. Looking to the future, it’s possible federal legislation may even make attention to CX mandatory for all government agencies.
Unfortunately, this particular executive order is less detailed in its guidance for those agencies not classified as High Impact Service Providers (HISPs). While it highlights pillar areas of growth any agency can focus on, the order doesn’t necessarily provide a clear roadmap for implementing CX strategies to meet those objectives. For non-HISPs, this will make it difficult to be proactive about the customer journeys and technologies that would benefit most from a CX transformation.
Mapping out a federal CX Improvement roadmap
The private sector provides an abundance of valuable best practices at this point to help federal agencies get started. At Avtex, we’ve helped hundreds of public and private sector organizations take open-ended CX goals and distill them down into an actionable set of steps. Based on our experiences helping organizations navigate CX design and orchestration, here’s a few steps federal agencies can use to identify the right customer experience improvements and the right process to improve them:
Map your customer journeys. In order to improve your customer experience, you must first identify the moments that matter within your agency environment. At Avtex, we like to help our clients understand the pathways customers take to achieve their goals. Journey mapping helps to create a visual representation of these pathways, allowing you to understand each of the steps and touchpoints in greater detail. Use this initial research phase to gather the challenges your customers are facing along the way.
Define what “better CX” actually means. After identifying the journeys that call for improvement, it’s time to define that experience’s ideal state. Fortunately, the executive order and OMB Circular A-11 Section 280 do a good job of institutionalizing the customer experience drivers that can help deepen customer relationships at each of the key moments identified in step one. These customer experience drivers boil down to three things: service quality, process ease and efficiency, and the human element of each interaction. Use these drivers as the North Star for the transformation steps you implement next.
Develop a transformation strategy. For most organizations, this is the step where things get particularly tricky. Implementing improvements and supporting a transformed journey often require multiple technologies and channels to work together. As you’re working through what the end-state should look like, create a roadmap that assigns responsibilities to individuals and teams and sets deadlines for the project. For many organizations who don’t have CX leadership in place, this can also be a good opportunity to consult with external experts who can help you set up the right orchestration process to realize your CX vision.
Track the success of your efforts. Understanding and utilizing the results of federal pulse surveys is a great way to build a “review and recalibrate” step into your CX transformation. Hopefully you’ll begin to see citizen sentiments trend upwards across each of the customer experiences you are working on. If not, these surveys can help identify the details that continue to lag behind citizen expectations and point you in the right direction.
As seamless digital access to public and private sector resources becomes the standard, the chasm between the “haves” and the “have-nots” will continue to frustrate customers who expect more. Standing up the right processes and people now can help set up federal agencies for long term customer success as expectations and mandates come into focus in the years to come.