GSA CoE’s new framework seeks to infuse, sustain customer experience

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The General Services Administration’ Centers of Excellence’s 13-step playbook to improve customer experience may have been a bit premature.

While the idea that customer experience is a foundational element to any IT modernization effort, many agencies were still breaking ground and not ready to put up the CX structure.

Lashanda Hodge, the managing director of customer experience for GSA’s CoE, said her office is rolling out a new approach to help customer agencies prepare to use the playbook.

She said a new framework will help infuse customer experience into their business or mission areas across five core areas:

  • Measurement–What are the mechanisms in place to collect and analyze data for customer experience related outcomes?
  • Governance–What is your governance and strategy? How have you institutionalized CX and how are you holding agency leaders accountable?
  • Process— Do they have defined processes and align business initiatives with the customers at the center, culture and organization? Should they have the experts in house? Do they take risk and fail fast and quickly learn? Have they helped all the employees put the needs of agents and customers at the center of what they do customer understanding?
  • Data–Do they collect qualitative and quantitative data about customer needs and customer journeys as evidence to what the real problems are they need to be solving?
  • Services–How do you fix broken services or introducing new ones? Do they do that with their customers and their needs at the center of that development? Do they use agile methodologies to speed delivery?

“This framework really helps us determine where agencies need improvement and what tactics organizations can take to move toward becoming more customer centric, making that mindset shift to infuse customer experience into the way they do business,” Hodge said on Ask the CIO sponsored by Sprinklr. “We like to bring that into the forefront to really help move people into this really customer-centric mindset. I think that’s really worked well with the agencies that we work with.”

The CoE is piloting the framework with one agency so far and refining it based on that experience. Hodge said her team will present their findings to CoE leadership in the coming weeks and determine the next steps, including modifying the framework and potentially other pilots.

“The playbook is for agencies that already are in that customer experience mindset. Here are some things that you can do. But in order for it to be a sustainable practice within an organization, it has to have these very specific components in the framework,” she said. “These components are really helpful because it allows us to figure out how mature agencies are, and then what we can do with them is basically, what are some accelerators in these specific areas that are going to allow you to really move from like that basic level of maturity into a much more mature customer experience and customer focused organization, throughout the organization, not just these pockets of excellence that we often see at an agency.”

Building momentum since early 2000s

While the focus on customer experience isn’t necessarily new for agencies—the Office of Management and Budget started talking about making citizen services better and more efficient in the early 2000s with the “three clicks to service” mantra—a combination of factors over the last few years has brought the concepts to the forefront.

Congress passed the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), and President Donald Trump signed it into law in December 2018. The law aims to improve the digital experience for citizens and businesses and reinforce existing requirements for federal websites.

OMB added customer experience to both the President’s Management Agenda and Circular A-11, and promoted the use of customer journey maps to better understand how citizens and businesses work with their respective agency.

Hodge said most agencies, and organizations for that matter, believe customer experience is important and that they are doing it well. But what the CoE found was agencies struggled to integrate customer experience with business needs.

“We’ve taken the framework and changed to basically help people see the value in it without explicitly always shining CX in people’s faces. That’s what I see is the kind of the evolution in the way that we’ve been working with agencies and in the most recent months,” she said. “They often see CX just as this really small part of an agency or they think that CX is something extra that they need to do rather than how someone goes about it while meeting business goals. If you are creating an IT system. If you’re creating processes, the customer needs to be the center of that. We are trying to teach people that whatever they’re doing within that agency, they need to put those customers as the center of how you decide what to build, what processes to put in place, what skills you need to have. I think the playbook is good for people in like fairly small spaces who are kind of already thinking about customer experience versus the framework really helps to institutionalize it across the agency. It’s much more broad. It’s much more about sustainability than to like getting something like a project done.”

Data sharing leads to enterprise services

Another big push by the CoE is to help agencies break down customer siloes. Hodge said many times employees in one part of an agency collects information about citizens that could be useful for other parts of the agency, but rarely shares it.

Hodge said the silos have a negative impact on the quality of the customer experiences because it’s more difficult to implement enterprise services or approaches

“Those silos really do make it difficult to make a cohesive and seamless customer experience that you might see in the private sector,” she said. “Agencies often don’t have that qualitative data to meaningfully connect with other disparate data to create this contextual picture of customer needs, and when those needs aren’t met effectively, they actually affect their operational metrics.”

Hodge added that agency legacy systems also inhibit agencies ability to improve their customer services.

Agencies also tend not to contract out for customer experience skills and not train federal employees in this art.

Hodge said cloud services can help breakdown the siloes, train employees on the tools to understand and use the data and address legacy system challenges.

“As you can pull all that data together in the cloud, you then can apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help us make sense of that data and to better understand needs. It could also be used in the moment to develop better experiences,” she said. “We can connect the customer relationship management tool, social listening data, Google Analytics, survey data, call center conversations and other operational data, like how many people were able to apply or make it through the process to this voice of customer tool. They have this really complete picture of the needs and how well they’re meeting that that those needs. They can then determine where to do more qualitative research. We really work with agencies to pilot these capabilities help them think through that data, they can integrate and work with programs to develop dashboards to help them make decisions about where to invest their time and customer needs understanding or product and service improvements.”

Join moderator Jason Miller, Hodge and Conn as they discuss:

  • Customer experience at the Centers of Excellence
  • How CoE is evaluating customer experience
  • Maturing data usage
  • The industry perspective

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Featured speakers

  • Lashanda Hodge

    Managing Director, Customer Experience, Centers of Excellence, General Services Administration

  • Grad Conn

    Chief Experience Officer, Sprinklr

  • Jason Miller

    Executive Editor, Federal News Network

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